The Hungover Diplomat – Into the Darkness…with a Little Ray of Sunshine
The Hungover Diplomat has returned! I wholeheartedly acknowledge that it’s been far too long and I’ve tried far too many new and different beers since my last post. My sincerest apologies for not sharing sooner. Also, as seemingly all the posts on the Butcher’s Word have been pretty damn serious lately, you’ll just have to accept my humble attempts to inject some levity and mirth into this portion of the website. I’m all for some thought-provoking and emotionally inspiring content, but let’s not take ourselves too seriously all the time…okay, you can OBT. But only you. And just during Lent. Okay, fine, all the time.
As I know some of you have noticed from the links to my Untappd check-ins on Twitter, my samplings over the last month have been quite varied (and frequent). The upside is that I have plenty of material to draw from for this round of reviews (and FYI, those check-ins show my short-hand ratings for those beers that I tried, so you could have gathered my abbreviated thoughts on those beers by checking those out). Downside is that you’ve had to tolerate all the links to my Untappd check-ins on Twitter.
In this episode, I have a mix of North Carolina and national beers from several different styles, hopefully a little something helpful for everyone…especially now that your teetotaling days are over with the merciful end to #F3Detox. Welcome back to hedonism; I’d say I missed you, but I was too busy enjoying myself. Hopefully none of you decided to give up beer for Lent too…if you did, move along, nothing to see here.
As you can gather from the title of this post, I’ve chosen some increasingly dark beers to review, with one notable exception (#noteworthy). I’ve enjoyed a fair number of stouts, porters, black IPAs, etc., over this winter, but I have to say that I’m probably ready for a change of seasons and for the turnover into lighter, crisper, cleaner ales, lagers, pilsners and wheat beers (wits/hefeweizens). Without further adieu, here we go, rapid-fire style:
FOOTHILLS BREWING CO. – Sexual Chocolate Imperial Stout – 9.6% ABV
Appearance (A) - deep, rich brown/black color, thick tan/beige head (great retention), little cascading effect, lots of lacing
Smell (S) – unsweetened dark chocolate, burnt sugar, some vanilla and coffee
Taste (T) – toasted malt/bread, bitter chocolate, molasses, touch of alcohol
Mouthfeel (M) – really smooth and creamy, low carbonation, medium body
Overall (O) – Really, really good imperial stout. Smooth, creamy and tasty. I could occasionally taste the alcohol content, but generally it was very easy drinking. Probably the best imperial I’ve had from an NC brewery; and I’d be lying if part of me didn’t like it simply because the label makes me think of the DJ/narrator from the movie, The Warriors. This beer carries alot of hype – it is an exclusive seasonal from Foothills and sold out at Good Bottle in 22 minutes. His entire shipment in 22 minutes. And it’s irrationally expensive (for a 22 oz. bottle). Is it worth it? I don’t know…might be better off following where they have it on draft and just grabbing a pint. Either way, it’s a damn fine beer and worthy of high praise.
HD Grade - A-
Availability – Nowhere in bottles. On draft at Duckworth’s (Park Rd & Ballantyne), Vintner’s Wine Market, Good Bottle (to be tapped) – if any of these places still have it, it will not last long.
THE DUCK RABBIT BREWING CO. – Baltic Porter – 9.0% ABV
A - almost black color, thick tan/beige head, mild retention and lacing
S - strong molasses, malt, burnt toffee
T – sweet malt, strong molasses, vanilla
M - heavy feel, sticky, medium carbonation, lingering malty aftertaste
O – This beer was okay; nothing great, nothing too bad, just meh. As you are well aware, I’m not wild about porters and this one kind of just “tastes like a porter.” Pretty smooth, kind of sweet, relatively drinkable, pretty forgettable. Duck Rabbit has some real gems in their arsenal, but sadly this isn’t one of them for me.
HD Grade - B-
Availability – Good Bottle, Total Wine (Park Rd & Ballantyne), Vintner Wine Market, Laurel Market
ATWATER BLOCK BREWERY – Decadent Dark Chocolate Ale – ABV unknown
A – almost pitch black, off-white head, dissipated rapidly
S - sweet chocolate, coffee, vanilla
T – sweet dark chocolate (almost chocolate syrup), some hops/bitterness, a little coffee and caramel
M – light, relatively high carbonation (almost like a soda), clean finish with minimal aftertaste
O – Very surprised by this beer and liked it alot. Really light and clean for such a dark beer; very drinkable and really nice flavors. And if you like chocolate, you’ll like this. It’s kind of having an identity crisis in that it looks like a stout, but drinks more like pale ale – even less hearty than a brown ale. BeerAdvocate lists it as an “American stout”, but it is most certainly not a stout to me. The Atwater website just calls it an ale, so I guess I’ll just have to go with their tag (since they made it and all). Another oddity, I have no idea what the ABV is of this beer. Nothing on the bottle, nothing on the website, nothing on BA, nothing on RateBeer. All told, it kind of reminded me of a lighter, more chocolate-y version of Rice Rice Baby Milk Stout from Free Range Brewing/Birdsong Brewing…which is a complimentary comparison in my book.
