- Mike Riedel
Epic's highly anticipated Big Bad Baptist series of beers has finally started to trickle into Salt Lake City, and the response from local beer nerds has been an overwhelming, "Fuck yes!" The first bottles of the original Big Bad Baptist hit last September to warm up our palates. The second BBB offering, Big Bad Baptista, is the most recent of the behemoth coffee beers to make its return to local fridges. Unlike its older brother, Baptista was inspired by traditional Mexican coffee, café de olla, which is served with cinnamon and piloncillo, an unrefined sugar. The cinnamon adds another layer of complexity and accentuates the earthy character of Mexican coffee, but more importantly, captures the essence of a place and its culture.
If you haven't made your way into Baptista's camp before, it's a combination of vanilla, cinnamon, Mexican coffee (roasted by Blue Copper) and Solstice Chocolate cacao nibs. It's luxurious to say the least, with a pleasant warming sensation generated by the cinnamon and alcohol. The interplay of chocolate, malt, oak and spice make this beer perfect for the cold-weather months.
This year, anticipation is high for the third member of the BBB family, Triple Barrel Big Bad Baptist. This nicely layered beer has all of the coffee, bourbon and chocolate you have come to expect, with the addition of bourbon-ized (barrel-aged) coconut. Those damned new kids always want to be rebels. My tongue got a sneak peek of Triple Barrel, and here's the world's first review.
This stout looks like you would expect—a deep opaque ebony color with brassy highlights. The head looks like a pile of shiny copper ball bearings on the bottom that slowly transitions to sudsy foam as it ascends. This Zen garden of foam leaves curtains of torn lace down the inside of the glass as I make my way through. It's a complex beer with many layers.
The nose is representative of that complexity. The aroma is intensely roasty, with notes of bourbon, dark roast coffee, baking chocolate, fudge and toasted coconut. Alcohol perfume is evident as well; it creates a countering effect that keeps the bouquet from becoming too dessert-like.
The taste is immediately bold and rich. Medium sweet dark chocolate and roasted barley jump out at first. Big cold-brew coffee flavors push aside the roasted malts and assert a rich and spicy blast that is equal parts fruity and floral. At the midpoint, the bourbon barrel begins to play its part, adding oak, toffee and vanilla along with a bit of booziness. Toward the end of the palate, coconut custard becomes apparent, as it creates a toothy Mounds Bar sweetness that plays well with the coffee and bourbon thump. The end of this roller coaster relies on a bit of oak and the slightest hint of floral bitterness to wrap it all up in a nice bow. The finish is roasty and slightly dry, as lingering acidic tones from alcohol and coffee parch the tongue. The texture here is has a weighty, yet velvety, coating effect in the mouth.
Overall: If coconut is not your jam, this beer might be a deal-breaker, but if your blood pumps black with coffee, whiskey and coconut, you'll soon squeal. Triple Barrel Big Bad Baptist is scheduled to debut the third week of November. Its siblings are currently available at Epic's brewery located at 825 S. State.
As always, cheers!