Beer Review: Drake’s Brewing’s Amburana Death of the Sun (2022)

Name: Amburana Death of the Sun (2022 Vintage)
Brewing Company: Drake’s Brewing Company
Location: San Leandro, CA
Style: Stout – Double / Imperial
ABV: 12.7%

A Delicious Barrel-Aged Stout with a unique kick that sets it apart from the crowd of Barrel-Aged Stouts.

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From the Drake’s landing page for the beer:

Death of the Sun came the day the world went black. A beast of an Imperial Stout aged for over a year in the cosmic dark of St. George Single Malt Barrels. Notes of layered malt, dark fruit, and chocolate tame its heat. A beer so good you will rejoice its perpetual darkness. Bourbon barrel aged Stout made with Amburana. Notes of chocolate and vanilla

It has been about 3 months since I posted a review of a Stout on the blog and it happened to be a barrel aged stout. Considering I’ve had more stouts than any style (according to untappd), I seem overdue for a stout review. Death of the Sun is another beer courtesy of Tavour and it is more than just a barrel-aged stout. The beer is aged with Aburana wood, which drew me to the beer. The wood, as I learned upon reading about it, lends a spicy character to whatever it touches. I was intrigued.

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The first thing that impressed me was the label, very eye-catching and cosmically fantastical. That’s right in my wheelhouse in terms of imagery as longtime readers of this particular web locale will be aware. Let’s get to the actual beer inside the bottle, or rather, the beer poured from the bottle into my glass.

Pitch black liquid pours into my glass with a slight khaki-colored head. The aroma is strong of bourbon and maybe even oak. What I’m smelling reminds me of some of the better barrel-aged stouts I had, which has me hopeful.

I take the first sip and I get smooth sweet malt along with notes of bourbon. I also get some spice from the Amburana.

As I drink this beer and the level in my glass lowers, I’m really enjoying the experience. The strongest element is the barrel character, without a doubt. It isn’t subtle, and it is about a step away from being over the line and taking over the entire beer itself but doesn’t cross that line. I appreciate that kind of restraint, because I’ve had bourbon barrel aged beers from some nationally distributed breweries where all I could taste was bourbon. Knowing when and how to keep the stout/beer present without the barrel drowning out the beer elements, is the true mark of a brewer’s skill.

The finish of the beer with the Amburana wood lends an interesting layer of flavor. Hints of cinnamon elements are present, with vanilla coming through more strongly thanks to the complements of the bourbon barrel. There’s a gingerbread thing going on, too, but more of a nutmeg kick. I’m not a fan of nutmeg, those hints aren’t too overpowering. I’m left pleased with the complexity of this beer from nose to final taste and everything in between.

This is the only beer I’ve had from Drakes’ Brewing at this point, but they started small distribution into New Jersey. Largely their IPAs, but based on this beer, I’d be drawn to more beers from them.

Highly Recommended, link to 4 bottle cap untappd rating check in.

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Beer Review: Cigar City’s Marshal Zhukov’s Double Envelopment

Name: Marshal Zhukov’s Double Envelopment
Brewing Company: Cigar City Brewing
Location: Tampa, FL
Style: Stout – Double / Imperial
ABV: Tennessee Avenue Beer Hall in Atlantic City, NJ
ABV: 11.8%

An outstanding, unique barrel-aged stout that should be on every stout lovers “to find” list.

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From the Cigar City’s landing page for the beer:

This Russian Imperial Stout is dedicated to Georgy Zhukov, arguably one of the finest generals of World War II, and to the double envelopment maneuver he utilized to trap the German army at the Battle of Stalingrad in 1942. This beer was divided between rum and sherry barrels, with the final blend being skewed just a bit heavier on the rum barrels. Rum barrels have added a pronounced spiciness and texture to the beer, while sherry barrel-aging has imparted flavors of dark cherry and blackberry. The base beer’s recipe has been tweaked a bit over the last few years, with some of the roastiness taking a back seat to dark chocolate flavors and sweetness. Other than that, it’s a straightforward barrel-aged version of Zhukov’s. .

Marshal Zhukov’s is Cigar City’s flagship Stout, a Russian Imperial Stout as it so happens. Like many breweries tend to do for special releases, they take this stout and age it some oak barrels. But not the typical Bourbon barrels, the folks at Cigar City decided blend two versions, the rum barrel-aged and sherry barrel-aged to create something unique. Or at least I suppose that is the aim of such a brewing and blended stout.

