Monsters’ Park & Xocoveza Charred

francis2_nobkgrd

It’s that time of the year when dark beers are plentiful and satisfying.  Here are reviews of two more dark beauties, both loaded with flavor and character.  Please read responsibly.

Monsters’ Park: Modern Times Beer, San Diego, CA.  12% ABV.
Modern Times Beer in San Diego makes one of my favorite coffee stouts, Black House.  Monsters’ Park is their Imperial Stout, and it is definitely a monster compared to Black House.  The description on the label states, “Monsters’ Park is a hulking, cantankerous imperial stout sporting a brawny malt bill and a dry, lingering finish.”

Monsters’ Park pours black with a 3/4″ cocoa colored head that faded rapidly but left a nice ring around the top edge that remained throughout the entire session.  The aroma is semi-sweet dark chocolate.  The flavor is sweet coffee with a little chocolate.  The chocolate lingers on the tongue, then fades to a slight sweetness, typical of imperial stouts.  This sweetness, however, is well balanced with hops.

The body and mouthfeel is thick, but the CO2 peel helps to mitigate the thickness just a bit.  There is a nice lingering semi-sweet chocolate note in the aftertaste.  Although it’s 12% ABV, it is not the least bit boozy or hot.  In fact, it is a deceptively smooth, easy drinking stout; but watch out, it will kick your butt!  As it warms, the alcohol aroma appears, but it’s not overwhelming.  At 60° F or above, there is more coffee, more chocolate, and more booze – in other words, more flavor and aroma.  I recommend you let this one warm up to 55° – 60° before drinking; it’s well worth it!

I sampled Monsters’ Park from a 22 oz. bomber I purchased at Total Wine for $12.99.  It’s worth the price, but I’m not sure it’s still available (I sampled it in November – sorry for the delay in posting the review).

Xocoveza Charred (2015 Series): Stone Brewing, Escondido, CA.  10% ABV.
Have I ever mentioned I like Stone beers?  This is another good one.  Xocoveza Mocha Stout is a Christmas Season beer that Stone releases each year.  It’s a stout described (by Stone) as, “an insanely delicious take on Mexican hot chocolate brewed with cocoa, coffee, chile peppers, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg.”  Xocoveza Charred is the same beer aged for 3 months in bourbon barrels.

Xocoveza Charred is pitch black with a 1/4″ light cocoa colored head that faded very rapidly to a ring around the edge.  The aroma is sweet, vanilla and oak.  The flavor is a little bit of chocolate, and a little coffee.  Vanilla is evident mid palate, but fades to a sweet chocolate, with vanilla notes lingering.  The oak/vanilla notes are very subdued and could stand some extra emphasis.  This beer features a medium body, but would benefit from additional mouth feel.

Although this is a bourbon barrel aged beer, the vanilla and oak flavors are not pronounced enough.  However, those flavors overwhelm the spiciness of the original Xocoveza Mocha Stout, which is a little disappointing.  This iteration looses the cinnamon/nutmeg and pepper notes that are so evident in the original version, which is too bad.  Since the barrel aging cut down on the spiciness of the original, the vanilla/coconut flavors derived from the bourbon barrel need to be more pronounced to compensate for the loss.

Xocoveza Charred is a very good beer, but does not have the flavor intensity of the original Xocoveza Mocha Stout.  Knowing what the original tastes like, I was a little disappointed because the spices are lost to the barrel.  The original is an excellent beer; barrel aging should improve/intensify the flavor and complexity, but in this case it actually detracts.  Too bad; maybe it should be aged in the barrel for a longer period of time.

I sampled this beer from a 500 ML corked bottle, which I received as a gift from my father for Christmas.  Thanks, Dad!

So what about these two beers?  I can recommend both, as they are high quality, flavorful examples.  Monsters’ Park is an excellent Imperial Stout and worth the cost, if it’s still available (I haven’t seen it around lately).  Xocoveza Charred is very good, but not as good as the original underlying base beer, Xocoveza Mocha Stout.  Charred sells for $18.99 for a 500 ML bottle at Total Wine; the original Xocoveza Mocha Stout is $15.99 for a six pack (12 oz. bottles).  Like I said, Xocoveza Charred is very good, but for the money I recommend the original Xocoveza – you won’t be disappointed (unless you like only fizzy yellow beer).

