I had made up my mind that I’d do it. Tonight we’ll taste a bottle of 2014 vintage Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout from 3Floyds. The remaining 3 bombers of it will keep just fine, probably for quite a few years.
Once again this Russian stout weighs in at 15% alcohol and the taste alone brings thousands of people to the 3Fs brewery in Munster, Indiana the last Saturday of April. I was one of the many this year and suffered the standing in long lines to buy beer to drink, beer to treasure and take home and also lines at the porta-potties.
This year founder Nick Floyd said he would alter the recipe for Dark Lord by adding some essence of Unicorn Blood from a local coffeehouse (Dark Matter.) It appears that Dark Matter brews unbelievable coffees and blends them in wooden barrels formerly occupied by cognac and the like. Link.
The Dark Lord of 2014 should be more of that in-your-face over-the-top dark stout that so many beer geeks enjoy. The best vintage of theirs that I had was the 2012 DL which I remember had hints of chocolate and cherry. If anything, the 2014 batch should have a hint of coffee, but not coffee as we know it. Coffee as Dark Matter knows it.
I still have two bottles of ’12, two of ’13 and after tonight, three of ’14 standing by for special occasions when good friends or family get together. Also a couple of Westvleteren XIIs and a 1.5 year-old Firestone Walker Parabola gathering dust on the outside and mellowing on the inside.
For tonight’s tasting, I’ve chosen the Duvel snifter as recommended by RateBeer and one single 22-ounce bomber of Dark Lord. No more. I don’t think my palate could stand the onslaught of a big beer like this over time.
The pour was just as I expected, dense black liquid and a somewhat thick viscosity. The chocolate-brown foam rose up about an inch. The aroma held dark roasted malt flavors and something else I couldn’t describe.
The first sip was amazing. A nice thick mouthfeel and a slug of deep, dark roastiness that was actually quite smooth going down. The beer was surprisingly sweet. There were some hints of chocolate in there as well as some other exotic tastes of something that I couldn’t detect. Chances are, it was notes of some Dark Matter coffee. My lips got sticky right away and I felt some heat down in the gut.
This is a slightly different take on the traditional Russian Imperial Stout. It was as if it was dialed up to 11 and shifted slightly off frequency. This was a helluva big beer.
That bold roastiness so prevalent in other Russians was still present in this beer but covered up, bondo-ed and shellacked over by the other bold tastes. I may venture to say that those other flavors I was tasting were wisps of the Unicorn Blood coffee recipe that Floyd mixed in. You could say that the beer was outrageous in the amount of ingredients that were used in the brewing process.
Every year that I try Dark Lord, I’m amazed at how rich and dense and full it is. This is not a beer that you would drink alone. Dark Lord should be imbibed at ceremonious occasions and passed around to others of great importance for sampling a few ounces at a time. Even in those small amounts, the taste of the beer will etch itself deep into the memory banks of those who try it. A beer well suited for a Tsar.
The closest beers I can compare it to are Surly Darkness and Oskar BluesTen Fidy if it was on steroids and Dogfish Head World Wide Stout. Of the three, Darkness comes the closest to DL but each beer should be treated for what it is, the brewer’s take on a given style. There can be no set standard by which they all should try to achieve. The beer should speak for itself.
Dark Lord should age quite well and the rough edges will probably smooth out over time. A vertical tasting of different vintages of DL would make for an amazing experience.
If you’ve never tried Dark Lord, see if you can find a friend who has a bottle or two of it; doesn’t matter what year. It’s not so much that you should own some but rather that you tasted some Dark Lord. You won’t forget it.
Taste: Outrageous and over the top stoutiness. Delicious in small quantities.
Smoothness: It goes down well and leaves behind some tremendous flavors.
Drinkability: Slow… one ounce at a time… and not too many.
Bang for the buck: The Dark Lord Day experience alone is worth it as is this beer.
Amount paid: $15 per 22-ounce bottle; $60 per four-pack at the brewery.
Get it again? Yep. I’ll try again next year.
Brewer’s website Age verif.
Wife’s all-encompassing opinion: This is Dark Lord, huh? It’s really dark. (sniff) Kinda mocha-ish. (sip) Wuahh! It’s real heavy coffee. (sip) Ook! Oh… I’m sorry. This is what you stood outside all day for? (Yes and I just might do it again.)
Touring the Three Floyds Brewery on Dark Lord Day [6:03]