When it comes to my much too frequent trips to the bottle shop, I usually have several boxes I feel I need to check before I head to the register. First, I need something hoppy, usually a four or six pack of whatever local beer is the freshest. Second, I need something sour. This can come in many forms but most of them tend to me the priciest bottles in the cart. Next, I try and find something interesting or a style I haven’t had in a while. Finally, I look for something dark. I rarely leave without a bottle or two of a big (usually barrel aged) stout or porter. The rich decadent flavor profiles are perfect for slowly sipping after work and tend to be some of my favorite beers.

Tonight, I have one of those big, dark boozy stouts in the form of Westbrook Brewing Co.’s Siberian Black Magic Panther. I have reviewed a number of Westbrook’s beers in the past and generally they all turn out pretty well so I am excited for this one.

The beer opens with a faint pop and pours jet black. I am sure I have used the term jet black before but this beer is truly jet black. Light doesn’t penetrate it whatsoever and even when held to the light the beer earns the name of Black Magic Panther. As I finish the pour a nice chocolate milk head forms and fades to a halo after a few minutes.

I raise the glass to take my first whiff and this beer even smells black. It starts with a big roasted malt character along with an interesting chocolate aroma. I spend a minute or two trying to decide if the chocolate note was more of a bitter dark chocolate and a sweet milk chocolate and I finally realized both were there. Hints of smoke, vanilla, coffee and anise round out the aroma.

My first sip brings a heavy roasted malt flavor which is even more dominant in the taste than the nose. It is the first thing that hits the palate followed by dry baker’s chocolate and a touch of coffee. These three bitter characteristics would completely overpower the beer if it wasn’t for a welcome touch of sweetness that arrives halfway through the sip. The sweet and bitter qualities meld well until the finish when the sweetness fades and the bitterness takes control once again. Throughout the sip I also get notes of burnt honey and smoke which add a bit of complexity, but overall the bitter charred malts and unsweetened chocolate really dominate the beer. Siberian Black Magic Panther finishes very dry for a stout and the bitterness hangs around on your palate for quite a while.

Westbrook Siberian Black Magic Panther
BREWERY: Westbrook Brewing Co.
LOCATION: Mount Pleasant, S.C.
STYLE: Imperial Stout
ABV: 12 percent
IBU: n/a
PRICE: n/a
RELEASE DATE: Feb. 20, 2017
AVAILABLE IN: 22-ounce Bottles
BEERS POURED: One
Overall, the aroma is enjoyable but not memorable and the beer itself is a bit heavy on the astringent roasted malts for my taste. While I enjoyed drinking the beer at first, I did find the bottle fairly taxing once I passed the halfway mark. I would imagine the version that spent two years in a barrel would be much better as it would add some welcome whisky, vanilla and oak to help balance out the beer. As is, it has moments of greatness but in the end the bitterness throughout the sip—especially on the finish—push me to rate this beer as good, but nothing I would rush out to get more of. For my next trip to the store, I may skip the stout aisle and instead try to track down the barrel-aged version of Black Magic Panther.
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