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.
SIGHT and SMELL
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
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.