Black Hops FIENS

Total Score: 9/10 Clove1Vanilla1DarkFruits1Tulipglass1

Been looking forward to this Black Hops FIENS, or French Imperial Egg-Nog Stout, since it came out while I was on vay-k. Black Hops, inspired by brewers in the 1800’s, brewed a single Eggnog Stout version of this as their very first beer back in 2015. The Imperial version of said beer has never been released until now. FIENS is brewed with brandy, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and French Saison yeast – this is going to be an 11% ABV Imperial Stout to be reckoned with methinks. For a brewer that was kick-started only 3 years ago and can now be found in bottle-shops all over Brisbane and possibly elsewhere in Australia, it’s been a bit of a fairy-tale ascension in the vein of Pirate Life, time will tell if they sell up (out?) too.

Poured from a 375ml can into a Duvel tulip.

A: Presents a deep murky black-hole of a brew, with a dense-packed khaki foam that compacts and leaves lace-work inside the glass. I know I’m a sucker for Stouts but the head retention of this 11% ABV Imp Stout is fantastic. 9/10.

S: Woah! [that’s a Keanu Reeves “woah” BTW] BIG (Bearing Immense Gusto) brandy/vanilla/cinnamon/nutmeg aroma really drives home the eggnog aspect of this Imperial Stout. The sweetness in the aroma leads one to think this will be more on the dessert side, but aromas can be misleading. Overall a nice sweet, floral and spicy fragrance – perfume-like even. 9/10.

T: Sooo good! All of the above flavours: brandy, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and floral notes mingle with a dark fruit sweetness and a long dry spicy finish from the Saison yeast. It’s a bit in-your-face, scratch that: it’s tap-dancing-all-over-your-face with flavour, and a slight boozy brandy burn towards the back of the throat. But it is oh-so-good… it’s hard to not like what Black Hops have done here with this flavour profile. The booze does come through a bit in the aftertaste though. 9/10.

M: Heavy-bodied with a velvety carbonation, up there with Founders in the mouthfeel department, though body like this is to be expected at 11%. 9/10.

D: Intense and spicy with a floral/boozy touch of brandy – the genius here is in mixing eggnog flavours with Stout – it seems so obvious when you’ve tried it: it just works. This is a classic high ABV sipper beer right here. Let’s talk about innovation in Australia: we invented the black box, handheld electric drills, Wi-Fi, penicillin, Ultrasound, and now Eggnog Stout – I’m flush with pride right now: Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! Something-something-something! [Oi!] 9/10.

Food match: Food is a good idea… Coq au vin with crusty bread this for sure.

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Founders KBS (Kentucky Breakfast Stout)

Total Score: 9.6/10 Coffee1Chocolate1Wood1Tulipglass1

I’ve been waiting a long, long time for this one: Founders KBS. I’m a touch apprehensive reviewing KBS, what with my FBS review still the most liked on BeerAdvocate, it’s like a beer reviewers version of a sophomore album, how do you follow that? By doing the best damn review ever! [no pressure] So here we have it, Founders mightiest of whales (only CBS comes close to the legend status of this brew). Must be reasonably fresh as well – it’s got a BB of 13.02.19 (I’m guessing Founders have a 2 year BB, so that would make the bottling date: 13 Feb 17). That been said age isn’t too much of a concern, apart from reports of coffee-flavour dropping off, this should be really tasty firecracker of a Stout.

Poured from a 355ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Blacker than Darth Vader’s knickers, which are a combination of obsidian and jet black, with a thin tan lace ring and minor head retention – it looks exactly like FBS, so formidable that it warrants a 10/10 too.

S: Unlike FBS this has quite the complex aroma: bourbon sweetness, of course, oak/woody/vanilla tones, dark chocolate, roasted coffee, (no doubt) unwarranted hints of spirit giving off an almost Japanese sweet potato shochu character (yeah, I thought that was weird too). Unsurprisingly KBS is making my olfactory senses it’s bitch, thanks KBS, yes I will do anything you tell me to do. 9/10.

T: “POW! Right in the kisser!” says KBS. This is a mighty, yet smooth as an R&B singer, American Imperial Stout, right up there with the best of the best, all hail KBS! [we’re not worthy, we’re not worthy!] Flavour profile is: roasted coffee, dark chocolate, bourbon, oak/woody/vanilla, molasses, with a light coffee bitterness in the finish, and a kiss of bourbon burn at the back of the throat. This is simply awesome. Balance is sublime, even though the aroma hinted at ethanol, the flavour profile hides the 12.3% ABV exceedingly well. A real sipper of a brew here. 10/10.

