Total Score: 9/10
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.