HD Grade – B+
Availability – Apparently it is pretty widely available, but I have seen it at Total Wine and Good Bottle.
LEFT HAND BREWING CO. – Milk Stout Nitro – 6.0% ABV
A – intense dark brown color with reddish hue, very dense beige head, unbelievable retention
S – sweet milk, roasted malt, coffee
T – vanilla, roasted malt, scalded milk/cooked cream, mild sweetness
M – creamy, smooth, slight lactose aftertaste, consistency of a cafe latte
O – Absolutely delicious. It’s basically a milk stout Guinness…which is probably a result of the nitro. Seriously, the cascade after the pour could have been in a Guinness commercial. Completely balanced and really drinkable. I had previously tried Left Hand’s regular version of their milk stout and it was also very good, but this blows it away. If the last beer on this list wasn’t in the mix, it would be the best beer in this post.
HD Grade – A
Availability – Total Wine, Good Bottle, Common Market, Revolution Pizza, various other spots
UINTA BREWING CO. – BABA Black Lager – 4.0% ABV
A – almost black, opaque, beige head, good retention
S – metallic/brassy, toasted/burnt barley
T – bitter, burnt coffee, toasted/burnt malt
M – light and thin, medium carbonation, clean finish, filmy residue
O – Easily my least favorite of this collection of beers. Everything smelled and tasted overcooked or burned. Nothing remarkable about it at all, except that I’d never come across a “black lager” before. Fans of lager/pilsner style beers might like it, but it did nothing for me.
HD Grade – C
Availability – Good Bottle, Total Wine, Laurel Market
LAGUNITAS BREWING CO. – Sucks Brown Shugga Substitute Ale – 7.85% ABV
A – golden, honey color, crisp and clear, white frothy head, moderate retention
S – bright, pungent floral, citrus hops, fresh grass
T – bitter citrus, fresh floral, hops, mild malt, subtle bitterness
M – medium body, clean/dry finish, hoppy aftertaste
O – This is firmly situated on my top 10 list of beers. It’s unreal and my explanation probably can’t do it justice. To me, it tastes like spring – bright floral notes, strong, fresh citrus hops and dewy grass. Just wakes you up and puts a smile on your face. I don’t know if this falls into the IPA or Double IPA category, but either way, it’s an awesome beer. It is released every January following the release of its namesake Lagunitas Brown Shugga (which comes out in December) – to me, Sucks has surpassed Brown Shugga in terms of quality. Its release overlaps slightly with that of Bell’s Hopslam (another awesome beer), but it receives much, much less hype – which is reflected in the much more reasonable price. All told, I think Sucks and Hopslam are about even in quality and given the universal unavailability of Hopslam, save for about 60 minutes after delivery to the store, I’ll settle for Sucks every day of the week. I’ll step down from my soapbox now.
HD Grade – A
Availability – I’m a little late to the party on this one, so it may not be available many places anymore. Good Bottle just ran out yesterday. Common Market, Vintner’s Wine Market and Brawley’s might have it in bottles, and Duckworth’s may have it on draft.
So there you have it; six beer reviews for the price of one (provided you are still reading). Hopefully, this tome will give you some ideas for your next trip to the nearby bottle shop…or perhaps convince you that my olfactory and taste senses are completely worthless. Either way, I will commit to posting more frequently and to try and stay ahead of seasonal releases so you can actually get the beers I’ve reviewed (if you’re so inclined). #HDfail
Stay on the lookout for announcements about travelling HDHH opportunities at the local breweries – we have yet to hit Heist, NoDa, Four Friends or OMB – and for any off-day, impromptu happy hours at other local establishments with better beer selection than Ed’s…which would be almost all of them. Lots of great beer stuff going on in Charlotte these days, which make for great, low-key #2ndF opportunities. I will try and tweet or re-tweet about any of which I’m aware for the #F3Metro region.
Until next time, cheers and support our local and North Carolina brewers.