It's nice to see some full-bodied beers popping up as the temperatures begin to climb. Right now, I'm all about the lighter beers—until I get a whiff of something dark, malty and chewy. At that point, my loyalties are out the window. This week, I found two full-bodied beers that are both super-dark, yet couldn't be more opposite in flavor. Regardless of where you fall on the flavor-preference spectrum, one of these dark beers will call out to you.
Epic Bourbon Barrel Chocolate Raspberry Stout: On the sweeter side, we have what are becoming known as "pastry stouts." These are dark ales that tend to take on flavors of dessert or cake. This experimental ale from Epic pours an opaque chocolate-brown color with a moderate amount of bubbles. A big three fingers of off-white head settles into a thinner creamy layer. The nose is sweet for sure; there's a complex aroma of whiskey, raspberry and chocolate. Additional notes of coffee, toffee and raisin also creep in.
Just like in the aroma, flavors of cocoa, jammy raspberry and bourbon light up tongue, with the raspberry probably the most dominant flavor of the three. Through these big flavors, some slight espresso notes and chewy toffee try to balance the fruit. There is a bit of heat toward the finish as the 10.5 percent alcohol creates a warming effect. The body is full, with a medium amount of carbonation.
Quarantine Desirability Rating: Bourbon Barrel Chocolate Raspberry rates a solid high to bitch'n, with a cloistering factor that is adventurous. After getting my ass kicked by a bunch of hooligans, I decided to bring a bottle of this as a peace offering—but after refusing my offer of détente, they started pushing those Samoas and Thin Mints on me again. Those lil' drones don't know what they're missing.
Level Crossing The Black Album: On the drier side, we have an Imperial Black Rye IPA. If you think that style description is huge, you should check out what's in the can. Heavy on the hops with a solid dark-and-roasty background, this was a truly overwhelming drinking experience. The beer poured a deep brown with ruby highlights and a very large and robust tan head. The hops hit me immediately with a citrusy and floral aroma, along with a bit of pine resin.
The dark malty backbone lingered beneath the hops in the flavor, but not as dominantly as in the nose. The taste was a full-on bitter hop assault, with those citrus and piney hop notes that faded into a malty and burnt roasty porter, ending with a burnt and piney bitterness on my palate. The beer was full and creamy, which matched well to its appearance and left a pleasantly bitter coating on my tongue between quaffs. A really outstanding Black IPA.
Quarantine Desirability Rating: This one rates high to bitch'n as well. After finishing this can, I decided to hook it up to my old Edison Cylinder player. Music-wise, the can delivers tour de force jazzy pounding block chords. It's a more abstract compilation of ideas than the more structured beer inside, with elements of Leo Sayer and William Shatner's "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds." I'm already making plans to fly out to Broadway, to watch and support the upcoming show.
Epic's bottle makes it very clear that this beer is not for the masses. It's for you, the beer nerd who likes experimentation and rarity. You'll only find it at the brewery in SLC until it runs out. You'll find slightly more copies ... err, cans of the Black Album at Level Crossing. As always, cheers!