Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Beer Review, Week of Jan. 24: Fade to Black

This week's selection is a seasonal release from Left Hand Brewing Company, a regional brewery based out of Longmont, Colorado. The psychedelic black and white label reads 'Fade to Black Ale' [named after, or perhaps in homage to, the Metallica song?], and this beer represents the brewery's winter seasonal. It is touted as being perfect for "that time of the year when the day seems to fade away."

While technically an ale, in that the beer was brewed using a top-fermenting yeast, the style of the beer is better characterized as a foreign export stout. Foreign export stouts are a broad class of stouts that can encompass a variety of flavor profiles, ranging from flowery and sweet to dry and bitter.

The beer poured even, without an overabundance of carbonation being released immediately. A milkshake-thick, tan colored head formed, propelling the distinct aromas outward from the beer [see pic]. The head slowly settled, lacing beautifully onto the edges of the glass.

Fade to Black had a wonderful deep aroma that gave off hints of licorice and molasses, with a subtle coffee scent coming from underneath it all. The beer did not give off any overt alcoholic odor, despite weighing in there at 8.5% ABV. As far as appearances go, this beer was one of the darkest I have ever seen. The Left Hand website describes the color as being "black with ruby edges." I would describe the color as "black, period." Even held up to a light source, it was an extremely dark brew.

The beer started with a sweetness and maltiness that sat right upon the middle, fat part of the tongue. The residual aftertaste was surprisingly bitter and hoppy, a taste that might be best compared to a bitter baker's chocolate. And while the beer did not give off an alcoholic smell, the 8.5% ABV became clearly evident when tasting the beer. The mouthfeel on the beer was full bodied, and provided a roasty and smoky essence. The beer was extremely delicious and given its rich milkshake-like qualities, could go well with a scoop of vanilla-bean ice cream.

Style: Foreign Export Stout
ABV: 8.5%
IBUs: 30

As far as winter seasonal releases go, this offering from Left Hand delivered. I enjoyed it more than some of the Christmas seasonal beers I tried this year, simply because it was not overly spiced up, or over-embellished with any one particular flavor. It was rich but well-balanced, and delivered several intriguing and sequential tasting experiences [a nice bitterness at the end]. If you can still get your hands on some, I encourage you to give it a try.


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