What are the results?

The beer is very dark, as is expected. The aroma is very pleasant and inviting, I smell a sweet booziness with the sherry a little more prominent than the rum. I’m not a sherry drinker by any means, but I really like the aroma of this beer.

The first taste blows me away. The roasted malt elements of the stout are potent and pleasing, but the barrel character emerges very pleasantly. The rum brings the added sweetness. With rum being fermented and distilled from sugar, that makes sense. Then the sherry element comes in, which brings maybe a hint of dryness, a little bit of a sweet almost sour tang? Not unpleasant by any means, quite the opposite!

Since this is an 11.8% stout, I take my time with the beer. Being in a cool bar with a good friend and good food on the way, I was real happy to just relax and enjoy this complex beer. As it warms, the barrel characteristics become more prominent, but they don’t drown out the base elements of the stout. The barrel elements blend into one, dynamic flavor adjunct that is extremely pleasing, the sweetness from the rum barrel is complemented by some of the dried fruit elements in the sherry character.

This beer is one of the more unique barrel-aged stouts I’ve ever had. If I can have any slight on the beer, and it is minor, it is that the body was slightly thin. Not what I’d expect from such a high ABV stout.

I haven’t had too many brews from Cigar City (I’ve liked what I’ve had), and only a beer or two aged in these kinds of barrels and definitely not a blend of beers aged in these kinds of barrels. In other words, I don’t have a beer to compare this against, in exacting terms, so I’ll just say this. Marshal Zhukov’s Double Envelopment is a dynamite stout, it possesses the great elements of a high ABV stout, but the two barrels used in the construction of the final beer bring something new and unique to the liquid. This is a beer well-worth seeking out.

Bottles of the beer are available only through Cigar City’s El Catador Club, which is their Members Only barrel-aged beer club. Somehow, a keg of the beer made its way to the Tennessee Avenue Beer Hall in Atlantic City, NJ, where I enjoyed the beer before enjoying a night of All Elite Wrestling Dynamite with a good friend over at Boardwalk Hall.

Highly Recommended, link to 4.5 bottle cap untappd rating check in.

Beyond a Shadow of a Stout (Level 81)

We all love Stouts, and now we have a dedicated badge to celebrate your dedication to these dark, top-fermented beer in multiple variations, like Oatmeal, Milk and more! Which one will you start with? That’s 405 different beers with the style of Stout.

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Beer Review: Wystouti from Sunken Silo Brew Works

Name: Wystouti
Brewing Company: Sunken Silo Brew Works
Location: Lebanon, NJ
Style: Stout – American
ABV: 6.8%

A well-made American stout that doesn’t rely on adjuncts for its tasty flavor profile.

SunkenSilo_Wystouti

From the Sunken Silo’s Our Beers page:

We honor Joe senior with a riff on his name. A whiff of coffee and chocolate with a silky-smooth mouthfeel. ON NITRO

Sunken Silo Brew Works has been open for about 2 years, I visited just before the pandemic and given how close they are to me, I figured it was about time I made another visit. They are also part of the Hunterdon Beer Trail, which might be a feature post later this week. As for this beer, they only had it on a nitro tap, which I often feel drowns out the flavor of the beer, but I was in the mood for a stout. So how did Wystouti work for me?

After a slightly slow pour, the beer placed in front of me looks very inviting. The creamy looking khaki head topping off the dark stout is a picture-perfect beer.

Diving in, I get the mouthfeel of the Nitro immediately. The fluffiness is pleasant. Then the taste follows, which is what I expect from a Stout, mostly. Roasted malts. But wait, there’s more!

I’m getting some other flavors, unexpected flavors, but good nonetheless. There’s the expected evocation of coffee and hints of chocolate from the roasted malts. But there’s a berry-like sweetness on the backend of the beer. More of a hint of berries, I’d say, a nice surprise and pleasant overall.

Maybe the thing I most appreciate about this beer is how straight-forward it is. It seems there are far more stouts with some kind of adjunct (chocolate, peanut butter, marshmallow, lactose, coffee, etc), so a stout that gains its flavor from the core four ingredients? Seems like a novel concept these days, but you can count me in. Especially if the beer is as well-made and tasty as Wystouti is.

