Regarding Stresstout – An Imperial Stout by Black Bridge Brewery

When the digital places have totally stressed you out … only a beer can resolve things!

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Black Bridge Brewery has a powerful selection of stouts to drink.

  • Locomotive
  • Stout Chocula
  • Frankenstout
  • Mole Stout
  • Angry Elf

Three of those are blends and Angry Elf is seasonal and all are potent and satisfying beers, each one.  I am also quite partial to stouts and porters, but surely that has no bearing herein.

Another stout can be added to the list.  In addition to clever word play in it’s name it boasts eleven percent alcohol and barrel aged gravitas.  It’s been four years since the last time Kingman residents have been able to relieve their stress via Stresstout.  This bourbon barrel-aged version will be on tap, I believe, February 3.

Here are a few things to look for in an Imperial Stout, :

  • Roasty-burnt malt with deep dark or dried fruit flavors
  • A warming, bittersweet finish
  • Components need to meld together to create a complex, harmonious beer, not a hot mess.

That Smell …
I perceived chocolate and coffee in the nose first, moderately strong dark charred malt, then the embers of, maybe some dark fruit.  Then the bourbon arrives … .  It’s a complex bouquet, no hops perceived.  Strong and inviting.

In Appearance …
Beautiful, really.  Here’s a picture:

IMG_4786

It defies the desert sun, countering the deep sunset with brown, garnet and ivory.   It sported a thin, tan head with low retention, but that could have just been the glass.

But the Taste …
While the bourbon does not dominate it makes itself known.  As with the aroma there is a moderate presence of burnt malt.  Stresstout is like Locomotive Stout married to a svelte whiskey; or Katastrophic Humiliation with a lot of dark malt.  It’s definitely got a barleywine-like alcohol punch.A little vanilla and oak come through as well.  It’s definitely got a barleywine-like alcohol punch.  As noted, I perceived no hops in the nose and really did not notice any hops flavor or bitterness.  It has a warm, alcoholic finish.    It’s has a solid, not heavy, body.  In that regard it resembles Black Bridge’s other Imperial Stout, Angry Elf.  Both of these are ridiculously and dangerously easy to drink.

Conclusions
Another superb addition to a strong tap list at Black Bridge.  This is a complex beer, sometimes it’s even possible to forget you have a beer and think you’ve got a big glass of whiskey.  It’ll make you feel refined.  In fact, if this were a book … well, I’d just have to call it poetry – and not cheap doggerel.  Maybe you are familiar with Rumi.  His poems are gorgeous, composed of words like everyone else uses but placed together in a way that is sublime and practical, esoteric and approachable.  Therefore, it’s a good metaphor for Stresstout.   It’s a really well done stout.  For beer fans, this is a complex delight with no end to dissection; for beer novices this can expand the palate.

For more details on an Imperial Stout, see section 20c of the Beer Judge Certification Program Style Guidelines.  Here’s a few highlights:

20C. Imperial Stout

Aroma: Rich and complex, with variable amounts of roasted grains, maltiness, fruity esters, hops, and alcohol. The roasted malt character can take on coffee, dark chocolate, or slightly burnt tones and can be light to moderately strong.  … Fruity esters may be low to moderately strong, and may take on a complex, dark fruit (e.g., plums, prunes, raisins) character. Hop aroma can be very low to quite aggressive, … An alcohol character may be present, but shouldn’t be sharp, hot, or solventy. Aged versions may have a slight vinous or port-like quality, but shouldn’t be sour.

Appearance: Color may range from very dark reddish-brown to jet black. Opaque. Deep tan to dark brown head.

Flavor: Rich, deep, complex and frequently quite intense, with variable amounts of roasted malt/grains, maltiness, fruity esters, hop bitterness and flavor, and alcohol. Medium to aggressively high bitterness. Medium-low to high hop flavor (any variety). Moderate to aggressively high roasted malt/grain flavors can suggest bittersweet or unsweetened chocolate, cocoa, and/or strong coffee. … Malt backbone can be balanced and supportive to rich and barleywine-like, … The palate and finish can vary from relatively dry to moderately sweet, usually with some lingering roastiness, hop bitterness and warming character.

Mouthfeel: Full to very full-bodied and chewy, with a velvety, luscious texture … . Gentle smooth warmth from alcohol should be present and noticeable, but not a primary characteristic; in well-conditioned versions, the alcohol can be deceptive.

