Beer Review: #50 Whiskey Coffee Stout

  • Brewery:  Jeremy Fass
  • ABV:  6.3%
  • Style:  Stout/Porter
  • Serving:  Growler
  • Bottled Roger Rating:  88%

#50

Begin At the Beginning (Aroma)
It smelled of toast, chocolate and coffee.  Definitely coffee.  A freshly brewed cup, in fact, the smell that gets you out of bed in the morning.  And a little soy sauce.

And Go On (Appearance)
It was black and opaque as it should be.  It was muddy in direct sunlight, clarity in the body would have made it completely beautiful.   The head was the color of chocolate milk and whipped cream.  It remained throughout the beer.  Outstanding.

Till You Come to the End (Taste)
First thought after tasting:  mocha frappuccino.  Coffee and chocolate dominant this beer.   Well, let’s say instead they are the most prevalent flavors.  Fans of Black Bridge’s Legend of Tom and Stresstout will find comparable tastes in #50.  The coffee beans were exposed to a whiskey barrel, however I did not notice any whiskey flavor in the beer itself.  Maybe that added to the sweetness of the beer, though.  Very dry finish, which felt perfect for the sweet, medium body beer.  Seemed more like a porter than a stout because of that lighter body and not a lot of roast flavor.

Then Stop (Conclusions)
A thoroughly wonderful beer.  The chocolate and the coffee were distinct players in the nose and the flavor, they did not blur together but neither did they fight for dominance.  A little toasty malt flavor also came through, hops only evident in the dry finish, in my opinion.  The alcohol is just high enough to feel it after a couple of glasses but it also does not overpower any other flavors.  The balance achieved with this beer is superb.  If you get a chance to twist Mr Fass’s arm and get some more of this beer, do so.  There will be no disappointment!

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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%)

Beer Review: Breakfast Stout

The guest for this beer review session is an oatmeal stout that features bitter chocolate and two types of coffee. The brewer is Founders Brewing and they have named this great stout experiment Breakfast Stout
Some Vitals

  • ABV 8.3%
  • IBU 60
  • Available October thru December

Quick Takeaways 

  • Lots of coffe aroma and flavor
  • A moderately thick, oily body
  • A stout that is more than a stout yet still a stout

Freshly brewed coffe is the prominent aroma redolent of a quiet, early morning that does not lead to labor whoring (i.e., work, employment, the job). After it sits and airs, the smell of chocolate arises. No hops evident.

It has a mild, tan and persistent head, a parchment tinged creamy tundra on an appropriately black body. That body is warm and full, filled out by the oatmeal.

Coffee is prominent in the taste, too. There is a harsh and bitter outline to this beer. It’s interesting. The familiar roasted profile of stout hits the palate initially then the bitter chocolate and the black coffee conflate powerfully and turn this into something other than stout. while still being stout. It’s not unpleasant in any way; it is ambiguous. No hops evident. 

This is a good beer. I feel it’s a good example of an oatmeal and a cream stout, with a creative addition of chocolate and coffee. Enjoyable, I definitely want another. So, it’s good I have a second bottle. I think it shall face off against Founders Porter. 

Chapter Three: Brew Day

Certain days hold greater significance than others. We either commemorate them because of the memories they engender, like an anniversary, or we anticipate them because of the memories we expect to create, like a brew day. The years between my brew days have been long. But I was determined to have one again and to relish it despite any mishaps. The yeast starters performed admirably despite my trepidation and unseasoned hand. This infused hope into my brewing soul; it vaguely mollified my apprehension.

I brought forth all the old equipment and wiped away the dust. With soap and water I scrubbed away old smells and accumulated dirt. There was not much but they needed cleaning. Cobwebs and broken glass and cracked tubing and bits of long dead bugs … yes, the cleaning needed to be done. In the old days I had become accustomed to scalding water. I learned quickly that I would need to be acclimated once again.

A more important step,even than grime removal is that of sanitizing. It is in this arena that I know I had failed in the past. My resolve was to unfail this time around. I had a bottle of iodophor and kept it out and accessible. The first to get sanitized was the brew kettle so that I could heat my mash water (360 ounces at 169 degrees). Then the mash tun and hoses got the iodophor treatment. And my large mash spoon. I kept either a bucket or a bowl of sanitizer solution close at hand throughout the day. Additionally, I’d even carefully read the directions on the bottle of iodophor paying special attention to the mixing ratio.

Once the water was at temp I poured it into my newly made mash tun. Then I added the grains (mashed in). The temperature of the mash settled at about 152-153 degrees which was slightly lower than desired. Of course, as I’ve read, all that’s needed to remedy a low mash temperature (if you’re using a beverage cooler mash tun, that is, and not one that is heated directly) is to heat up a quart of water and add it to the mash.

I did this. Then I proceeded to gather my sparge water and get it heating while the mash proceeded. Even when brewing regularly I did few all grain batches. I learned very quickly that I was much out of practice. When calculating sparge water I did not properly account for mash water absorption or volume. I was aiming for a two-and-a-half to three gallon overall batch. I ended up with approximately four-and-a-quarter. This, of course, affected my beginning gravity. It came in at 1.042, far less than I anticipated. That’s okay, though. I’m not even upset. I enjoyed the whole dang thing.

After sixty minutes the mash was complete. I drained the mash water and recirculated it. In other words I drained the water from the grain bed into one of my kettles. It looked and smelled fabulous, like burned coffee and toast. I poured this back into the mash tun. I put another kettle down and started slowly rinsing the grains. I recirculated the initial mash volume a second time and rinsed with three gallons of hot water, 170 degrees. I think the sparge water should have been around 190 to raise the mash to 170. That affected the gravity reading, too. That’s okay, though. I’m not even upset. I enjoyed the whole dang thing.

Well, once all that was done and I had collected all my extra wort into two kettles the boil began. This part went as planned. There’s little room for error when heating liquid. The hops went in as the boil began producing a kaleidoscopic swirl of green and brown. Generally the confluence of those two colors portends infectious things. But in this instance it was pleasing.

The boil ended. The true challenge now begins. The Chilling of the Wort. I have no chiller so it’s all ice baths for me. On the day of the brewing an amazing thing happened in the desert. It had snowed. And the snow remained. For days. Thus in our backyard there was at least six inches of snow. So, the kettle went outside.

Even sitting in the snow and being transferred between kettle and sanitized fermenting bucket several times did not cool it quickly, however. Honestly it must have taken three hours. My next investment is going to be a plate chiller.

Once it finally reached pitching temperature – seventy degrees – I poured in one of my starters and sealed the bucket and inserted an airlock in the lid. It was bubbling vigorously by the morning.

The recipe:

5 lbs 6-row
1 lb. chocolate malt
1 lb, 13.5 oz roasted barley
1 lb smoked malt
2 oz Northern Brewer hops

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