Sunday, November 11, 2007

Beer Review: Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout

Something new today, and maybe a regular thing - heck, maybe the genesis of an all-new blog eventually. I'm writing a beer review.

There are plenty of people reviewing beer out there already. Why the hell should you listen to me? You're going to have to judge that for yourself. I will say I think my perspective's probably a little different than most - I'm not the same kind of beer snob that some beer snobs are. I love a good beer, but what is "good beer"? There are definitely things that are pretty easy to objectively measure and still other things that I think we can probably all agree on, but beyond that lies both the nebulous realm of personal taste and the purpose for which you drink beer in the first place. There's nothing wrong with a good lager while watching a football game.

Which brings us to Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout. I picked this up looking for something a little different than the pale lagers I usually keep around. I looked forward to a deep, dark beer, having read well of it at, the Zagat guide of the beer world. There, it rated 4.04 out of 5, which puts it in the 99th percentile of all beers in the world. (Few beers ever break 4 overall stars, both because there are always reviewers who dislike even the best beers, and because within each review, the 5 star rating is itself an average of five separate criteria.)

Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout is a seasonal beer that's produced in limited runs. It's brewed in Utica like most Brooklyn beer. Like an Imperial Stout, it's intended to keep you warm in winter, and should therefore be drunk at a fairly high temperature - about 55 degrees or so is optimal. Well, my cellar's heated so it's not like I have an easy way to do that, but I did try to drink my first bottle before it had fully cooled in my refrigerator.

I gotta tell you, this is some crazy beer. Crazy. I have never had a beer this strong, and I'm no stranger to stouts.

It definitely looks nice when you pour it:

The head is quite frothy (not tight like a dry stout), with a deep tan color, and the beer itself definitely is jet black and thick. The aroma is almost totally roasted chocolate. It is quite fizzy; a little more than I'd expect from such a husky stout.

The flavor is not anything that I was prepared for. I admit that I'm a little more used to dry stouts than chocolate stouts, and this is one strong chocolate stout in both chocolate and coffee flavors, and in alcohol. Brooklyn Brewery makes a big deal out of using "six types of black, chocolate, and roasted malts" in the making of this beer - and I believe it. It is just overpowering.

It's also a little odd. The flavors just don't quite mesh - it's like pouring a chocolate soda into a dry stout, topping off with some espresso and then adding a flask of ether. All of these flavors remain completely distinct, and all of them are too strong both individually and together.

I have to say that I couldn't finish a bottle. My wife couldn't finish what I left for her.

And here's my rant about I looked at the ratings before buying this beer, but I didn't actually read many of the comments. Now, keep in mind their ratings are all out of 5. Take a look at a couple of these comments about Brooklyn Black:
Dark chocolate and burnt coffee taste, heavy and oily.
That guy's rating: 4.2.

Crazy thick, with lots of alcohol note.
Rating: 3.9.

Since when do comments like "crazy thick" and "burnt coffee taste, heavy and oily" equate with quality in any beverage? If you didn't know they were talking about beer, you'd imagine that must be a pretty disgusting drink.

The big problem I have with is that the scale most reviewers there use is absolute - the thicker and stronger a beer, the better it is. There is no regard to beer category or style; a lager, being thinner and lighter than a stout, can be the best lager in the world but can never be as good as even a bad stout. Take a look at their top 50 - how many lagers (hell, how many ales) on that list?

Similarly, "light" and dry stouts are considered inherently inferior to Imperial or chocolate stouts, simply because the latter have more flavor. How good that flavor is is almost immaterial. I consider this the equivalent of rating one chef's dish more highly than another because it has more salt.

(My theory is that the most experienced reviewers there don't rate this way, but that it's mostly the rookies that do - as they try to show their manliness in drinking and enjoying the strongest beers around. They then have enough influence to skew the results.)

If you're a fan of chocolate stouts, then you probably don't need me to tell you whether or not you should drink this beer. Everybody else should probably avoid it, unless you're either out for adventure, or just a glutton for punishment.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous5:41 AM

    The black chocolate stout is the shiznit - so much so that a local multi-brew taphouse was plum dry the last time I went to steal a drop or three. Get 'er on tap if you can.


About This Blog

This is increasingly not a blog about Alphabet City, New York. I used to live in the East Village and work on Avenue B, but I no longer do. Why don't I change the name if I'm writing about Japan and video games and guitars? Because New Yorkers are well-rounded people with varied interests, and mine have gone increasingly off the rails over the years. And I don't feel like changing the name. I do still write about New York City sometimes.


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