There are two things that I am known for amongst my inner circle of friends. First, is my absolute obsession with craft beer. Second is that I am a cheap son of a bitch. Now don’t get me wrong, I pay for more than my share at group meals and am more than generous with what I have but I am obsessed with finding deals.
Those two worlds don’t generally overlap often since, as we all know, craft beer can be a bit pricey. But every once in a while when I stumble upon a craft beer bargain not many things will make me happier. Like the time I found a full case of La Fin Du Monde bottles—the big 750ml bottles—for $5 a pop in the bargain bin at my local grocery store or when the liquor store owner sold me a whole basket of three-year-old Stone IRS for 75 percent off because they were “old.”
My search for craft beer bargains has led me down many a regrettable path in the form of sub par beers but a few weeks back I came across a six-pack that seemed too good to be true. Six 12-ounce bottles of a barrel-aged imperial stout with coffee for $14. To top it off the beer is even aged in rye whiskey barrels from High West distillery in Colorado.1 That was all the convincing I needed as grabbed a six pack and headed home to give it a whirl.
The moment of truth came less than an hour later as I cracked open my the first bottle. I open the bottle and filled my favorite glass with the 12.2 percent brew. The rich khaki head sits atop a deep brown almost black stout that shows faint hints of maroon at the edges of the glass when held to the light. I start to smell the pungent aroma before I even raise my glass from the table. The first thing I noticed is that there is not one overpowering characteristic with the bouquet. So many of the expected notes are there in the form of roasted malt, milk chocolate and a big rye whiskey presence. I also get a great coffee aroma that is present but does not come off as a giant coffee bomb but more of a complimentary coffee character that melds artfully with the rest of the beer. As I raise the glass to my nose repeatedly I also get hints of vanilla, molasses and raisins that really help round out the beer.
Based on the bouquet and the appearance this beer is a home run so far but as I take my first sip I start to realize that this beer is much better than I had originally anticipated. Dark chocolate, vanilla, rye and a slight malty sweetness are all there, but once again they are all playing a part and no one is stealing the show. Many of these flavors linger into the finish but the vanilla and roasted malts seem to linger longest of them all. My one minor criticism of the beer is that the finish has a bit of a bitter or astringent character which may come from the roasted malts or possibly early addition hops.2