The Batch series from Bell’s Brewery Inc. finds its origin in beers produced by the brewery to commemorate production milestones beginning over 20 years ago. The first to carry the series designation was Batch 3000, with subsequent releases coming every 1000 batches until the line was retired in late 2010 with Batch 10,000.
Batch 9000, the second-to-last beer in the progression, debuted in February 2010, after which a barrel-aged version was released in 2012. The base beer was derived from Batch 7000, which garnered the highest ratings of the series on popular online review sites. In describing the new beer, founder Larry Bell declared 7000 to be “kind of weak” and promised the brewery would be “trumping up that recipe to make something bold.” The question of the day, of course, is whether or not Bell’s succeeded in accomplishing that goal.
Now, nearly five years after it was brewed, Batch 9000 has a calm demeanor as it transfers from bottle to glass, with only a thin layer of tightly packed foam forming on the liquid surface. The head dissipates quickly, which isn’t surprising considering the higher alcohol content of the beer, and so completely that when combined with the beer’s inherent stillness it seems like you’ve poured your own personal reflecting pool.
As for what lies beneath, the label tells us that molasses and brewer’s licorice are the beer’s featured ingredients, but it’s the first of these that is more prevalent on the senses. Raisiny dark fruits are there as well, but the licorice note isn’t nearly bold enough to ride shotgun to the molasses, which is clearly the marquee flavor in the aroma.
Things change somewhat in that regard when it comes to the taste, but the licorice is still relegated to jump seat status prior to standing up for itself a bit towards the finish. Even then, it’s not all that substantial, as the dark fruit, layers of caramel and a morsel of chocolate do more work to fill out the flavor beginning to end. For me, at least, that’s all well and good, as I would rather the licorice not dominate things the way it has in other dark strong ales I’ve had in recent history.
Batch 9000 drinks much like a vintage port, a positive consequence of the inevitable oxidation of an aged beer with dark malts at its core. In that respect it’s dense and full-bodied, with a slightly chewy palate and a hefty dose of warming alcohol. There are some negative effects of aging as well, with an autolytic1 soy character creeping in, but this is so slight that it’s of little consequence at this point in the beer’s development.