M: Heavy-bodied, viscous to the max, as is the Founders way, with a smooth/creamy/luscious mouth-feel. “Oooo this beer is sexy!” [said in a James Brown voice]. Can’t beat Founders body. 10/10.

D: Near perfect Imperial Stout this is. One thing to be noticed though towards the end of the glass – my tongue actually went numb, which could have been a combination of the heavy ABV and it just plain shutting down due to flavour overload. Founders delivers gold with my new favourite Stout. 9/10.

Food match: The only food to match with KBS: KBS [in food form].

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Deschutes The Abyss (2017 Reserve)

Total Score: 9.45/10 DarkFruits1Coffee1Wood1Tulipglass1

Happy birthday to me! Not only is it my birthday, but I’ve also got a beer I’ve been waiting to get my hands on since I joined BeerAdvocate and began my craft journey all the way back on Jan 13th 2011: Deschutes The Abyss. Even saying the name of this beer out loud fills me with a sense of awe (and trepidation at the 11.4% ABV within) this brew is going to be BIG in so many ways, with headline ingredients such as: black strap molasses, licorice, cherry bark, vanilla bean, and 50% aged in bourbon, wine, and new Oregon oak barrels – PHWOAR! Let me repeat myself for emphasis: PHWOAR! The only [first-world] problem I’m facing is the prospect of finishing off a 650ml bottle by myself… yes, it’s not a terrible situation to be in.

Poured from a 650ml US Bomber sized wax-sealed bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Inky black like the expansive vacuum of space, with a deep tan head that hangs around for as long as I’ve seen in any Stout north of 11% before fizzling out leaving a patchwork of bubble and lace. Peering down into the glass is like looking at a mini universe – epic in many ways this beer. 9/10.

S: Red wine really comes through in the first whiff, then licorice, molasses, dark fruits (plum and prune), oaky vanilla/woody tones, espresso coffee, and finally a sweet lick of bourbon. Incredibly complex aroma that shifts as it gets warmer – it’s hard not to like it, there’s something in this that every Stout drinker will like, and the name is fitting – it really is like peering into the abyss. 9/10.

T: Yep, Deschutes nailed it. Flavour incorporates all of the above: red wine (Shiraz I think), licorice, molasses, dark fruits, oaky vanilla/woody tones, espresso coffee, and a touch of bourbon. Then it throws in a bit more: burnt sugar, light bitter herbal notes, red coffee cherries, touch of smoke and a hint of cinnamon. Possibly one of the busiest Imp Stouts I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting. Balances a tad on the sweeter side, though more herbal bitterness comes through in the aftertaste with a delayed reaction. Brutal and inspiring this brew is. 10/10.

M: Heavy bodied and viscous, it’s about a Barry White on the Founders Scale IMO. Carbonation is dying star dense and lush almost to a fault. 9/10.

D: As I imagined all these years? Yes, this beer terrifies in name and in taste – it’s every bit the behemoth I dreamt it would be, and Deschutes does not disappoint. As far as the bottle goes – I am going to struggle on my own, this is too big a brew for one man, but I’ll go down fighting the good fight ;). 9/10.

Food match: Replace the after dinner port with this beer, and cigars: yes.

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Prairie Bomb!

Total Score: 8.6/10 Coffee1Chili1Chocolate1Tulipglass1

Ironically this is a beer, I am told, that lives up to its name: (the) Bomb! This 13% ABV American Imperial Stout has an assortment of ingredients that conjure up images of a deep, shadowy and impressive brew that the Gods themselves might sup on within the mighty halls of Valhalla: Spaceship Earth roasted coffee, cacao nibs, vanilla beans, and ancho chilli peppers – yep, that’s a recipe for “awesome-sauce” in any legitimate definition of said word (which I borrowed from ‘Parks and Recreation’). Indeed I’ve never had the urge to waffle less in one of these preambles than I do right now: the desire to crack this dark temptress open and imbibe the black ooze within is a powerful aphrodisiac that I am too weak to resist *crown cap pops* [still managed to waffle though – the waffle is strong with me].

Poured from a 355ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Deep opaque inky black nightmare of a body with a chocolate brown dense head that sticks around impressively well and belies that 13% ABV that is waiting to consume me soon enough. 9/10.

S: Earthy AF, roasty AF as well… verdant roasted cold-drip coffee mingles freely with vanilla and coffee cherry hints, a lingering sweet roasted malt base, then a bit of smoke and dark chocolate. Not getting much in the way of the ancho chilli peppers, but as we [I! The Royal “we”! You know, the editorial…] know that chilli in beer tends to come across more in the flavour profile (and generally in the back of the throat). 9/10.

