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).