History: A style with a long, although not necessarily continuous, heritage. Traces roots to strong English porters brewed for export in the 1700s, and said to have been popular with the Russian Imperial Court. After the Napoleonic wars interrupted trade, these beers were increasingly sold in England. The style eventually all but died out, until being popularly embraced in the modern craft beer era, both in England as a revival and in the United States as a reinterpretation or re-imagination by extending the style with American characteristics.

The Mandela Effect and a Door to Hell

Dimensions shift, time is in flux, beer remains. And here’s a Belgian for your enjoyment.

Like so many other Terrans, I grew up in a house. The house was located in Aztec, New Mexico. I even remember the name of the road, San Juan Ave. (My friend Royal can still recall my old phone number, a landline, connected to a yellow phone mounted to the wall in a hallway in the house; this was back in the ante-nomophobia era). There was a picture window. Some kind of floral pattern on the couch and chairs. There was a television.

In that house, via that television, I know that I watched a TV series. Yes, fine, I watched more than one, that is not the point of this anecdote. The point is that there was a particular series I watched, and I’m positive I watched it in that house in the late 1980s.

The series was Sliders.  Perhaps you remember this show.  A young genius type discovers a portal to various parallel, alternate Earth’s. He and his entourage travel through these parallel dimensions on a quest to return to their own earth.  Each dimension of Earth had some variation from the “reality” we experience.  In one episode, they tackled the subject of gender politics.  Women were running everything in that dimension and men were dealing with suppression.  One episode imagined what would happen if the Summer of Love had never ended.

Some time back, it became available on Netflix.  It claimed the show was from 1995.

No.  No, it was somewhere around 1988.

By ‘95 I had been married for three years and had a child on the way.  And I lived here, in Kingman, Arizona. It seems certain to me that I would remember watching that show with my nascent family if it had indeed happened in 1995.  My wife doesn’t remember watching it with me.  See?  It clearly happened in the late 80s, before I met my wife.

That blasted archive of all knowledge known as Wikipedia had the audacity to agree with Netflix. Sliders began, wrote the anonymous know-it-all-and-sooooooo-misinformed writer of the entry for this show, in 1995. The rest of the Internet, in keeping with its conspiratorial nature, agreed.

1995.

This was my first encounter with the Mandela Effect.

Tell us more of this enigmatic phenomenon named after a South African philanthropist, you say. I hearken to your clamor.

The Mandela Effect refers to collective memories that don’t jive with what many call reality. Some say they are false memories. One example is my experience above with Sliders. My mind clearly tells me when I watched, evidence indicates otherwise. So, which is right? My memory or the data “they” have collected?

Here are some other examples of this Mandela Effect:

  • The most well known is likely the namesake of the memory anomaly: Paranormal researcher Fiona Broome evidently coined this term when she became aware that she and many other people believed that Nelson Mandela died in prison in the 1980s. He did not die until 2013, thoroughly tripping out Broome and her contingent.
  • There is a group of people convinced that the comedian Sinbad made a movie called Shazam sometime in the 1990s. Why they would want to think this should be it’s own phenomenon.
  • There was, maybe still is, a series of children’s books based on a family of bears, the Berenstain Bears – or was it spelled Berenstein?

There are doubtless more. Look up “Mandela Effect” on the Internets and have a ball.

That’s great, you say.  People’s memories are wonky.  Why give this issue a name?  It is because of the theories people have regarding why their memory is wonky.  They don’t believe in the wonkiness.  They believe there is something else happening.

Some contend that these alternate memories prove that portions of the world’s population are from another dimension, Ala Sliders, thus they recall these events as they occurred in their native dimension which is different from the way events unfolded in this dimension, the one wherein you are reading this blog post.   In my original dimension, Sliders was on TV in 1988;  Nelson Mandela died in prison.  I cannot express how thankful I am that the Sinbad thing did not happen in either of the dimensions in which I have existed.  How, exactly, some of us are transferring dimensions and others are not?

It may be a perfectly normal spacetime event that we have simply not observed empirically or otherwise as yet … or it’s CERN’s fault.  There are those who claim that CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, experiments have allowed this dimensional shifting.  They are seeking to substantiate the multiverse theory, after all.  Maybe they did it.

