In 2007, Truckee, Calif.-based FiftyFifty Brewing Co. released the first of what would eventually become a plethora of different variants under the same name: Eclipse.

The base beer is a 10 percent ABV imperial stout named Totality that is brewed between March and April in 300 gallon batches once a year. In May, the beer is then placed into a variety of different barrels for a minimum of 180 days, with each variant leading to a different final product.

In December 2014, FiftyFifty launched the Brewers’ Intent Membership Program which costs $175 per year, and includes six barrel-aged bottles per year. For each year, one of the six will be an Eclipse variant that will not be available to the general public. Also included in the membership is a custom growler, a merchandise item, 10 percent off both merchandise and on-premise beer purchases as well as the ability to purchase “additional bottles of the varieties already included with your membership, barrel aged and non barrel aged bottles both distributed or only available through the pub, early experiment styles.”

As part of the inaugural year of the program, members were allocated a special version of Eclipse known as Masterpiece Cognac. This incarnation was packaged in 750ml bottles, comes in at 12.5 percent ABV and was aged in unspecified cognac barrels for “over 365 days.”

FiftyFifty Eclipse — Cognac Masterpiece (2015) bottle

The description of the beer goes into more detail:

This is Eclipse on steroids, and it is big in every way. Masterpiece pours a rich dark brown, verging on black, with a tan head and gives a delightful aroma of cocoa, cognac, vanilla and dark fruits. On the palate you get brown sugar, dark molasses, and a slight bitterness. The sweet Cognac elements really compliment this huge imperial stout, getting more complex as it warms. Definitely a beer to sip with friends and ponder life’s big questions.

This is actually the second incarnation of Eclipse Masterpiece that has been bottled, after Masterpiece (12.8 percent ABV) was released last year. The original version was also packaged in 750ml bottles and was aged for 18 months in freshly emptied barrels that had been filled at Stitzel-Weller distillery in 1991.1

While every member of Brewer’s Intent was allocated a single bottle, members could purchase an additional bottle for $40 until stocks depleted.

Visually, the FiftyFifty Eclipse Cognac Masterpiece pours midnight black with a red tint and a half-finger of mocha brown colored head. Despite this, there is a respectable lacing left over and aroma from the glass is strong sweet vanilla, creamy oak, malt, dark fruit, cocoa and wheat.

FiftyFifty Eclipse — Cognac Masterpiece (2015)

Right off the bat, the profile is overwhelming sweet, with cognac and sweet fruit dominant, along with lesser flavors of oak, cereal, coffee beans, dark chocolate and slight nuts. Although the profile is smooth overall, the carbonation is quite low and the mouthfeel is both syrupy and thinner than I would like. The alcohol is noticeable, but well-integrated, and the finish actually features an interesting caramel and oak combination that struggles to be noticed over the cloying sweetness that only gets more aggressive as the beer warms up.

FiftyFifty Eclipse — Cognac Masterpiece (2015)
BREWERY: FiftyFifty Brewing Co.
LOCATION: Truckee, Calif.
STYLE: Imperial stout
ABV: 12.5 percent
IBU: n/a
PRICE: $40
AVAILABLE IN: 750ml bottles
Although it is an interesting addition to the already crowded lineup of Eclipse releases, the Cognac Masterpiece is easily the sweetest Eclipse variant I have tried over the years and that is saying quite a bit. In fact, the beer is so sweet that it affects the overall balance of the profile in a fairly significant way and not for the better. Perhaps as a result of this, the mouthfeel is sticky, leaving your tongue with a coating after each sip that is not altogether pleasant. Is it a beer that is worth trying if you can get it? Absolutely. Is it one of the best Eclipse variations I have had? Absolutely not. The hype is strong with this one, but for the most part, it is unjustified.
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