I had decided to once again to wait until the last minute before heading out into the chilly 45° weather for a review beer specimen. Off to the Four Seasons Beer Store. As I headed toward the door, I noticed a sign stating that there was a wine tasting going on. Sure enough, just inside was a small table with opened bottles of wine and small plastic cups.
The nice lady asked,” Would you like to sample some wine?” This was my exact reply: “Thanks for offering, but I’m a beer guy.” She smiled again and I proceeded to the cooler to start my scan.
The choice was narrowing as I looked back and forth. A lot of the really good name brand craft beers I had already tried. I knew that I wanted something a little dark for the season, but nothing came to mind.
I gave Sierra Nevada’s Bigfoot Barleywine a thorough once-over. It’d be be the one I’d get, if didn’t find something else along the seasonal lines. It was late in the afternoon and 3 or 4 hours of chill time in the fridge may not be enough. I’d resort to the old half-hour in the freezer and then to the fridge method. No biggie.
I was scrutinizing some bomber labels when the wine lady entered the beer aisle and slowly made her way don to me. She struck up a conversation and I found out that she and her husband were sort of beer geeks, having a kegerator and buying craft beer 15.5 gallons at a time. Sweet!
They had run their keg dry and she was looking to stave off their thirsts by picking up a sixer or two until the new keg came in. We chatted back and forth about styles and brands and she recommended a few beers and a few breweries to try and I did the same. She left when a new customer entered the store.
I spotted a beer from Southern Tier which I hadn’t seen (nor heard of) before. It was their Crème Brûlée Stout, a stout made with vanilla beans, according to the label. Interesting. The first time I ever had crème brûlée was at a Christmas dinner hosted by the doctor dentist for his staff and their spouses. After the meal, I ordered ice cream while one of the other husbands ordered crème brûlée. He offered it to me for a taste sample which I accepted. I wound up finishing it and the ice cream to boot.
It tasted very similar to flan, a vanilla custard type dessert the Mexican ladies at work usually brought for their small parties over lunch. I had a reference as to what the beer I was holding in my hand should taste like.
The wine lady came back and spotted me with the beer and commented about how good it was. That pretty much did it for me. I grabbed two bombers and paid the man. I gave the wine lady my SPT business card just before I left. It was the longest period of time I’ve spent at the Four Seasons. It was also the most enjoyable.
The freezer-to-fridge method worked pretty well and there were a few hours before beer time. That would give the beer some time to stabilize temperature-wise. Tonight’s review will be inside, on the iMac. Nice and warm. The only fire to attend to would be the one that may develop in my gut.
When the time finally came, I grabbed the first bomber and popped the cap.
I expected the beer to have only a small amount of head after the pour. I poured the first serving rather aggressively. After the glug-glugging, the head came up to about a half-inch. The liquid was jet black but when it was poured, it never gave that impression. Carbonation was rather vigorous from what I could see along the immediate inside surface of the glass. The aroma was awesome. Dark chocolate with a hint of caramel and toffee. I wondered if I would encounter a few peanuts along the way.
The first sip was amazing. All that caramel and/or toffee flavor was right up front with a really nice dark roasted malt flavor to back it up. A general overall sweetness prevailed. It was slick on the tongue going down. Looks like they nailed all the prereqs of a milk stout and a bit of that caramelization one experiences eating a crème brûlée. For me, the taste of the caramel was first and foremost. All the rest were the loud cast of supporting characters.
The sweetness is in your face. It’s not cloying but it is a huge flavor in the overall taste. It’s obviously from using the lactose milk sugar in the brew process. While not coming across as an overly roasted as a Russian Imperial stout, or even a traditional stout, the beer does conjure up a picture of a creamy, custard vanilla treat. A crème brûlée fits the bill perfectly.
The liquid was big in body and slick as a snot covered doorknob. The Southern Tier website has this beer at 9.5% alcohol, while the label on the bottle shows it to be 9.6%. But who’s to argue over a tenth of a percent? This alcohol in this beer is completely masked by the big bold flavors held within. There was no heat trace down the gullet and no fire in the gut.
Hop flavors? Forget it. There’s nary a trace. All of the specs, the original gravity, degrees Plato, IBUs and ABV are rendered immaterial by the taste of this beer. The only bitterness that the beer had was from the dark roasted malts, but it was smoothed over by the other tastes involved.
This beer would be perfect with dessert after a big meal. Especially if that dessert was crème brûlée itself. It’d be a gastronomical treat. The beer, while the taste is exceptional, is not a go-to beer or even an example of the style. More like a successful experiment with unique flavors. It would be an ideal special occasion treat perhaps once a year. An anniversary would be perfect. After sharing a bomber of this, the occasion may get even specialler. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.
Southern Tier has a reputation for making some world-class beers and this one is no exception. It’s the perfect shelfmate for their Choklat Imperial stout. Big on taste while easing the drinker in a state of euphoria sip by sip. Try a bottle of this dessert beer for the taste surprise. If you don’t think that this beer is the closest thing to a crème brûlée dessert custard, your tongue has some serious issues.
Taste: Amazing. A custard dessert in a bottle.
Smoothness: Slick as a rockabilly hair style.
Drinkability: Sippin’ all the way. You’ll know when to stop.
Bang for the buck: Not bad considering the taste.
Amount paid: $9.99
Get it again? Yes. Next year around this time.
Wife’s all-encompassing opinion: (Sniff) You can smell the vanilla. Heavy duty. Really dark. (sip) Wow. Sweet. It’s like caramel, yeah. More toffee. (sip) It’s not terrible for such a dark beer, but it’s a little too sweet. (Like those brownies you made last week?)
Madison Smith’s 30-second review