Blue Collar Brew Review – Southern Tier Choklat Imperial Stout

A few weeks ago, my buddy Jeff held a chili cookoff party at his house. I made plans to attend and had to rush trying to find a chili recipe on the Internet, preferably one made with beer. I found one which called for one bottle of Guinness. Earlier in the week, my wife and I went grocery shopping for chili recipe ingredients (on my dime, of course.) Her cooking expertise paid off both at the store and also in the kitchen. The chili turned out pretty good.

At the chili party were many of the MASH homebrew club members and many beers of many different styles were being sampled. Homebrews and commercial beers were sipped a few ounces at a time in between small tastes of different chilis. My entry was #12 in a 13-crockpot contest. By the end of the night, more than half of my chili was gone but I was nowhere near winning.

Two things stood out in my mind. One was the winning chili which was actually yellow in color and made with chicken. It won hands down. The spiciness was out of this world. The other was a chocolate stout which was passed around. I sampled this beer and was blown away by the true taste of chocolate in this beer.

I’ve had a few chocolate stouts in the past and was usually let down when I could taste more coffee than chocolate, or no chocolate at all. A couple of them came close, Rogue’s and Young’s Double Chocolate Stout left me wanting more of a chocolate flavor.

This beer was Southern Tier’s Choklat Imperial Stout, the first sips of which demonstrated to me at the chili party that a stout can truly taste like chocolate and a stout in the same mouthful. My quest for the weekend was clear: I must find some Choklat Stout.

I know that I have rarely seen a Southern Tier beer on the shelf at the Four Seasons Beer Store. Perhaps they just need a little push to find the right distributor. I made a mental note to try to facilitate that matter for them.

I decided to undertake a road trip to a far off and exotic beer store in a different city early Saturday afternoon. After the big snow we had, the roads should be clear. I pointed the nose of the Mighty Tundra towards Joliet and buzzed down I-80 with the ultimate goal of visiting Cardinal Liquors (Liquor Depot – two names, one store) and their wondrous selection of craft beer.

I made it with no delays and entered the store. Their craft beer selection was more than double that of the Four Seasons. I started down the line, glancing up and down at the names, wishing for that wheelbarrow full of money again.

(Sudden intake of breath) Gasp! HOPSLAM! Bell’s Hopslam was there, new for this year, on their shelf with a bold sign exclaiming Limit- One per Customer! Dammit! I argued with myself for all of 3 milliseconds before grabbing a sixer for private indulgence. Eighteen bucks. Plastic money time again.

Down the row I went eyeing many desirable titles, Double Wide IPA, Adoration from Ommegang, some exotic Belgian dubbels and tripels that made my mouth water. Where’s the Choklat?

It was at the end of the second shelf, in the bomber section right at the top. I checked the price at a reasonable $7.99 and the bottling date was Dec. 13th, 2011. We have a winner! Mission accomplished. More air was released from my finances at the register check-out. I have been told that it is in fact stout season (Fretwalker,) and we shall have some Imperial stout with chocolate thrown in to boot.

The bottle label tells an interesting story behind the brew:

The Popol Vuh, the sacred book of the Maya, unfolds a complex web of mystery around a beverage known as xocoatl (ch-co-atle). At Southern Tier, we’re not surprised that hieroglyphs of the ancient Maya depict chocolate being poured for rulers and gods. Even through the many voyages of Columbus, the mystical bean remained nothing more than a strange currency of the native peoples until becoming popularized by Lois XIV.

Moving through centuries, the circular journey of cacao has been realized in our brewing house, encompassing the complexity of the darkest, bitter-sweet candy together with the original frothy cold beverage of the ancient Maya to bring to you our Blackwater Series Choklat Stout. We have combined the finest ingredients to tempt your senses & renew the power & interrelation of history in every bottle.

I wondered whether my drinking of this beer will facilitate the end of the world on Dec. 21st this year.