Here’s a description of one of their experiments.  “The neutron time-of-flight facility (nTOF) studies neutron-nucleus interactions for neutron energies ranging from a few meV to several GeV.”  I mean, if that doesn’t just scream, “we are opening a time portal,” well I don’t know what does.  Perhaps they have succeeded.  Shadowy figures are traveling into the past and rewriting history and that’s why certain things and events are slightly different for us.  Apparently, they are in beta-testing of this program and only doing inconsequential things such as renaming children’s books.  I’m glad to know that even in the future government funded science ops are still absolutely daft.  Hope blooms …

It is also possible that these memory problems are from glitches in the matrix.  The robot alien overlords like to dink around with their flesh batteries.  “Unplug them just a little so they think Sinbad was a superhero, tee-hee-hee.”  Jerks.

For anyone who has actually read this far, well, I salute you.  Go forth and buy yourself a treat of some kind and look in a mirror and tell yourself how bloody awesome you are.  Now I come to the point at last.

All of the above is due to Black Bridge Brewery and Tim, in particular.  I was there one eve, as is my wont (might’ve been an afternoon, actually … curse you, CERN!) and Mr Schritter happened to mention that he had a Belgian beer coming on soon that I would enjoy.  It was called Door to Hell.

I said, “Great, that was a good beer.”

He responded with something like, “You are a moron.  I’ve never had that beer on tap here.  It was a pilot brew that Fuller and I did.”

I just stood there aghast and flabbergasted and all those silly things and mumbled some kind of, “but I’m sure I had it.”  (And I did, see, in MY dimension).

Look, I even have photographic evidence of temporal or dimensional alterations:

IMG_4771

It’s on the Glass, man.  It’s on the Glass.  Along with all the other beers made by Black Bridge.

Whatever.  In any dimension, it was a good beer.  It is a good beer.  All this shifting is demolishing my grasp on grammatical sense and tense.

Here are some notes on the actual drinking of Door to Hell, a Belgian Quad, in this current dimension.  And, no, I am sorry, I did not use a proper Belgian goblet.  I’m sure I should be punished for that.  Maybe I was, in another dimension.

The Smelly Parts
At first, there was caramel and vanilla.  And then some maple.  That melded into a grassy, resinous field.  It was spiky, if that makes sense.  Sharp, alcoholic notes rose from the field.  There’s a lot to unpack in the nose of this one.

The Optics
Condescendingly clear and a bit on the dark side.  A subdued brownish red with bubbly white head.  It looks completely unassuming but well put together.  Like Mr Bond, James Bond.

The Gustatory Dimension
There’s no escaping the dark fruit nature of this beauty.  You know, the figs, the dates and then there is bourbony caramel.   It’s also little dry, nicely crisp and juicy. Sugar and crystal, like sequins on a slinky dress.  It is sweet, rich and heavy.  Hops did not appear except in the aroma.

The Last Words
Approved.  It doesn’t have the fusty, earthy character of Belgian beers but does have a vinous quality.  It’s quite nearly Shakespearean, really, a confluence of influence, poetic palate, tragic if you drink too much at once for it is not wanting in alcohol quantity.

Two New England Style IPA’s – Hops & Dreams and Anaconda Squeeze

Two Beers. The Northeast meets the Southwest.

It’s not officially a style. Yet it has become a thing in the brewing world. It’s yellow, hazy and fruity; a pale ale crossed with a Hefeweizen.  A double IPA, unfiltered.   It’s called New England IPA. Saturday, December 9 is the tapping party for Black Bridge Brewery’s take on this beer.

I have not had an actual New England IPA. At least, not that I can recall.  I’ve only ever lived in the Southwest: Texas, New Mexico, Arizona. My experience is limited to what I’ve read in brewing literature. Let that inform all that is to follow.

The beer style has also been called a Vermont IPA, since Heady Topper from the Alchemist is evidently the prototype for this beer, though there are brewers in Oregon that argue they’ve been brewing a cloudy, subdued IPA much longer. I’ll leave them, and the reader, to debate the history and nomenclature of this kind of beer.

It appears to me, from my reading, that these beers should be moderate in hops bitterness, heavy in hops aroma, especially of the melon-ish variety.  And they should have a juicy quality; i.e., it should be like drinking a moderately hopped orange juice.

Here’s a few current descriptors of this nascent beer style, highlights I looked for in my pint:

  • Hazy, turbid appearance
  • Tropical fruit aroma with restrained hops bitterness; grapefruit, peach, apricot
  • A soft, pillowy mouthfeel with a creamy aftertaste
  • Juicy, fruity flavor. Esters from yeast are good.

