When I go down the list of beer styles, I tend to have a few beers in each category that are regulars in my fridge. These beers are proven performers that I know will hit the spot when I am craving that particular style. As much as I enjoy trying new beers I always tend to return to those staples more times than not.
Occasionally, a brewery that produces one of those aforementioned staples, releases a variant of their standard versions and I am always excited to get my hands on it. Often, the new variant is an inferior product compared to the original and some even go as far as being a complete swing and a miss. They aren’t all bad and some even outshine the base beer which is why I am always excited to try them when released.
When it comes to barrel aged imperial stouts one of those go-to beers for me is the Big Bad Baptist from Epic Brewing Co. out of Salt Lake City Utah. It is a big and rich 12 percent ABV stout with coffee and cocoa nibs aged in whiskey barrels and I can usually find it year-round at my local bottle shop. Epic has released a few variants of the beer including Big Bad Baptista where it added cinnamon, vanilla and Mexican coffee as well as Double Barrel Baptista which included barrel-aged single-origin coffee and artisanal micro-batch cacao nibs. A third variant released by Epic is one I am very excited about because it has one of my absolute favorite adjunct ingredients to put in a beer, coconut. Triple Barrel Big Bad Baptist uses coconut and Blue Copper’s Colombian coffee beans that were individually aged in fresh whiskey barrels and blends them into the base beer that was aged in a combination of rum and whiskey barrels. Anytime a beer label sports the words; Imperial stout, barrel aged, coconut and coffee I am sold, but when it is released from a brewery that I know and trust I tend to stock up.
I crack the bottle and it pours very dark and borders somewhere between the darkest brown you can imagine and black with a thin chocolate milk colored head. The moment I tilt the bottle I can already smell the beer jumping out of the bottle. I was worried that the coconut and coffee would fade since this beer was bottled almost a year ago (Oct. 25, 2017) but I can smell the coconut before I even finish pouring the glass. As I raise the glass I get big notes of coffee, chocolate fudge and coconut that all smell fantastic. Hints of toffee, molasses, rum vanilla and pie crust help round out what smells like a delicious treat. With some coconut beers the coconut character comes off like a roasted coconut but this smells like the sweet inside of a mounds bar. I continue to analyze the aroma I start to get a bit of a musty wet cardboard character that I do not recall getting from this beer when it was fresh. It is not enough to detract much from the experience but it was worth noting that the oxidation seems to be starting with this beer.
My first sip follows the nose and immediately hits you with all kinds of goodness. If Guy Fierri were to taste this I picture him spouting a ridiculous line about this beer being a one-way trip to flavor town. The three main components of coffee, chocolate and coconut are all present and share the stage quite well. Not one stands out much more than the other two. There is a definite sweetness to the beer but I would not go as far as to call this a pastry stout. There is just enough roasted malt character along with a slight bitterness in the finish to help fight off the cloyingly sweet finish I get in many of today’s big diabetes inducing stouts. The finish sticks around forever and minutes after a sip I can still taste coffee, chocolate and coconut. The intense and yet balanced flavors mixed with a silky mouthfeel make for a great beer.