Wystouti is a terrific stout, although ’d like to try the non-Nitro version. Sunken Silo let a batch sit in bourbon barrels for 9 months to celebrate their 2nd birthday. Next time I visit the brewery, I may have to grab a bottle of it.

Recommended, link to 4 bottle cap untappd rating check in.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Smooth as Silk (Level 2)

That extra smooth mouth-feel you just experienced is all thanks to the thousands of tiny bubbles created by infused nitrogen. Yum! Check-in 10 times with the serving style of Nitro.

SunkenSilo_Wystouti

Beer Review: The Alementary’s Laniakea (2020)

Name: Laniakea
Brewing Company: The Alementary
Location: Hackensack, NJ
Style: Stout – Russian Imperial
Location Consumed: Paragon Tap & Table, Clark, NJ
ABV: 9.5%

The Alementary’s take on the Barrel Aged Russian Imperial Stout is a delicious blend of flavors

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Description of the beer:

Laniakea is our famous bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout… made just once a year, and every year is in different barrels. This year we got some amazing Woodford Reserve barrels to perfectly complement this 10% ABV monster. Notes of dark fruits, vanilla, caramel, toffee, chocolate, and roasty coffee abound—all contributed solely by the use of premium British malts and these gorgeous bourbon barrels. It’s the perfect thing for helping you face the first winter storm of the year.

Two weeks in a row with Russian Imperial Stouts, I know. I wasn’t expecting to review this beer, but it is a beer from The Alementary I’ve been wanting to try for a couple of years. This is a more traditional Russian Imperial Stout in the sense that nothing is added, but it is aged in bourbon barrels. Russian Imperial Stouts lend themselves quite nicely to barrel aging, which is why so many breweries throw this big black beers in oak barrels.

So what do we have here from The Alementary?

I’m handed a beer that is very black, maybe not as quite as black as the last RIS I reviewed last week, but still very much looks the part of a big Russian Imperial Stout. Bourbon is strong on the nose, which is quite inviting.

The first sip is extremely tasty. I get all of the stout/malty elements of the beer including the hallmark “bite” of a Russian Imperial Stout. The bourbon barrel adds a nice shot of heat at the end. The more I sip from the glass, the more the complexity of the beer emerges.

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Image courtesy of The Alementary’s Facebook

This is a delicious beer, first and foremost. Like a lot of beers aged in some kind of wood, hints of vanilla emerge. Those hints complements the inherit coffee elements that come from the malts in a Russian Imperial Stout. There might be some other hint of flavor present, maybe chocolate? I say that because I get hints of chocolate from may big stouts and I think that’s what I’m tasting here. Whatever it is, the balance of flavor elements from the roasted malt – chocolate and coffee – play extremely nicely with the barrel characteristics of bourbon and vanilla. I took my time with this beer and was rewarded.

I enjoyed this during a birthday dinner with my parents, they each had a sip and liked it quite a bit, too. Hands down, this is the best beer I’ve had from The Alementary.

How does this compare to other Bourbon Barrel Aged Russian Imperial Stouts? Quite nicely, maybe a little shy of the best of the best. That’s not to say Laniakea is a bad beer, it is very good. This is a beer I’d seek out again and recommend seeking out. I had it on draft at Paragon Tap & Table in Clark, NJ, but bottles of this should be available in relatively limited quantities in The Alementary’s NJ distribution footprint.

Highly Recommended, link to 4.25 bottle cap untappd rating check in.

Alementary_Laniakea

Beer Review: Weyerbacher Brewing’s TINY

Name: TINY
Brewing Company: Weyerbacher Brewing Company
Location: Easton, PA
Style: Stout – Imperial/Double | “Belgian-Style Imperial Stout”
ABV: 11.8%

A big, boozy stout that is unique in the style, blending Belgian and American influences very admirably.

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From the untapped page for the beer:

Tiny is a Belgian inspired Imperial Stout weighing in at 11.8% abv. You’ll find big chocolate and roasted notes, balanced with the Belgian flavors from the Abbey yeast strain. This beer is very smooth and lacks the astringency you sometimes find in these big Imperial Stouts.

It has been quite a while since I’ve had a beer from the landmark, independent Pennsylvania brewery. In the early 2000s, Weyerbacher was a consistent go-to for me, even beyond their iconic Imperial Pumpkin Ale. I’d been in the mood for a relatively straight-forward, new to me Imperial Stout, and TINY is one of the prominent, maybe almost-flagship beers from Weyerbacher.