For now, I’ll focus on what I think the beer is supposed to be and Black Bridge’s version, which is named Hops & Dreams.  (Fear not, Hops the Cat is still alive and well at the brewery. Perhaps some of you were also concerned that the familiar feline may have made its way into the beer itself, not just its name).

That Smell …
The resinous aroma of Cascade-ish hops erupts from this beer. There are other hops there, to be sure, but mostly of the piney nature; Idaho 7 for example. Another customer in Black Bridge indicated this beer was redolent of naught but grapefruit to her. Scents of tropical fruit and black tea faintly appeared to me about halfway through the pint. They were very subdued.

In Appearance …
Perfect. Just like a wit beer, hazy and milky and a solid white head. Burnished yellow, like a faded highway traffic sign. The haze was made appropriately, with some additions of wheat.

But the Taste …
Restrained hops bitterness is one of the characteristics … but we are talking about Black Bridge. I expected little restraint in the use of hops and was not disappointed.  The initial hit of this beer is a mosh pit of sharp, resinous, piney hops. The aftertaste, too, is harsh and astringent. Not unpleasant, mind you, just aggressive and dry.  In between the first taste and the aftertaste is a medium strength body.  The malt character, of which there should not be copious amounts, is enough to make this very drinkable.  Far more drinkable than I anticipated after the first few swallows.

Conclusions
It’s appropriately hazy, but I could not discern the fruity hops notes, or the juice-like mouthfeel, that I expected. If I recall correctly, the B3 house yeast can produce pleasant esters, which would work in this beer. And their recent barley wine, Katastrophic Humiliation, certainly had some soft, tropical fruit notes that would also fit this beer perfectly.   I thought some of that might make an appearance here.  But I could not find them.

That does not mean this beer is without merit.  Hops & Dreams is a hops forward and alcoholically powerful IPA and has Black Bridge’s fingerprints all over it.  Tim Schritter  loves beer and brewing, and the IPA style in particular, and it shows in this beer, which I think of as a session double IPA.  (Ironically, I that’s what Heady Topper is classified as, too, which I did not know before writing all this).

Actually, it seems to me that it should be called a Hualapai Style IPA instead of New England style. It is barbaric and beautiful as is the desert in which it was born.  While I did not find what I expected (and that’s all on me), there is no flaw in Hops & Dreams.  I hope it finds a permanent home on the Tap List.

____________________________________________________________________________

Now on to the next New England Style IPA that can be found in Kingman. This one is at Rickety Cricket, just down the street from Black Bridge.

I had a sample of their kolsch at a recent beer festival and that is the only exposure I’ve had to the brews Terry is producing at the Cricket.  His NEIPA, called Anaconda Squeeze, was the first actual pint I’ve had from them.

That Smell …
Not much aroma came from the beer, certainly no fruit or floral hops. Standard grassy bouquet.

In Appearance …
The Anaconda’s clarity was fantastic, even though it should not have had any whatsoever. It completely lacked the turbidity that should be present. It was also a bronze-ish red. That is slightly off the spectrum I anticipated. Needs to be a pale yellow.

But the Taste …
Hops flavor was missing from the body of the beer, too. There was a hint of some American hops, perhaps, but not very heavy. Some malt character came through.

Conclusions
Anaconda Squeeze has a cool name (if, indeed, it is derived from Nacho Libre).  It is, admittedly, not a New England style IPA although it is billed as such by the brewery. Terry knows it needs adjustment. The beer is a good, standard pale ale. Nice clarity, good mouthfeel, easy to drink and no substandard flavors at all.  I need to try some more of Rickety Cricket’s beers, to be sure, but right now I’d say they need to find a way to make their beers scream “we are Rickety Cricket and we love beer.” They need a signature of some kind.

You can have both of these beers this weekend. My pick will be Hops & Dreams.

Cheers!

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Further Reading for the Style that Isn’t a Style:

Weekend Beer Recommendations

For October 6-8, 2017

Here are my recommendations for what you should be drinking.  You do what you want, of course.

Homebrew.  If you have it at home it should be your first choice.  Prime your weekend of beer with a brew of your own.  I have Shistory Saison.  It’s a very brown saison with a little pepper in the background as it warms.  This batch suffers from overcarbonation but that seems to be subsiding as it ages.  Still good.

