Well folks, it’s time to open your minds and receive the first Beer Review lecture of 2019 from Mac. Today I will enlighten you about two dark selections from a small brewery in Redmond Washington. Please read responsibly!
Black Raven Brewing is not distributed to my area (Southern California), but as you know, I am well connected, and managed to score two bottles of each of the below listed beers. In this case, the supplier is my overly generous uncle, Kevin McCaffrey, who lives in Seattle. I love you, man!
Coco Jones: Black Raven Brewing, Redmond, WA. 5.6% ABV.
This is an award winning Coconut Porter. The base beer is a Brown Porter, which is more in the English style, as opposed to Robust Porter which is more American style. That means Brown Porter is a bit sweeter, without the well-pronounced bitter roasty and coffee notes that characterize a Robust Porter. [Note: Brown Porters are much more difficult to find than the ubiquitous Robust Porter style that abounds around these parts.]
I had heard of this beer, but was never able to obtain any because it’s not distributed widely. When I found this on my doorstep, I was elated, and eagerly anticipated drinking and reviewing it. My first impression, from smelling the aroma and taking that first sip, was disappointment. I was expecting a big bitter, roasty, coffee slap in the face. It wasn’t like that at all. In fact the flavors were much more subdued, and I was thinking that the praise I had previously heard about this beer was exaggerated. It wasn’t until after I looked it up on the Black Raven website that I realized it was a Brown Porter. After this enlightenment, I settled down and really appreciated this beer.
Coco Jones pours dark brown with a ½” light beige head that lasts for a couple of minutes before fading to a substantial ring. The aroma is sweet – vanilla and semi-sweet chocolate, with a hint of coconut. The flavor is more neutral, leaning toward bitter, but not sweet as suggested by the aroma. Unsweetened coconut is front and center along with notes of slightly bitter cocoa, fading to a mellow and subdued coconut aftertaste that lingers for a short time.
The body and mouth feel is somewhat thin. It is well carbonated, which bites the tongue and adds to the perception of bitterness.
As it warms, the coconut aroma increases as the sweetness in the nose decreases. Of course the carbonation level decreases as it warms, causing the flavor to lose some of its bitterness, but cocoa and coconut flavors remain strong. There are no coffee notes in this beer, but I taste a slight roastiness.
Coco Jones is quite good. It is very pleasant to drink; the cocoa and coconut flavors, and the low-moderate alcohol level makes it easy drinking. Well done.
Grandfather Raven: Black Raven Brewing, Redmond WA. 9.5% ABV.
Grandfather Raven is a Russian Imperial Stout from Black Raven Brewing. It is available on a rotating basis.
This beer pours pitch black with a ½” cocoa colored head (in a tulip glass). The foam persists for a few minutes, then fades to a very substantial ring and a thin covering. The aroma is sweet, with notes of coffee, brown sugar, vanilla and chocolate. The flavor is semi-sweet chocolate, coffee, and brown sugar, then fades to just semi-sweet chocolate in the aftertaste. There are nuances of plum, raisin and prunes on the palate as well. Alcohol, though fairly high, is not detected in the flavor or aroma.
The carbonation level is low-medium, with medium body and mouth feel. As previously mentioned, the substantial foam ring and thin foam covering persisted throughout the session, so it is surprising that the beer left no lacing in the glass.
As Grandfather Raven warms, the alcohol becomes slightly evident in the aroma. The coffee fades as the aroma becomes sweeter with more pronounced chocolate impressions. The flavors become a bit stronger, but still no alcohol is observed.
Grandfather Raven is very good, but not distinguished from many other beers in the Imperial Russian Stout category. It’s big (high alcohol with full and complex flavors) and a little chewy, but if you want an IRS that’s really in your face, try something like Stone “Woot Stout”, or any number of barrel-aged stouts on the market.
The bottom line for these beers: I can highly recommend Coco Jones; I also recommend Grandfather Raven, but it’s just another good Imperial Stout. Coco Jones is a very good example of its style, and the coconut adds a special characteristic and depth to the brew. Grandfather Raven is not particularly special like The Nothing (see my review of The Nothing by Smog City Brewing, posted 10-05-2018), but it’s still worth having.
I must give a little shout out and a special “Thank You” to my uncle, Kevin McCaffrey. Sending these Washington beers to me in So Cal where I can’t get them was beyond considerate. Imagine my delight when I found these at the entrance of Mac’s Brew Pub (the day before Thanksgiving). Lucky for me, I still have one bottle of each to enjoy at my leisure. Kevin sent several other Seattle beers as well. Stay tuned for reviews of those beers in the very near future. KEVIN, YOU ARE THE BOMB!!