As a beer nerd, it is no surprise to anyone that the Pacific Northwest is one of my favorite places to visit. Oregon specifically has over 300 hundred breweries that offer more delicious beers than I could drink in a lifetime. Whether it is a crispy pilsner from Heater Allen or Occidental, a deliciously intricate sour beer from Ale Apothecary or de Garde, or some hops from Boneyard or Great Notion, world-class options are aplenty. Even a trip to the grocery store has great options that I can only find in the Pacific Northwest and every visit I try to get my hands on as many different beers as I can.
A few years ago during a random trip to Portland as I was wandering the isles of a bottle shop, I grabbed a few cans/bottles from Block 15. After cracking them open later that day I ended up going back to grab a few more and since then Block 15 has been on my radar every trip up north.
Today I have another new beer (new to me at least) from Block 15 that I am excited to try. Super Nebula is an imperial version of their standard stout Nebula, that is laid to rest in different barrels each year. Different single-origin cocoa is used as the final touch each year as well.
Tonight’s bottle is from the 2017 release which used Woodford Reserve barrels and Ben Tre Trinatario Cocoa beans from Vietnam. The beer was released on Feb. 4, 2017 priced at $11 per bottle with a five bottle per person purchase limit.
The beer clocks in at 11.25% abv and I am excited to dive into this one.
The beer pours jet black with a thin layer of chocolate milk-colored head. A steady stream of bubbles continues up the center of the glass as I start to analyze the intense aroma. Tons of oaky bourbon, rich dark chocolate, dates, vanilla, burnt caramel, and a touch of sherry. I expected the chocolate to be faded due to the age as well as the presence of oxidation but I am glad the oxidation comes in the sherry note and not wet cardboard or soy sauce. Mixed in with that plethora of aromas I am also getting a bit of alcohol coming through as well. I am wishing I had a chance to try this beer a few years ago so I would have a better reference as to what aromas are from the age vs the original beer.
The first sip is exactly what I would expect from the bouquet. Big bourbon, vanilla, and molasses. The chocolate is there in the background and it comes through in the form of bitter baker’s chocolate. I tend to complain when stouts are too sweet and that is not a problem with this one. More bitter than sweet and the finish is pretty dry for the style. I get the drying alcohol on the finish but no burn on the way down. As the beer warms the age is starting to become a little more apparent. No soy sauce notes but I am getting a bit more oxidation on the aroma and the finish. Overall I am enjoying the beer but the finish does detract from the experience. The oxidation and the drying alcohol battle the positive aspects in each sip.
Overall, the beer was enjoyable, but I can shake the feeling that it was probably much better a couple of years ago. One more example where age does not always make a beer better, just different. I will definitely be seeking out a fresher bottle on my next trip to the PNW.