Local Beer.  At Black Bridge, I’d recommend a couple of beers:  first, Oktoberfest.  I agree that this should be a year-round beer.  It’s a sunset-copper color, sweet & malty but not overly so.  Basically, this is a liquid metaphor of the change in seasons.  The other recommendation would be Li’l Orange Van, the orange vanilla weiss beer.  Yes, it’s a creamsicle in a glass; drink one of those as a shout out to summer, then Oktoberfest to say goodbye to summer.  All right, bonus recommendation – for you weirdo’s who like the pumpkiny stuff, Heckedy Peg will be arriving soon.  It’s fine, for a pumpkin beer.  If that’s your thing, well, super, I guess.  Just don’t talk to me about it.

 Other Commercial Beer.  Both options above may be unavailable to you, or maybe you eschew them and just want a beer from the shelf.  If so, drink a Sam Adams OctoberFest.

This weekend has supervenient beer events.  The 2017 Brews and Brats Oktoberfest will be held at Metcalfe Park.  Black Bridge will be providing the beer again.  In addition to the Oktoberfest noted above, a schwarzbier will be available and also Go To Helles, the brewery’s faux-lager yellow fizzy clone, which is terribly popular and really quite good.  And on Sunday, the Sunday Funday Breakfast will return to Black Bridge.

In Review of A Beer: Legend of Tom by Black Bridge Brewery

***Update: So, yeah, I’m just an amateur at this drink tasting/reviewing thing. It was BRANDY barrels, not RUM. My bad. I repent in dust & ashes and all. Trust not the reviews on this blog. Well okay, this is still a really good beer.***

As this Saturday, August 12, marks the fourth year of operations for Kingman’s first brewery, Black Bridge, and since the soiree on the aforementioned Saturday commemorating said operations will feature the revealing of a new beer to add to the already extensive tap list, the time seems appropriate to experience this new beer.

First, some context.

The beer’s moniker is Legend of Tom and it is a Barrel Aged Coffee Imperial Porter.  Now, barrel aged beers are not unfamiliar to craft beer enthusiasts.  They’ve been quaffing stouts and porters and even IPAs aged in wine, whiskey, rum and whatever barrels for an interval of many years.  But, that’s not what this new release is; at least, not barrel aged in the traditional sense.

Brewer’s in Portland and San Diego ascertained that coffee beans – green coffee beans, that is, beans that have not yet undergone the roasting process – absorb their surroundings handily and profoundly.  The brewers thus placed the green beans in an empty barrel that had previously contained the spirit of the brewer’s choice.  For Kingman that meant the green coffee beans, procured by Beale Street Brews, were aged in rum barrels provided by Diamond Distillery.  Once the beans have been barrel aged to the brewers delight they are cold-brewed.  The resulting coffee is then added to the wort at some point during the boil.  Or perhaps after.  Esoteric lore such as that can only be divulged by Tom, the brewing sphinx*.

The process results in a coffee tinged with the libation within which barrel it was housed melded with a malty delight called beer.  It sounds fantabulous, does it not?

*The next question is, who is Tom?  He is a curious character, one of myth and obscurity.  Only those on the inside know his true identity and he is spoken of in whispers.  And that’s all that can be said at this time.  Regardless, he has overseen the production of this new beer and … well, its character shall be dissected in the words to follow.

Begin At the Beginning (Aroma)
It emanates so much coffee!  It smells like breakfast on the third day of seven days off.  Like a campfire with a little perfume.  Thus, dark grains, strong coffee and a hint of hops.  Smashing.

And Go On (Appearance)
What a luscious head, the tincture of Irish cream on a waffle.  Dense but approachable and stable, indubitably enhanced by the nucleation points in the glass.  It rivals Angry Elf in color, an unfeigned brownish-black with sensuous spotlights of garnet.

Till You Come to the End (Taste)
There’s fruit at first taste, like a bursting plum.  With some tangy rum. Yes, there’s that distillery.  But that dwindles and the tang of dark fruit remains.  It rings on the tongue like the drawing of Anduril from its sheath, with all the  accompanying fanfare.  There is bitterness, derived from the sharp black coffee burntness.  But it lingers not.  The coffee presence is far superior to any other coffee beer, very fresh, smoky, mapley & caramelly.  Seeking the hops may result in a smidge of earthy resin.  Medium body, not really chewy but substantial.  Lingers, sweet and content.  The bitterness creeps up in the finish.  Not belligerently, but properly, like an English hop?

Then Stop (Conclusions)
Wow.