Let’s get to the beer whose name is in cognitive dissonance with the liquid in the bottle/glass.

Expectedly, TINY pours black as night. There’s a thickness to the beer that hints at a substantial beer. The aroma is slightly different than the standard roasted malt, maybe a little sweeter? This beer being a “Belgian-inspired” stout, the yeast likely gives it that added layer of complexity.

My first taste is heavy on the roasted malt with a great deal of sweetness. Most of the beers I’ve had from Weyerbacher lean on the sweet side and this one is no different, and keeping that in mind, it is a good level of sweetness. It isn’t cloying, rather, it is pleasing. As with the aroma, the yeast brings something unique to the overall flavor profile. Can’t say what exactly that is, but there’s an element of fruitiness? Whatever it was, I liked it.

I had a second bottle a couple of nights later and the fruitiness I mentioned in the previous paragraph comes through slightly more on the initial taste of the beer. Again, I couldn’t quite pinpoint it, but I suspect the yeast evokes some hints of maybe banana? Maybe hints of raisin? I don’t know exactly what to call it other than something I like.

As I said, the name of the beer is definitely a misnomer, because the booziness of the 11.8% ABV is definitely evident. It isn’t off-putting, but rather it is a presence that lets you know the beer should be sipped, appreciated, and enjoyed in its full-flavored glory.

Early in the timeline of the Tap Takeover, I reviewed Allagash’s Black which is similar to this beer in some ways. Both beers are have their roots in Belgian-style beers whose flavors come primarily from the yeast utilized in the brewing process. However, with Weyerbacher’s TINY there’s more of an American influence with the malt, and overall stout profile. Comparison to Allagash Black aside, TINY is a relatively unique, imperial stout.

It has been a while since I’ve said this of a big beer, but TINY most definitely benefits from warming a bit to room temperature. The complex flavors expand and come alive even more.

As it so happens, TINY topped me out for the Heavyweight Badge on untappd, essentially the dark beer badge. What does that mean? Well, as the description below badge indicates, I’ve had 500 beers categorized as either porter or stout.

Highly Recommended, link to 4 bottle cap untappd rating check in.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Heavyweight (Level 100)

Porters and Stouts are rich with both history and flavor. Roasty, dark, and delicious, these two styles helped start it all. That’s 500 different beers with the style of Porter or Stout. You have reached the top!!.

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Beer Review: Untied Brewing’s Raspberry Decadent Darkness

Name: Decadent Darkness (2021 Raspberry)
Brewing Company: Untied Brewing Company
Location: New Providence, NJ
Style: Stout – Pastry
ABV: 12.2%

An outstanding pastry/dessert stout that elegantly balances adjuncts with the beer elements.

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From the untapped page for the beer:

Imperial Pastry Stout conditioned with raspberries, vanilla, and cacao nibs.

I’ve been visiting Untied Brewing every couple of months, and most recently, I decided to pick up one of their pastry stouts. A few months prior, I met my dad there for Father’s Day and he got a small pour of this beer. I tasted and I enjoyed it so I wanted to have a full sampling/bottle for myself. I was impressed with their Russian Imperial Stout both times I had it, so between the sip I had previously and my experience with, hell, most of their beers, I thought I’d enjoy this one in its full glory. Those speculations were well-founded.

The beer pours thick black, or so it would seem. When I gave the beer a closer examination under the light, there was a deep red tint to the dark liquid, obviously from the raspberries.

Those raspberries take center stage in this beer, they are strong in the aroma and a first sip gives me more of that raspberry flavor. With the 12.2% ABV, sipping this beer is the way to go, so you can allow the flavors to wake up as the beer warms up. Anyway, why would you want to chug a beer with that big of an ABV.

I get chocolate hints as I enjoy more of the beer, almost like chocolate covered raspberries. Owner Matt and company really got the name correct with this beer, it is enormously decadent. What impresses me the most about this beer is that the beer elements, particularly the roasted malt that gives stouts their flavor, are not overtaken (too much) by the potent raspberry and chocolate elements.

The only flavor that doesn’t come through, to me, is the vanilla. I suppose the vanilla is more of a balancing element for the strong raspberry and chocolate flavors making this beee an ideal dessert stout.

