In 2007, the Eclipse line from FiftyFifty Brewing Co. began humbly enough, an imperial stout aged in Old Fitzgerald barrels before being bottled and sold with little fanfare. Only seven years later, there are a multitude of different variants, each aged in different barrels and each with its own specific profile.

FiftyFifty Imperial Eclipse Stout Java Coffee 2013 Bottle

First released as an option in 2012, the Java Coffee variant of the Eclipse line for 2013 is a blend of different FiftyFifty beers, some barrel-aged and some not. According to Todd Ashman, director of brewing operations at FiftyFifty, the Java Coffee incorporates the brewery’s Totality Squared imperial stout as its base and blends in beers that were aged in Four Roses, Rittenhouse Rye, High West and Wild Turkey barrels, along with a “roasted coffee/cold toddy” from Wood Fire Roasted Coffee Co. based out of Reno, Nev. Last year, there were only about 5,000 22-ounce bottles produced.

Some of the Tenemu staff had a tasting of eight of the above variants1 and I was given my choice on which I could review. I have always loved coffee stouts, so I chose the Java Coffee version, although I got to taste all of them.

There were eleven different Eclipse variants in 2013, each identified by the color of wax used to seal the caps:

FiftyFity Eclipse 2013

  • Silver Wax — Eclipse aged in Maker’s Mark barrels
  • Black Wax — Eclipse aged in Evan Willams barrels
  • Red Wax — Eclipse aged in Four Roses barrels
  • Lavender Pearl Wax — Java Coffee Eclipse
  • Tangerine Wax — Eclipse aged in High West bourbon barrels
  • Yellow Wax — Eclipse aged in Buffalo Trace barrels
  • Purple Wax — Eclipse aged in Elijah Craig 12-year barrels
  • Silver Wax — Eclipse aged in Maker’s Mark barrels
  • Fuchsia Wax — Eclipse aged in 18-year rum barrels2
  • Pink Pearl Wax — Eclipse aged in Pappy Van Winkle 20-year barrels3

In addition, there were 226 bottles of a Vanilla Eclipse variant that was released at the brewery.

The Eclipse Stout — Java Coffee pours a deep light-sucking black with a tan head features the same colored lacing that remains around the edge of the glass for an extended period of time. Aroma from the glass is a combination of roasted espresso, sweet vanilla, oak, bourbon, fudge and cherries.

FiftyFifty Imperial Eclipse Stout Java Coffee 2013

Staring out, the Java Coffee features a dominant flavor that lives up to the name: bitter roasted espresso bitterness, along with dark chocolate and sweet caramel on the palate. There are some minor flavors of oak, vanilla, creamy milk chocolate and even some figs that come and go in the background, but none are strong enough to even come close to pushing the dominant flavors off the top of the mountain. The combination of flavors reminds me strongly of chocolate fudge made with espresso beans topped with caramel.4The carbonation is noticeably low, but that actually bodes well for this specific beer.

As it warms, the carbonation remains fairly steady, but the sweetness begins to build in strength, morphing from a vanilla note to more of a milk chocolate flavor. The oak note gets stronger as well, knocking the espresso flavor from the dominant spot, albeit not by much.

FiftyFifty Imperial Eclipse Stout — Java Coffee (2013)
BREWERY: FiftyFifty Brewing Co.
LOCATION: Truckee, Calif.
STYLE: Imperial stout
ABV: 11.9 percent
IBU: n/a
PRICE: $29.99
RELEASE DATE: December 2013
AVAILABLE IN: 22-ounce bottles
BEERS POURED: One
I have had quite a few coffee stouts in my time here on earth, and while the Eclipse — Coffee Java is not the best, it is close to the top tier for sure. Creamy and nuanced, with a luscious, full mouthfeel and well integrated bourbon and coffee mixture on the palate. Of the eight different variants we tried at the tasting, the Java Coffee and Elijah Craig versions easily bested the others without breaking a sweat. Is it better than Goose Island's Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout? Not by a long shot, but the FiftyFifty costs much more. Eclipse Java Coffee is an extremely good beer, one that I easily recommend, regardless of the outrageous price tag.
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