The coffee, malt, rum, mixed sagely.  The cold brew coffee reduces the beer abrasiveness but enhances its depth.  As with so many of the offerings at Black Bridge, this one is high in alcohol content but that, too, is deceptive; for Legend of Tom wants to be a session beer but is far too sophisticated for such things.  In other words, it is ridiculously easy to drink.

Is it the best beer ever from Black Bridge?  If it were a novel it would perhaps be something from Dostoyevsky, maybe Crime & Punishment – dark but compelling, a long journey; Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises.  If it were a song … Whiskey in the Jar or One by Metallica; God Save the Queen by Sex Pistols.

(Author’s Note:  I like it better than 80 Shilling). 

That answers not the question.  Is it the best?  It’s for beer lovers,  possessing all the t has all you could want from a beer.  Dark malt backbone.  A little hops presence.  Coffee.  High alcohol.  Below are the guidelines for American porter’s, standard and imperial.  You can see how Legend of Tom fits in to all these and then expands on the styles.

(Author’s Note, again:  I like it better than Shugga Momma).

But is it the best from B3?  Interestingly, this does not have the same “house” flavor that the Black Bridge beers carry.  That is no condemnation, either of the beer or the house flavor.  Such a thing is expected from using a particular yeast strain and local water and the same equipment.  It is what makes your local your local.  Tom paid meticulous attention to itself.

(Last Author’s Note:  I like it better than Evil Red).

Cheers and well done!

Beer Judge Certification Program
20A. American Porter

  • A substantial, malty dark beer with a complex and flavorful dark malt character.
  • Medium-light to medium-strong dark malt aroma, often with a lightly burnt character. Optionally may also show some additional malt character in support (grainy, bready, toffee-like, caramelly, chocolate, coffee, rich, and/or sweet). Hop aroma low to high, often with a resiny, earthy, or floral character.
  • Medium brown to very dark brown, often with ruby- or garnet-like highlights. Can approach black in color.
  • Full, tan-colored head with moderately good head retention.
  • Moderately strong malt flavor usually features a lightly burnt malt character (and sometimes chocolate and/or coffee flavors) with a bit of grainy, dark malt dryness in the finish. Overall flavor may finish from dry to medium-sweet.
  • May have a sharp character from dark roasted grains, but should not be overly acrid, burnt or harsh. The dark malt and hops should not clash.
  • Medium to medium-full body. Stronger versions may have a slight alcohol warmth. May have a slight astringency from dark malts, although this character should not be strong.
  • May contain several malts, prominently dark malts, which often include black malt (chocolate malt is also often used). American hops typically used for bittering, but US or UK finishing hops can be used

Brewer’s Association Guidelines
American-Style Imperial Porter

  • Color: Black
  • Clarity: Opaque
  • Perceived Malt Aroma & Flavor: No roast barley or strong burnt/black malt character should be perceived. Medium malt, caramel and cocoa sweetness should be present.
  • Perceived Hop Aroma & Flavor: Low to medium- high
  • Perceived Bitterness: Medium-low to medium
  • Fermentation Characteristics: Fruity-estery flavors and aromas should be evident but not overpowering and should complement hop character and malt- derived sweetness. Diacetyl should be absent.
  • Body: Full
  • Alcohol by Weight (Volume) 5.5%-9.5% (7.0%-12.0%)

On Imperial Stout – Most Notably, Angry Elf

In his book Brewing Porters & Stouts author Terry Foster enumerates several stouts that he had readily available at the time of his writing or that were in his locale.  Some of the names are renowned and acclaimed:  Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout, Yeti Imperial Stout, Narwhal.  Foster consecrates an entire page to sundry stouts and then declares:  “You should have no difficulty finding other versions of this style in your own area.”

That was no fallacious declaration.  Verily, in our small town we can find our own imperial stout.  Angry Elf is that stout; brewed initially by Kingman home brewer Mike Hinman and now often offered on tap at Black Bridge Brewery.   There should be no qualms about putting it amongst the other beers noted above.  It was last on tap late last year (2016) and a portion of this inky potation secreted away in forgotten vaults.  I am grateful I was allowed a sample of this well aged beer.  It was outstanding.

It pours an impenetrable black, a darkness that even the sun cannot pierce, with a dense brownish bay of foam for its head. Only at the edges of the glass can you discern some brown and red accentuations.  The bouquet is redolent of dark fruit and high alcohol like a brandy or cognac or some other liquor of which I am ignorant.  This smell portends its alcoholic potency.  (Yeah, don’t really remember the alcohol content; knowing Tim & Mike it’s probably like ten to twelve percent.)