Untied has brewed/bottled other variants of this “Decadent Darkness” line of pastry stouts – Chocolate & Peanut Butter, Chocolate, Coconut, Vanilla), Mocha, and Raspberry & Coconut, which all seem as if they are as decadent as their name would imply. Bottom line, I’ve been enjoying every beer I had from Untied Brewing and this one is no exception.

Highly Recommended, link to 4.25 bottle cap untappd rating check in.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

 

Dessert Time! (Level 2)

Marshmallow, chocolate, apple pie! Cakes and cookies catch my eye. Churn that butter, twist and shout. Put it in a pastry stout! That’s 10 different beers with the style of Stout – Pastry, Stout – Imperial / Double Pastry. Check-in to 5 more to get to Level 3.

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Beer Review: Conclave Brewing’s Sable

Name: Sable
Brewing Company: Conclave Brewing Company
Location: Flemington, NJ
Style: Stout – Imperial / Double
ABV: 11.3%

“A big flavorful stout from one of the brewing gems of the Great Garden State.”

From the description of the beer on untappd:

Ever since we moved to the new brewery we wanted to brew a big stout – Sable is it! Formulated with a Maris Otter base, a lot of flaked oats and a bevy of roasted malts, we came pretty close to maxing out the system. On top of that we conditioned it on the most amazing vanilla beans from Vanuatu. It’s a rich intense brew with big complex flavors and a warming finish.

Just before the Pandemic took hold of the world in early 2020, Conclave Brewing moved one building over to a larger facility that allowed for ramped up production. They doubled their tap list and started more crowler and can releases. Many of those have been IPAs, but I was hoping they’d release a new stout and or dark beer. Sable is that beer, as they state in the description, this beer needed the larger capacity to brew and as such, Sable my first new beer review of 2021. Conclave has proven that their measured approach to brewing pays off in this big stout.

Conclave’s IPAs are popular and beloved and while I’ve enjoyed just about every IPA I’ve had from them, as readers of this blog are aware, I have always been more of a dark beer drinker. Conclave’s stouts and porters are outstanding; Mexican Morning, Mexican Evening, and Espresso Morning Stout are just superb and their Vanilla Porter, Grey Havens from a couple of years ago was delightful. In other words, I was very excited to get a growler fill of this beer

I opened the growler the day after I bought the beer but it still held up with some carbonation for a thin head. Overall, the blackness of the beer screams Imperial Stout. Aroma? Check…I get some of that vanilla overlaying the roasted malt.

My first thought about this beer is how it resonates with one of my favorite stouts, Sierra Nevada’s Narwhal Imperial Stout. The big roasted malt element and the potent hops are similar in a lot of good ways. Then that vanilla slides into the flavor profile, and brings a welcome element to balance out the big dose of hops. I imagine if Sierra Nevada made a Vanilla variant of Narwhal (maybe they have), it might taste similar to Sable from Conclave.

Most of the beer I’ve been seeing and enjoying with Vanilla highlights the island of Madagascar as origin of the Vanilla . I’d never heard of Vanuatu before this beer, but it is an island in the South Pacific. That factoid doesn’t really have too much play on the taste of the beer, just more of an anecdote. Anyway, what I appreciate most about the Vanilla component is that it comes through just a shade more potent than subtle. What does that mean? The Vanilla doesn’t scream at you the way I’ve experienced in some beers, but rather a natural element of the beer.

I managed to enjoy the full 32oz half-growler over the course of the evening and would welcome more of this beer in the future.

Sable is a bold, potent announcement of a beer from Conclave that proclaims, “Yeah, we do great IPAs, but don’t forget our Stouts are as equally delicious!”

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

Beer Review: Flying Fish Brewing’s Fried Ice Cream Stout

Name: Fried Ice Cream Stout
Brewing Company: Flying Fish Brewing Company
Location: Somerdale, NJ
Style: Stout – Imperial / Double
ABV: 10.3%

“A delicious, decadent dessert stout from one of NJ’s classic craft breweries.”

From the description Flying Fish’s page for the beer:

Imperial stout and fried ice cream flavors together….Why not indulge in two great things at once? This rich and complex stout provides ample aromas of roasted malt and vanilla, then gets paired with real vanilla ice cream, flavors of cinnamon, and dark chocolate to produce a truly unique treat.

