Double #BeerswithBorrie Imperial Stout reviews! Oh my!
Black is Beautiful represents more than just another imperial stout out in the wild for consumers to buy. It represents a way to bring awareness, as an international beer collaboration amongst 1,100+ breweries from all over the world, to the racial injustice that has plagued people of color and minorities for hundreds of years. Along the way, it will bring people together to have very important conversations about that same injustice and hopefully bring people closer together and fight for change as one voice.
Where did the idea of an international beer collaboration come from you ask? It all started in San Antonio, TX from the brain of Marcus B., founder and head brewer of Weathered Souls Brewing.
“As someone who has personally dealt with the abuse of power by the police, this recent turmoil the country is facing has hit home for me. As I write this, I contemplate how the country can move forward, how we as the people, can create change, and what it will take for everyone to move forward with a common respect for one another. For us, we feel that this is our contribution to a step”
– Marcus B.
If you are so inclined to see the recipe, you can find it here. For an imperial stout recipe, I found it unique that they used Chocolate Rye malt as one of the specialty grains for the recipe. Most recipes don’t. Was it detectable on the taste? I’ll get to that shortly. One other interesting note was the “sugar” added. I’m not sure if that was simply to hit the 10% abv mark or to aid in drying out the beer. By adding just plain old sugar, it gives even more fermentables to the yeast to eat, which in turn increases the abv and can dry the beer out even further. Other than those 2 items, I found this recipe to be really nice and easy to make which I think was the point, as I’ll explain during the tasting notes of each, so breweries that participated could easily make this base recipe for their versions of the beer. A very smart move on Weathered Souls and Marcus’s part. Let’s get to the taste of these beautiful beers shall we?
What type of glassware would be a good fit for big bold imperial stouts?
If you have a snifter or Belgian beer glass, like a tulip glass, those would work best. The wide bottom of the glass allows the beer to open up much like a red wine glass would and the narrow lip helps create the nice and lovely creamy off white almost vanilla bean ice cream colored head.
I’ll start with Firestone Walker’s version of the beer.
Let’s look at their notes, then I’ll drop in mine. From their site:
“With bold notes of molasses, espresso, vanilla and cocoa, this beer weighs in around 10% ABV. Its rich and silky body is enhanced from partial Bourbon barrel aging – a classic Firestone spin on the communal recipe. Our version of this beer consists of Parabola aged in Woodford Reserve bourbon barrels (30%), Velvet Merkin aged in Heaven Hill bourbon barrels (15%), and an imperial stout brewed at our Propagator R&D brewhouse in Venice, California (55%)”.
Let’s attack this one at a time. Molasses? Yes. Dark burnt sugar with the lightest amount of sweetness. Espresso? Yes. Even without having a ton of coffee in the beer, the blended stouts from their own beers(that’s the 30% and 15% part above), the recipe brings huge espresso notes. Vanilla? Yes. From the barrel aged beers used. The barrels used in the bourbon or whiskey making process all are toasted/charred to levels of darkness. Most will be to a medium level and will impart a tannin called vanillin, which you guessed it, provides that vanilla bean flavor from bourbons or whiskeys. That’s where you get a very subtle flavor in this stout. Cocoa? Yes. With a combination of the 3 beers in this blend, most by default, used some form of chocolate malt to provide that cocoa flavor. Sounds yummy right? Well, you’re not wrong.
I’ll speak about the 2 beers used in the blend briefly so you have a better understanding of what is happening in my glass.
Parabola is FW’s big huge bourbon barrel aged imperial stout. It’s aged in the barrels for 1yr all the time. That length of time imparts massive flavors from the barrels like vanilla, cherry bark, bourbon, molasses. Velvet Merkin is their bourbon barrel aged oatmeal stout. Using oats in a beer adds a smoothness or “velvet” to your palate. It also gives a bigger mouthfeel or filling sense of taste, then add in the complexity of a bourbon barrel and you have Velvet Merkin. That velvet helped “cut” some of the rich super dark flavors like dark chocolate on your palate. It made it actually smooth to drink. It was crazy to taste.
Ok side step to Casa Agria’s offering of Black is Beautiful.
Theirs took the base recipe you read above but added in some mega POG champ coffee with help from 2 small businesses, JNP Coffee and Ragamuffin Coffee Roasters. JNP Coffee, a black and female owned coffee grower, sourced the green beans originally from Burundi. Perfect match to Ragamuffin’s roasting prowess. What those 2 places brought to this stout was nothing short of black cold coffee heaven. I’m a fan of coffee beers. Big fan. This didn’t disappoint in that sense. The coffee took over the flavor profile which isn’t always a good thing. You still need to be able to taste the base beer. It does say “stout” on the label for a reason right? As much as the coffee flavor was amazing, it never let the stout come through. Usually I’m ok with that but this time it just didn’t work for me. This was a relatively fresh purchase from the brewery. Like less than a month old, and letting it sit longer, will let the coffee fade. I have plenty of these cans so I will return to the beer on a later date to see the difference.
Between the 2, I preferred the FW edition of the beer over Casa’s edition. Like by 1 point, 5/5 for FW’s, 4/5 for Casa’s. It’s that close. On stream the night I reviewed these beers, I did some science with them. I blended what was left in my 2 glasses. It was about half of a glass in each which created a full serving for me. The result was pretty amazing. The smoothness of the FW version basically cut the coffee out of the Casa version. It was there but it was so hard to find that original taste, it was as if it did get removed completely. Coffee was still there but in the form of a bourbon barrel stout more than a stout made with coffee. It was amazing. I plan to give this blend another go next time I have each of these beers.
They may never see this article and that’s fine, but I want to thank Weathered Souls brewing and Marcus B. for creating a special collaboration and movement amongst 1,100+ breweries from across the globe, to raise money and awareness to the racial injustice that has been going on in the US and the world for hundreds of years. Even if it’s something as small as a beer, seeing so many breweries come together for one cause, really shows the power of the beer community, speaks volumes about those companies, and the power of those consumers buying the beers to help those organizations continue to fight for others’ rights.
I’m just glad I was able to do a small part in this change that has been long overdue.
All the profits from this collaboration went to different charities and organizations around the world. Firestone Walker’s profits from the beer went to the NAACP Legal and Defense Education Fund. Casa Agria’s profits went to the Ventura County ACLU Defense Fund. You can read more about each org at these sites NAACP LDF and at ACLU.
Thank you for joining me on this very special journey into the Black Is Beautiful beer and it’s tasty tasty notes. If you would like to try this for yourself, head to the site here and scroll to the bottom under the title “for beer drinkers” and you will see a search feature that allows you to search by state and country of all the breweries that participated in this movement. I’m pretty sure there are still cans or bottles available. Some may even be able to ship to your door if your state or country allows alcohol to be shipped. Each brewery is doing their own donating so I would check their site or blog posts to see what org’s they are helping if that is a driving force towards your purchase.
Until next time friends! Cheers! Prost!