Cooking with Beer: Chocolate Stout Cake

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Everything and the Kitchen Sink Imperial Porter Tasting

This was one of the last extract beers I brewed. I decided to kinda throw everything that is hyped in the craft beer community into one beer. After the beer sat on a primary for awhile, I threw basically everything at it. Bourbon soaked American oak chips, coffee beans, cocoa/chile powder, vanilla beans and some vanilla extract. I aged it for about 6 months before bottling.

Let's just say, way too much oak and way too much bourbon when this beer was fresh. Not only that but I think my palate wasn't developed enough to be able to pick the flavors apart and given that I wasn't even a huge fan of barrel aged craft beer at the time, this beer stood no chance for me to like it... much less everyone I know who doesn't even care for craft beer.

Well, I'm brewing the Citra DIPA today and I was heading to the basement to retrieve some equipment when I found a few bottles I had designated to open after six months in the bottle. I figured, ehh! What's the worst that could happen? The worst that could happen is I kill some time while waiting for my beer to brew! Popped one open just to taste it. Its been cellared for about 7 months.

12 oz bottle poured into a snifter and served at cellar temperature.

Look: dark brown but not quite black. There are brownish, red highlights when held to a light source. The head is tan, one finger thick, and has excellent retention. There's a bit of patchy lace left as I drink it but it quickly disappears but leaves a few pockets of lace here and there on the snifter.

Smell: hints of coffee, some oak and chocolate. The bourbon is subdued but certainly there.

Taste: follows the nose fairly well with the oak standing in the foreground. A bit tannic, with some light chocolate and vanilla notes. Whether the vanilla is from the actual vanilla or from the age in the oak, I can't tell. Coffee stands out when the beer is first poured but as it warms, it kind of loses that flavor and yields to a more bourbon/oaky flavor. The bourbon is distinct in the finish and leaves my mouth tasting like I just did a shot of bourbon, but it isn't quite as sharp. The time in the cellar has smoothed this one out and the flavors have begun to mesh quite well.

Mouthfeel: medium bodied, actually decently carbonated and is accurate for the style compared to other Imperial porters I've had. A bit of boozy bite in the front of my tongue and a little booze throughout the taste without being overwhelming. The beer was around 8% alcohol based on gravity readings but the bourbon added to it added some alcohol to the beer, but it was beyond my ability to measure that contribution. It drinks like a 10% beer.

Drinkability: certainly a sipper and not so much a sessionable ale. After all, its a bit above 8%!

Overall Impression: I'm surprised how well the flavors have come together in this. The oak has really been tamed and the bourbon is working very well for me. I don't think this is a beer for people who aren't into barrel aged beers, but I actually like it and its something I would've been happy with if I ordered it at the bar.

One of the earliest pieces of advice I received about brewing was that if you don't like your beer at first, let it age a bit and age can take care of many problems. While that isn't true for things like IPAs and DIPAs, it nonetheless worked for this beer. I'll keep this in mind when I decide to brew another "barrel" aged beer in the future. Cheers!

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