It has been about two and a half years since I reviewed a beer from the venerable Flying Fish Brewing Company, one NJ’s first craft breweries and the largest in the State.  Flying Fish is continuing to brew interesting beers in a wide range of styles and they’ve been updating their look over the last couple of years to be more modern. To that point, today’s beer, Fried Ice Cream Stout, was originally brewed and canned by Flying Fish about two years ago for the first time as a limited release but  the popularity of the decadent dessert stout pushed it into an annual winter release.

Fried Ice Cream…a dessert I remember enjoying at the old Mexican chain restaurant, Chi Chi’s and dessert that is apparently popular in Philadelphia (Flying Fish is just over the bridge from the greater Philadelphia metropolitan area). A fascinating desert which is a ball of ice cream quick fried in a crusty topping that may include crushed cereal, cinnamon, sugar, cinnamon sugar, maybe some chocolate syrup and if you were a good kid and ate all your dinner, a cherry on top. The brewers at Flying Fish sought to emulate that decadent dessert in beer form. Spoiler alert: they succeeded. Read on for my thoughts on how I think they succeeded.

So what do we have in the glass? A very dark, black beer that pours with a substantial, spongy-looking head. I could be convinced that there’s a dark red/crimson tint around the glass where the fluffy head meets the glass. Maybe that’s from the cinnamon? Regardless, everything about this beer form a visual perspective is that of an appealing Imperial Stout.

The beer passes the first sip test, a blend of intriguing flavors that makes me want to have more. As I enjoy the beer over the course of about an hour or so, the flavors noted on the description emerge more prominently. There’s a creaminess to the beer that likely comes from the ice cream, obviously. Some vanilla, which is really nice and welcoming. A bit of cinnamon comes through, although I wouldn’t mind if the cinnamon was more prominent. On the finish, there’s that bittersweet chocolate along with the roasted malts, emulating the hot fudge topping.

As I pointed out, with this beer clocking in at 10.3% ABV, I took my time and was rewarded. The flavors were present when the beer was just out of the can, but they became more assertive as the beer warmed slightly with perhaps the chocolate standing out the most. The creamy feel of the beer is present the whole time, truly giving this beer the overall feel of “ice cream as beer” or “ice cream in beer form.” It just works for me.

I couldn’t tell you when I last enjoyed some Fried Ice Cream, it was probably 20-30 years ago so I can’t exactly compare what the beer is doing compared to my memories of that decadent dessert. What I can say is this: Flying Fish’s Fried Ice Cream Stout is a lovely stout that is a masterful blend of multiple flavors that complement each other rather than muddle each other.

Fried Ice Cream Stout is a delicious Imperial Stout that makes for a perfect dessert. It is also a beer that proves Flying Fish is still very much a brewery worth enjoying and brewing beer worth finding.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Beer Review: Icarus Brewing’s Kalishnikoffee: PSL

Name: Kalishnikoffee: PSL
Brewing Company: Icarus Brewing
Location: Lakewood, NJ
Style: Stout – Russian Imperial
ABV: 14.5%

A big, tasty, flavorful stout from one of NJ’s top breweries that imparts flavors of the most ubiquitous of fall beverages.

From the untappd entry for beer:

Russian Imperial Stout brewed with Wildflower Honey, Brown Sugar, Cinamon and Nutmeg. Conditioned on a blend of Fresh Coffee and Vanilla Beans.

This is not the pumpkin beer you’re looking for…. Icarus Brewing (who I’ve made no bones about being one of my favorite, maybe my top favorite, NJ brewery) is able to produce a delicious variety of beers from few base recipes for a couple of series. One of those “multitasker” (to borrow an Alton Brown phrase) recipes or series is Kalishnikov, their Russian Imperial Stout, which has seen quite a few variants, some of which I’ve had, including a delicious barrel aged version.

This version looks to emulate that ever present fall drink, the pumpkin spice latte (i.e. the “PSL” of the beer name). While there are no pumpkins in this beer, the spices associated with Pumpkin Pie – cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, along with the beer having been conditioned on Coffee and Vanilla Beans – help this the beer evoke autumn, at least in name. The standard Kalishknov is brewed with honey…so yeah, a decent amount of additional flavor components in the beer.