T: Flavour profile hits with that pervading earthy AF/roasty AF character noted above and follows through to a broad mid-palate coffee/dark chocolate sweetness and a good sweet/bitter balance IMO (maybe a tad towards the dessert side if you’re not a fan of dessert beers though). Hints of vanilla and smoke come in towards the finish, and yes there’s a chilli bite at the back, though I reckon Bomb! could get away with more chilli. Balance is pretty sublime – a real Imp Stout sipper right here. Bit of booze in the aftertaste that detracts a little though. 9/10.

M: Heavy bodied and a bit too sticky and cloying here – less of that please. 7/10.

D: Apart from a mouthfeel that requires a good old tongue scrapping, this is a solid Imp Stout that puts Prairie on the map for me. It’s like a halfway between Founders Breakfast Stout and Omnipollo Selassie, with the chilli adding a nice touch of heat to the proceedings. Price is a sore point at $23 AUD a bottle, yep. 8/10.

Food match: Something dark and spicy: Mole Poblano with rice and black bean.

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Evil Twin Imperial Mexican Biscotti Cake Break

Total Score: 8.25/10 Chocolate1Vanilla1Chili1Tulipglass1

Well this one certainly takes the cake [break]! Evil Twin Imperial Mexican Biscotti Cake Break. Which is a collaboration with Westbrook, and a bloody big one at that! This 10.5% ABV behemoth is brewed with coffee, cinnamon, almonds, cocoa nibs, vanilla beans and habanero peppers, which reminds me of #11 on my all-time beer list: Stone Xocoveza… that is a damn good thing to be reminded of. Lately my reviews of Evil Twin have been interesting to say the least – I bounced off Imperial Biscotti Break somewhat (it was way too thin body-wise), however Even More Coco Jesus was so good it’s made it into my top 50 (currently at #43)… not sure what to expect with Imperial Mexican Biscotti Cake Break, I’m assuming by the name that it’s brewed with the Biscotti Break recipe, here’s hoping it’s got body.

Poured from a 650ml US bomber-sized bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Poured hard and as viscous as Texas tea (that’s oil son) into the glass, foaming up with a nice dense mocha head and a body black as the ace of spades “there goes the neighbourhood” to quote Monty Python. The head settles to nothing, leaving an inky black brew… ominous stuff. 8/10.

S: Dark/bitter 80% chocolate, vanilla, smoky char, a hint of tobacco and roasted espresso. Not much in the way of cinnamon or almond, and the habanero only comes through in smoky notes. TBH I thought this would be an aroma assault of the senses but its very restrained and comes across as a simple American Imperial Stout. Hoping the flavour kicks me in the groin [just a little]. 7/10.

T: There we go! There’s a lot to parse in the flavour profile – dark chocolate and cacao nibs upfront, hints of cinnamon and vanilla centre, coffee and char late palate, burnt sugar sweetness gives it a cakey feel, and the finish adds a nice kiss of habanero chilli. This is a BIG [Bearing Immense Gusto] flavour profile that leaves nothing to the imagination – it’s hard to imagine anything while you’re being kicked in the face with multiple flavours. Also while all this flavour-face-kicking is going on I’m getting 10.5% ABV into my system whilst barely noticing it, yay. 9/10.

M: Heavy and viscous with a creamy/almost-flat carbonation, fairly smooth but could be thicker (e.g. Even More Coco Jesus had better body). 8/10.

D: This was one “don’t mess with me motherf__ker!” brew. Hats off to Evil Twin, who managed to bring a shopping list of ingredients together without the beer tasting overwrought. Still prefer Even More Coco Jesus though. 8/10.

Food match: Have a cigar and prep the stomach pump.

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Evil Twin Even More Coco Jesus

Total Score: 9/10 Chocolate1BrownSugar1Nut1Tulipglass1

It’s Evil Twin Even More Coco Jesus!!! With: Even More Coco, Jesus!!! So yeah I’ve been trying to get my hands on Jesus, no euphemism intended, for many a year. Finally Jesus arrives in Australia and it’s Even More Coco Jesus, which I imagine is arguably the best Jesus. What is Jesus anyhow? Apart from some “Lord and Saviour” type thing (but only when it’s pronounced “Jay-ees-us” I’ve noticed). Apparently Jesus, with the prefix “Even More” is Evil Twin’s most-loved Imperial Stout. My mission, should I choose to accept it [I do!], is to drink this Even More Coco Jesus (which has added coconut), and report back to the CIA with my findings – the email address I am sending my review to is a super-secret [supersecretcia@cia.com]. Roger that, I’m going in.

