Friday Froth: Take The Black

James Gribbon

Springing forward is an effective way to A) add more light to the day, and B) feed the wailing vacuum where Morning People's souls would otherwise reside. Morning people are real-life Dementors who funnel away our sleep, and schedule 8a.m. meetings in their quest to rob us of the precious joy of living, but I say no. No cheap bagels can replace my repose, no tray of institutional eggs, and no bacon cooked under a clothes iron is worth my limited hours on this Earth. So I turn my back on the light, and embrace the dark. Tell 'em, Ray

As you have no doubt already read here on CTBites, The Ginger Man in South Norwalk revived their Great Wall of Stouts last week, allocating fifteen taps to the blackest of beers, and even going so far as to darken their trademark copper tap wall.  

Highlights of the event included a 2011 vintage of the impeccable Imperial Stout Trooper from New England Brewing, the deservedly popular Founder's Breakfast Stout (made with coffee, naturally), boozy, heavy offerings which drink like a meal, like Oskar Blues Ten-Fiddy and North Coast Old Rasputin, and the one which immediately caught my eye, the new oatmeal/coffee stout from New England Brewing, Coup Beans

As this black ale pours, it develops a thick, tan head with some staying power. The aroma is of coffee, almost nothing else, and as I raised the glass I prepared myself to sup the bitter nectar of alcoholic Java grounds, but it was not so. The coffee is remarkably subdued in the taste, especially compared to the aroma, and is well cushioned by rich oats and the sharper, slightly dry, roasted barley. Coup Beans isn't a nitrogen stout like Guinness, it's carbonated, but it could just as easily have been made with helium for all the weight it has when you're drinking. It's amazing, and it disappears quickly. Get this while you can - it's still available at many locations where draft craft beer is taken seriously.

There is an imperial stout from MOA brewing in New Zealand at The Ginger Man which has apparently been aged in pinot noir barrels, but I couldn't detect any hint of the wine, apart from a vanishingly small hint of tannins. I suspect it could have benefited from about twice as much time in the barrels. Not bad, overall, though. There was a pervasive chocolate aspect to the beer. Just forget anything about the barrel aging. 

North Coast Old Rasputin XV did not have that problem. This one floats the level at just under 12% alcohol, and was aged in bourbon barrels which give the beer a sharp, smokey scent. The head burns down quickly above this black beer, and it's very strong and very heavy in all aspects. The malts drip with unfermented sugars and linger - shot through with hot whiskey notes to keep from being cloying. A few of these will have you preaching from your chair.

We have a new contender in the Connecticut beer scene with the arrival of DC Brau from our nation's capital. This beer has been making some waves in its home market after founders Brandon Skall and Jeff Hancock noticed none of the beers on D.C.-area shelves and taps were actually made in the District. "Fermentation Without Representation," as the brewers say. It's available in the home market, as well as local Maryland/Virginia stores, but now, through a somewhat unusual arrangement in which Murphy Distributors has arranged to import everything not sold in there, Connecticut has become the first state in which widespread access is possible. 

I was given a chance to sample a few of the earliest Braus to make it into CT, including: 

- The Public: a coppery pale ale with a big head and fairly heavy, though well balanced malt and hop characteristics with dry finish. 
- The Corruption IPA, which was similar to The Public, but dialed up quite a bit and significantly more bitter.
- The Citizen: a light, fruity Belgian pale ale, and
- Penn Quarter Porter, my favorite of the group. This one was an almost purpley black, with a big, khaki head and toasty aroma. It is deep and silky, and I was thinking about the cocoa notes as I watched the rings of this porter stick to the glass. The malts are certainly heavy here, as one would expect in a porter, but they're also very clean, even in the lingering aftertaste. CTBites' own Emma Doody told me Penn Qtr. Porter "is what made me like beer."

I only know two places which currently have DC Brau beers, and they're both in Noroton Heights: Glen Liquors (in cans) and Jimmy's Southside (on tap), but that list is likely to expand. 

Alright: so we're all happy to see the Sun again and catch the first faint whiffs of spring, but for now, let's remember the dark isn't always so bad.