Two imperial stouts from the realm of New Zealand today.
Moa Imperial Stout has some classy presentation, though the black-on-black label is quite difficult to photograph. This is 10.2% ABV and, enticingly, is aged in Pinot Noir barrels. The flavour begins with quite orthodox coffee and sweet caramel -- all very pleasant. But soon afterwards, the barrel drops into the middle of it all, adding a massive, jarring, sap-and-sawdust effect. Behind this lurks the wine, distinctively grapey and adding a sickly sweetness that doesn't fit at all well with the residual sugars from the malt. It's frustrating and tantalising to be able to taste a superb imperial stout utterly ruined by poor secondary brewing techniques.
This bottle of Epic's Epicurean Coffee & Fig Imperial Oatmeal Stout arrived courtesy of Reuben's deep pockets (€25!). A modest 8% ABV and it does pretty much what it would say on the tin, if there was a tin. Figs? Yes, a generous sweet dark fruit element infuses the whole thing. Coffee? Definitely present, though not overpowering -- it's still the dark malts which provide the roastiness and warmth. And oatmeal? That's there too, adding a richness and smoothness. Everything melds together quite beautifully into a gemstone-like perfection. The only thing that's missing is the wow factor. Like other expensive drinks -- wine and whiskey, for instance -- balanced smoothness is where your money is going, not distinctive flavours.
It's clear that a lot of skill, imagination and hard graft went into creating both of these, but tastewise I don't think it pays off in either.
Westmalle Dubbel - *Origin: Belgium | Date: 2008 | ABV: 7% | On The Beer Nut: October 2007* It's a longtime favourite today. Westmalle Dubbel goes back to the very beginnings...
2 weeks ago