Well, here goes nothing...
For my first review, I decided to sample a brew from a brewery that I know and love, New Belgium Brewing (plus, I already had the matching glassware). One of my favorite beers of all-time, is their summer seasonal, Skinny Dip. Yet, the brewery is probably most well-know for its flagship beer, Fat Tire, which can be found on tap at numerous locales throughout Northern California.
The 1554 Enlightened Black Ale is one of seven beers that New Belgium produces year-round [part of the "Our Folly" lineup], although it is not as easily found as Fat Tire. The bottle states that 1554 "redefines the phrase keeping time in a bottle." Further, it boasts a "surprisingly bright taste and a dry, chocolaty finish..." My weekly beer review provided me with a great excuse to pour one!
The pour was smooth, creating a nice head on the beer that stuck around for a few sips. I found the beer to be a little bubbly at first, but this might have been caused by my storage of the beer on its side and opening it too quickly (you can sort of see the carbonation in the pic...I know, I know that B+ in undergrad photography sure doesn't show! I will be working on improving the quality of the photos...).
SIGHT and SMELL
The beer simply looks delicious; I wanted to drink it right away. The hue was a deep brown, certainly darker than an IPA or an amber (Fat Tire), but much lighter than a stout (or a Xingu Black Beer - which will probably be the beer I fall back to for comparison on this one extreme). Also, the beer was quite aromatic throughout the pour, as I was hit with a pleasant smell, rich and chocolaty, with just a subtle hint of that alcohol 'beer-smell' (not too overpowering).
My first sip was outstanding, everything that I was expecting. Very malty, just the right level of sweetness and very flavorful. My only criticism of the beer was that as I continued to sip it, it lost some of its initial smoothness. The beer developed a slightly bitter edge, eclipsing some of the more initially pleasing flavors of the beer. On their website, New Belgium recommends a pairing of 1554 with "meat stew" or desserts, like chocolate- or cheesecake. 1554 would pair well with practically anything off the grill (they also, interestingly suggest beet greens as a potential menu item).
Style: Belgian Dark Ale
Overall, I will definitely seek out this beer again. It has much more character than your generic dark beer (e.g., a Guinness), and it is satisfyingly delicious. 1554 is certainly on par with the level of quality that I have come to expect from New Belgium's line of brews. Be sure to look out for this one, if New Belgium's brews are available where you live (unfortunately, not NY).