Poured from a 473ml can into a Duvel tulip.

A: Damn she looks impressive! Viscous looking too! Deep obsidian black body with a chocolate brown head-that-wont-quit, err, until it did, which didn’t take as long as expected… still, PHWOAR! That is one attractive beer. 9/10.

S: Imperial Biscotti Break was definitely more intense in aroma (what with almonds and all) but the aroma of Even More Coco Jesus comes across more balanced, with notes of: dark and milk chocolate, brown sugar, hint of maple syrup, and weirdly the odd note of smoky bacon (unless thine nose deceive me). As rich and decadent as a life-sized snowman made out of cocaine wearing a gold Rolex. 9/10.

T: Flavour is a luxuriant dark/milk chocolate combo with brown sugar and maple syrup (which comes through more in the aftertaste) and a slight nutty brownie overtone. There’s some alcohol in there too at 12% ABV, but it comes through with less heat and more a tiny boozy spirit taste in the finish. Finish is skewed towards sweet, but that ain’t no thang. As far as chocolate beers go this is up there with the all-time best, I kid you not. Didn’t notice any coconut though. 9/10.

M: Wow, Founders body right here – thick and viscous like honey, with a nice dense carbonation – well done Evil Twin! 9/10.

D: Not a brew for the faint of heart (or diabetes). This is one big sweet Coco Jesus of a brew, intimidating yet playful like Omnipollo’s dessert beers (my gold standard now). I will def have to get my hands on more Jesus’s now that I know what to expect – this was a class-act, which is actually what I expected from Imp Bis Break, but there you go – win some/lose some. 9/10.

Food match: Apart from an insulin injection – chocolate ganache and a dentist appt.

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Evil Twin Imperial Biscotti Break

Total Score: 8.15/10 Coffee1Vanilla1Nut1Tulipglass1

I’m bloody excited about this one – so excited it jumped right to the front of my backlog queue of beers to review. I don’t know how. I don’t know why. I don’t even know when [yes I do], but FINALLY I have my hands on Evil Twin Imperial Biscotti Break, and I’m going to drink the shit out of it… eww. Prepare thyself for this review of an 11.5% ABV (they don’t skimp on the ABV these ET peeps) American Imperial Stout brewed with coffee, almond and vanilla, as it will be my finest hour… unless it’s my darkest hour [ha-ha, Stout pun]. You’ll find out soon enough. That said I have noticed a corollary between me getting tipsy and my reviews getting funnier, so at least there’s a good spot of humour to look forward if nothing else “forza Italia” the can label proclaims, force Italy indeed.

Poured from a 473ml can into a Duvel tulip.

A: Fairly impenetrable black body with a reasonable 2 centimetre cappuccino foam tan head that ever slowly drops back. Well it’s a Stout surely. Impressive as the other Imperial Stouts out there. 8/10.

S: Almond comes across from the off as a bold amaretto note, vanilla plays a supporting role, coffee is the stand-in actor plotting to take out almond with a laxative tea on opening night – ever malevolent that coffee character. Overall aroma is completely as advertised on the can, there’s not much else there, however in the best of Omnipollo’s dessert beer tradition do we need much more? Give me sweet, sweet simplicity. Hints of chocolate (dark) come through on a second whiff. 8/10.

T: Flavoursome indeed! Rich dark chocolate, coffee, vanilla, and a hint of almond (was expecting more from the aroma). Let’s get the elephant in the room out the door as it’s shitting all over my fine Persian rug: the mouthfeel is all wrong! Good, well get to that next. Flavourwise it’s pretty well balanced with sweetness edging out bitterness. 11.5% ABV partially hidden by the almonds. Mmm, tasty. 9/10.

M: Thin bodied given the 11.5% ABV – I’ve probably been spoiled by Founders and Omnipollo but the body on this is really thin, bit weak and too carbonated with big bubbles – essentially what you get is a beer that feels a bit like a glass of Coke, bad Evil Twin! [lol] Where are the body adding adjuncts like oats or lactose??? 5/10.

D: What a disappointing mouthfeel for an otherwise decadent and tasty American Imp Stout. The pieces of the puzzle were all there but for some reason they had sandpaper on their backs. Still the rest of the beer was an +A. 8/10.

Food match: Cant stop thinking of biscotti’s now, thanks Evil Twin!

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