The first sip:  surprisingly, it’s very soft; not as aggressive as one might think after gazing upon it and recalling its name (Angry Elf).  It’s more like Will Ferrel’s Elf.  There’s a slight nod to vanilla and hops are palpable at the edges of the tongue; a bitterness intended only to offset the hedonic, malty power of the body but not to be harsh or resinous.

Great, now I’m thinking of Will Ferrel … the relish of candied marshmallow is discernible, maybe, in the next draught?  Along with a little anise?  It is even minutely smoky – as in cigar, not peat.  It dries on the tongue expeditiously while not being astringent.  The warmth of the alcohol is subtle, an alluring fade out.  Roasted malt becomes more apparent as the body warms.  The beer’s body, not mine.

Kingman has some sublimely talented brewers both in the home brew community and at the professional level in Black Bridge.  Angry Elf is a child of both.  It hits all the right markers for the style but is far more than a derivative of those guidelines.  It’s a confident, not arrogant, beer.  Everyone said that aging this beer made it even better (6-8 months, I think?) and they were not unsound in their views.  At all.  It’s a complex beer wherein no one factor overpowers or outshines the other.  Really a superb accomplishment.

(Joe even let me in on a secret:  apparently, this stout has won gold medals at beer competitions!  My shock is not apparent.)*

So, two gold medal beers from Black Bridge:  Angry Elf and Katastrophic Humiliation.  And I’m sure they will be appearing in competition once again.  Beware, other beers.

See below for additional info on what to expect out of any imperial stout you like to drink.

BEER JUDGE CERTIFICATION PROGRAM 2015 STYLE GUIDELINES
20C. Imperial Stout

  • An intensely-flavored, big, dark ale with a wide range of flavor balances and regional interpretations.
    • Roasty-burnt malt with deep dark or dried fruit flavors, and a warming, bittersweet finish.
  • Despite the intense flavors, the components need to meld together to create a complex, harmonious beer, not a hot mess.
  • Aroma: Rich and complex, with variable amounts of roasted grains, maltiness, fruity esters, hops, and alcohol. The roasted malt character can take on coffee, dark chocolate, or slightly burnt tones and can be light to moderately strong. The malt aroma can be subtle to rich and barleywine-like.
  • Fruity esters may be low to moderately strong, and may take on a complex, dark fruit (e.g., plums, prunes, raisins) character.
  • An alcohol character may be present, but shouldn’t be sharp, hot, or solventy. Aged versions may have a slight vinous or port-like quality, but shouldn’t be sour.
  • Color may range from very dark reddish-brown to jet black. Opaque. Deep tan to dark brown head. Generally has a well-formed head
  • Flavor: Rich, deep, complex and frequently quite intense, with variable amounts of roasted malt/grains, maltiness, fruity esters, hop bitterness and flavor, and alcohol. Medium to aggressively high bitterness.
    • Malt backbone can be balanced and supportive to rich and barleywine-like, and may optionally show some supporting caramel, bready or toasty flavors.
    • The palate and finish can vary from relatively dry to moderately sweet
    • The balance and intensity of flavors can be affected by aging, with some flavors becoming more subdued over time and some aged, vinous or port-like qualities developing.
  • Full to very full-bodied and chewy, with a velvety, luscious texture. Gentle smooth warmth from alcohol should be present and noticeable, but not a primary characteristic;
  • The wide range of allowable characteristics allow for maximum brewer creativity.

Brewers Association 2017 Beer Style Guidelines
American-Style Imperial Stout

  • Color: Black
  • Clarity: Opaque
  • 
Perceived Malt Aroma & Flavor: Extremely rich malty aroma is typical. Extremely rich malty flavor with full sweet malt character is typical. Roasted malt astringency and bitterness can be moderate but should not dominate the overall character.
  • Perceived Hop Aroma & Flavor: Medium-high to high with floral, citrus and/or herbal character.
  • Perceived Bitterness: Medium-high to very high and balanced with rich malt character.
  • Fermentation Characteristics: Fruity-estery aromas and flavors are high. Diacetyl should be absent.
  • Body: Full

 

*FOOTNOTE:
Oh, I guess Joe indulged in what we would call “humor.”  Apparently EVERYONE knows it’s a gold medal beer!