Pouring the beer into the glass, it mostly looks the part of a big burly, Russian Imperial Stout. It isn’t pitch black, exactly, but rather a black that was mixed with a very deep brown. The aroma gives off hints of the malt and spices, so nothing out of the unexpected.

The first sip is of autumn. As I said, I’ve had and enjoyed a few different variants of this beer, in addition to a couple barrel-aged versions of Icarus’s Russian Imperial Stouts and this beer seems to match up to those expectations nicely. As I have more of the beer and it warms up, those autumnally associated spices begin to awaken, with the nutmeg asserting itself a tad more strongly than the cinnamon.

In past versions of this beer, the wildflower honey balances out the bitterness inherently associated with Russian Imperial Stout, from a style perspective. The autumnal spices mask the honey and accentuate the bitterness of the coffee adjunct, and combined with the vanilla, give the beer a very earthy overall flavors for me.

Although there is no Pumpkin in this beer, the additional spices normally associated with the gourd are and that’s where the additional flavor elements of this beer shine. Hell, pumpkin itself isn’t a all that flavorful, but it holds the spices quite nicely, as does this beer. The ever-present honey in the “Kalishnikoff” line of stouts from Icarus helps to enhance the overall potency of the spices.

Playing with a proven fan favorite beer in their Kalishnikoff Russian Imperial Stout and mixing it up with the autumnal spices of the ubiquitous coffee beverage, Icarus has yet another winning beer in their portfolio.

Highly recommended, link to 4 bottle-cap Untappd check-in

Beer Review: Cosm of Darkness (Timber Ales/Eight State Brewing Collaboration)

Name: Cosm of Darkness
Brewing Company: Timber Ales in collaboration with The Eight State Brewing Company
Location: New York, NY / Greenville, SC
Style: Stout – Imperial / Double
ABV: 12%

“An outstanding Imperial Stout crafted with multiple adjuncts that is a bounty of flavor.”

From the untappd description of the beer:

Cosm of Darkness is an Imperial Stout brewed in collaboration with our friends from The Eighth State Brewing Company. This beer has been aged on Ugandan vanilla beans and cassia bark before being canned for your enjoyment.

Few beers are as welcome on a cool evening as a big, bold stout. Timber Ales is a relatively new brewing company, a contract brewer at that, but they have burst out of the gates with big stouts/barrel-aged stouts and barleywines/barrel-aged barleywines, as well as the requisite IPAs. One of my local shops had a single of this beer for sale and based on hearing Jason Stein on Al Gattullo’s Craft Beer Podcast, I had to give a beer from Timber Ales a try.

Pouring the beer into the glass, all I see is darkness and I like it. As the head forms, there’s a hint brownish red, which is a slightly different tone than a typical stout. Aroma from the beer hints at the vanilla the can indicates is in the beer. This looks to be, and has the aroma of, everything I want in a big Imperial Stout.

There’s something else to the beer at the outset lending additional layers to the look and aroma. I assume it is the cassia bark. Before having this beer, I never heard of cassia bark. A quick google search educated me – it is essentially a form of cinnamon. In theory, cinnamon and vanilla pair very nicely together. In practice, in the form of this beer…oh hell yeah.

First sip is of roasted malts with hints of vanilla with the cassia bark shining through. Those three elements are the basis of the flavor of the beer and they all play together perfectly, with the cassia bark perhaps being the star of the trio. It is definitely cinnamon, but unlike cinnamon I’ve had in the past. Especially cinnamon in beer.

Like all big beers (and this is a gigantic beer at 12%), the flavors emerge to a greater, and more delicious degree, as the beer settles from the cold of the fridge to room temperature. Again, as the beer warms, the cassia bark is what is most prominent to me as a lovely compliment to the roasted malts and vanilla.

Jason, I believe, began as a homebrewer and has since partnered with Twelve Percent Beer Project in Connecticut where all of Timber Ales are brewed. Seems like a great partnership, at least based on this beer.

Cosm of Darkness is an outstanding Imperial Stout that is a great beer to enjoy over the course of an hour or so. Based on this beer, I’ll be seeking out more beer from Timber Ales.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.5-bottle cap rating.

Beyond a Shadow of a Stout (Level 65)

We all love Stouts, and now we have a dedicated badge to celebrate your dedication to these dark, top-fermented beer in multiple variations, like Oatmeal, Milk and more! Which one will you start with? That’s 325 different beers with the style of Stout. Try 5 more for Level 66!