The bottle cap leaves me wondering, though. there’s a shovel and a mash paddle surrounded by barley stalks with a hop flower at the top and a Star of David at the bottom. What’s with the star? I found out through research:

The six-point star is the customary symbol of the brewer, representing the essential aspects of purity: water, hops, grain, malt, yeast and, of course, the brewer.

But aren’t grain and malt the same thing? Hundreds of maltsters would disagree.  Nothing to do with religion or the Mayans. And that’s a good thing. How ‘bout we drink?

The beer poured up lifting a nice half-inch coating of brown foam. The liquid was dense black. Holding the glass up right next to the desk lamp revealed nothing. Just black. I had a glass of absolute black beer. Checking for carbonation bubbles was futile. The aroma of this beer was similar to smelling a chocolate phosphate or chocolate milk. Even the aroma smelled fattening and I wondered if I’d get a zit or two after drinking this beer.

The first sip was phenomenal. Tons of chocolate dominated this first swig. Dark roasted malts backed it up and gave the liquid a nice and rather thick mouthfeel. Nicely sweet, the beer packs a lot of taste per sip. Towards the back, the roastiness came forward but also had the chocolate overtone.

Each sip began with a nose full of chocolate and then a giant rush of dark chocolate flavor all the way to the end. During the fist set of swallows, not once did I detect any taste of coffee. This was an all chocolate show. The chocolate in this beer is akin to a Hershey’s Dark chocolate candy bar. It was that kind of slightly bitter-sweet chocolate. Lending a hand were the deep, dark, rich malts seemingly painting the entire interior of the mouth a shade of Darth Vader black.

There was no overt evidence of alcohol taste for this guy but the stomach space heater kicked on about the fourth sip. The beer was living up to its 11% status. The IBU ratings are nowhere to be found but that’s OK. The rest of tastes compensate for that and render IBUs a non-player in this Blue Man Group of beer tastes. From before the start (nose in glass) to after the finish (heat in stomach) this beer performed at a very high caliber. There’s plenty of tastes in this beer to love and hardly any to dislike.

You really can’t beat the 8 bucks a bomber price for what is actually delivered. It’s almost like the Tardis, bigger on the inside than the outside. Yep. There’s quite the bang for the buck in this case.

The beer was not overly, cloyingly sweet, but it was quite sweet. Perhaps that was a byproduct of the ingredients used and not intentionally brewed into the beer by design. Or maybe it was. The roasty-toasty characteristic that usually comes with all stouts was present in this beer with a bullet. Dark and rich with the sweetness thrown in made for a most wonderful taste experience. That bitter malty back end that one usually expects from a stout was present here as well… hidden until the swallow was almost done.

There was a lot going on in this beer. It’s an imperial stout that ups the bar for the beer style. Take the chocolate out of this beer and it would still be a world-class beer. For this beer drinker, Southern Tier now has a special place in the memory banks for outstanding beers. A beer to be remembered and retried at another time in the future. And then again. Our future winters are all set as long as ST keeps brewing this beer.

This beer is best considered a dessert beer, one that would put the exclamation point on the culmination of a fantastic feast of victuals. Skip the pie and go for the Choklat. This is, as stated, a phenomenal beer. One that goes up to 11.

The SixPackTech ratings for Southern Tier Choklat Imperial Stout are:

Taste: A+ > Willy Wonka’s place in a brown bottle.
Smoothness: A > Not too-too anything. But a lotta the good stuff.
Drinkability: A > Beer… it’s what’s for dessert! You know your limits.
Bang for the buck: A > Can’t beat it with a stick.
ABV: 11%
Wife’s all-encompassing opinion: That’s real dark, wow. (sniff) I can smell the chocolate. (sip) Yeah. I can taste chocolate. (sip) I can taste some chocolate in it but I still get a little coffee from it. (She’s a chocolate snob to the nth degree.)

BeerAdvocate rates.
RateBeer rates.

Video review from Real Ale GuideThought you’d get a kick out of this.

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