Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout
Winter 09-10 bottle Tasted Jan 5, 2010 10% ABV – Russian Imperial Stout
From the bottle:
In the last century, British brewers made strong stouts for the Czar’s Court. They were called Imperial Stouts. Our Black Chocolate Stout, brewed once yearly for the winter season, achieves a chocolate aroma and flavor through the artful blending of six varieties of black, chocolate and roasted malts.
I know more about Brooklyn Brewery through Garrett Oliver’s book, The Brewmaster’s Table, than firsthand experience with tasting their brews. Where I live in Iowa, the only beer of theirs we can get is a collaboration with Schneider (brewers of the great Aventinus!), the Brooklyner-Schneider Hopfen-Weisse, a wonderful Weizenbock that has left me with a very positive impression of the brewery. While on vacation here in Washington, D.C., I found some of these in my sister’s fridge, and after having a small taste from a friend’s glass last Friday, my interest was piqued. So let’s get down to it.
The appearance is an inky, pitch-black. Had a good inch of head which quickly receded and had no visible lacing, which I’m fine with in a Russian Imperial Stout. Black is the color of a true RIS, and judging by the opaque color, impenetrable to light, Brooklyn knows this very well!
Last Friday, I remarked to my friend that it was not particularly chocolatey, but sticking my nose down deep into this glass, especially as it warms, I get a lot of chocolate malt. More like dark baking chocolate than Hershey’s-style American chocolate, just the way I prefer. More nuanced and doesn’t really beat you over the head with it like many chocolate stouts can (Ommegang’s Chocolate Indulgence, I’m looking in your direction!). Black, dark roasted coffee is also apparent in the nose.
The flavor is not what you’d expect. Less sweet chocolate and more earthy—a bitterness not unlike espresso. The mouthfeel is smooth, and while the taste starts bitter the chocolate malts make their presence known, with some subtle sweet and roasted flavor. The chocolate, thanks to the malt, is more of a bitter cocoa (again, think baking chocolate) than sweet milk, which keeps the drinkability higher than your average RIS, while the bitterness keeps me from drinking too quickly. A lot more complex as it warms, the 10% ABV doesn’t hit you over the head in taste, but rather is more apparent in the nose. It becomes less apparent as the it warms. This one is far better at cellar temperature than served cold.
More RIS than Chocolate Stout, Brooklyn Brewery has created a wonderful winter beer, one that I think would age very well. I could see this one mellowing out and perhaps becoming closer to what people might expect if they hadn’t had it before (slightly sweet) but I’m very pleased with this one. Would like to try with a year on it, but I flew and didn’t check a bag, so can’t bring any back with me, sadly!
My score: 4/5