Slainte!

Dark Lord & Black House

francis2_nobkgrd

Here is Mac’s review and opinion of two stouts.  As you will see, both are highly recommended.  Please read responsibly.

Dark Lord (2011): Three Floyds Brewing, Muncie IN.  15% ABV

Three Floyds Brewing releases this amazing Imperial Russian Stout on “Dark Lord Day” every year.  It is brewed in Muncie Indiana, and is hard to come by.  It is brewed in limited quantities and not widely distributed (available only at the Three Floyds Brew Pub on Dark Lord Day).  Dark Lord is generally considered one of the best beers in the world, and in fact is rated as the #2 beer worldwide (just behind Westvietern 12, a belgian brewed ale) on ratebeer.com, one spot ahead of Pliny the Younger.

So let’s get down to it now – this is why you tuned in, after all.  It pours opaque midnight black with a very limited cocoa colored foam ring around the edge.  There was no head to speak of, and the little bit of foam faded immediately.  The aroma was sweet, slightly chocolatey and roasty.  The predominant flavor is sweet, with a noticeable amount of chocolate and some notes of dark fruit.  It’s a little like drinking some special dark chocolate.  Although it’s 15% ABV, I noted no booziness in the flavor (note: my bottle was 4 years old, so any booziness should have mellowed).  As already noted, the predominant flavor is sweet, but it is very mellow, like port.  Dark Lord has a very heavy body with a velvety smooth mouthfeel.

So how did I manage to get my hands on a bottle of Dark Lord (2011 vintage), given that it’s not available outside of Indiana?  As I have noted in previous beer reviews (see Heady Topper), Mac has powerful and influential friends.  In this case, Dave Hollandbeck GENEROUSLY provided the 22 oz. bomber for my enjoyment.  Dave, a homebrewer himself, was doing electrical work at Mac’s Brew Pub when he recognized the brewing equipment and we struck up a friendship (such is the world of homebrewing).  HIs unselfish act of kindness in supplying me with this world class beer will not go unrewarded; we plan to collaborate on a brew in the near future.  Dave, you’re the bomb!

Black House: Modern Times Beer, San Diego, CA.  5.8% ABV.

Black House is an oatmeal coffee stout brewed by a small San Diego brewery, in business for a little under 2 years.  I have to say though, for such a new and small brewery (30 barrel capacity), they have certainly come up with a great beer, and with their distribution, will not likely remain small for long.  I bought this beer at Costco, $5.94 for a 22 oz. bomber.  Black House is brewed with coffee (roasted at the brewery), and this bottle was a special release, brewed with cocoa nibs and coconut.

This beer pours black with a nice creamy cocoa colored head that lasts for a couple of minutes.  The aroma is coffee, but not bitter.  Coffee predominates in the flavor as well, but chocolate is also present.  I did not notice the coconut until I read the label, but then it became apparent in the background.  It’s there, but very subdued.

I would describe the flavor as a really nice, slightly sweet mocha flavor, but well balanced with hop bitterness (40 IBU), so it’s not too sweet.  The carbonation level is in the medium range, leaving nice lacing on the glass.  The body is medium to full.

This is a REALLY nice oatmeal stout.  Even those who don’t like stouts should like this one.  The alcohol level is fairly low, although right within the style guidelines for an oatmeal stout, so it’s easy to drink.  Well done, Modern Times!  I highly recommend the special release Black House.

Dark Lord is hard to come by, and is not for the faint of heart.  It is a HUGE beer, with a very complex flavor.  Fizzy yellow beer drinkers, don’t even go there – you won’t like it and i’m sure it’s expensive.  Black House, on the other hand, is a very drinkable beer that just about any beer drinker could like.  I highly recommend both.  Cheers, and a special thank you to Dave Hollandbeck!