Regarding American Pale Ales; A National and Local Comparison

Recently I was afforded the opportunity to compare two American pale ales. One was a national favorite and the other was a local Kingman favorite. The beers were poured for me by a third party as I wished to do the comparison blind.  In other words, I knew what beers I had at home, but not which beer was poured into which glass.  I had to figure that out myself.

Beer 1
The head was poofy, rocky, prominent and very white.  It was copper, orange and yellow, like filtered sunlight. Slightly darker than an American lager.  The hops said hello immediately; they were piney but with a bright floral and citrus character.  The first taste offers up this bright, earthy hops flavor.  The beer was juicy.  Then it turned crisp, light.  It had a firm body.  Maybe a little light toast crept through.  It finished clean, not too dry, left a nice specter of hops but not harsh.  It was a beautiful beer, everything was in line, in focus.  Each element on display.

Beer 2
Consistent but more flat off white head.  It was brown and orange and bronze, much darker in color.  Hops aroma presented itself right away; once again it was piney, more resinous, though and less citrus, possibly a hint a tropical fruit.  Maybe.  Hops bitterness could be tasted right off but it was also grainy, had a nice malt backing.  It was bready but seemed like a bare hint of tin in the very outer edges.  It finished very clean, soft. This was not as focused as Beer 1 but no less enjoyable or beautiful, a little dark but completely appealing.

Overall:
Both had ideal presentations of hops both in aroma and flavor.  Beer 1 was brighter and sharper and had a better color (according to the school I went to and the eyes I possess), but Beer 2 had the grainy/malty aspects I prefer to balance the hops.  I found myself approving Beer 1 a minuscule amount more due to my perception of its crispness and focus; however, Beer 2 had the more appealing hops, earthier and more resinous and was more drinkable.

Beer 1 was Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Beer 2 was Monolith from Black Bridge.  The above were rough notes made on a Sunday evening, just for fun.  I’m no actual beer judge, so please make your own determination about what beer you like.  See below for some highlights from the Style Guidelines regarding what to look for in a pale ale.

Brewers Association 2017 Beer Style Guidelines:


  • Deep golden to copper or light brown
  • 
Chill haze is acceptable at low temperatures. Hop haze is allowable at any temperature.
  • Low caramel malt aroma is allowable. Low to medium maltiness may include low caramel malt character.
  • Hop aroma and flavor is high, exhibiting floral, fruity (berry, tropical, stone fruit and other), sulfur/diesel-like, onion-garlic- catty, citrusy, piney or resinous character that was originally associated with American-variety hops. Hops with these attributes now also originate from countries other than the USA.
  • Medium to medium-high bitterness
  • Fruity-estery aroma and flavor may be low to high. Diacetyl should not be perceived.
  • Body: Medium

BEER JUDGE CERTIFICATION PROGRAM 2015 STYLE GUIDELINES:
18B. American Pale Ale

  • A pale, refreshing and hoppy ale, yet with sufficient supporting malt to make the beer balanced and drinkable.
  • An average-strength hop-forward pale American craft beer, generally balanced to be more accessible than modern American IPAs.
  • Moderate to strong hop aroma from American or New World hop varieties with a wide range of possible characteristics, including citrus, floral, pine, resinous, spicy, tropical fruit, stone fruit, berry, or melon. Low to moderate maltiness supports the hop presentation, and may optionally show small amounts of specialty malt character (bready, toasty, biscuit, caramelly). Fruity esters vary from moderate to none.
  • Pale golden to light amber. Moderately large white to off-white head with good retention. Generally quite clear.
  • Moderate to high hop flavor, typically showing an American or New World hop character (citrus, floral, pine, resinous, spicy, tropical fruit, stone fruit, berry, melon, etc.). Low to moderate clean grainy-malt character supports the hop presentation, and may optionally show small amounts of specialty malt character (bready, toasty, biscuity). The balance is typically towards the late hops and bitterness, but the malt presence should be supportive, not distracting.
  • Moderate to high hop bitterness with a medium to dry finish. Hop flavor and bitterness often lingers into the finish, but the aftertaste should generally be clean and not harsh.
  • Mouthfeel: Medium-light to medium body. Moderate to high carbonation.
  • Overall smooth finish without astringency and harshness.
  • Prior to the explosion in popularity of IPAs, was traditionally the most well-known and popular of American craft beers.
Typically lighter in color, cleaner in fermentation by-products, and having less caramel flavors than English counterparts. There can be some overlap in color between American pale ale and American amber ale. The American pale ale will generally be cleaner, have a less caramelly malt profile, less body, and often more finishing hops.