Rating → 95 points
Stats: Chocolate Stout. 8.0% ABV, Bracebridge, Ontario.
Colour: Dark, nearly impervious deep brown with the slimmest of ‘red’ when backlit
Mouth Feel: Low-medium carbonation; excellent diacetyls to finish.
Pairing Notes: Burgers
The new year is not only the time for ‘new’ beers, it’s the time to really take a plunge in the deliciousness of “winter beers,” those beers that are typically bigger in flavour, have richer and darker malts, those with spices, and many with highly alcohol by volume which is more appropriate in the winter because it warms the cockles. (I said cockles, yes).
A great many special things in life take time to mature, time to develop, time to fall in love. Muskoka Brewery certainly fits into that category as brewer I liked, fell out of love with, dissed it for being too mainstream and conformist, and then fell in love with it again when I discovered their ‘vintage’ beers last year with their Legendary Oddity.
Now before I get all gushing about this beer, let me first wrap up first the things I disdain about it — and it is the same things I have remarked about with all their special editions. First and foremost is the beyond stupid cork they have chosen to cage these bottles. I have no idea what they’re thinking or if all the staff who do testing at the brewery have freakishly large and strong thumbs, but I have had to resort to carefully but tightly chomping down on the cork with my molars and rotating it out with my jaw. Not smart but it doesn’t strike me that a corkscrew is the answer either, but perhaps it is . Whatever the answer, they’ve clearly done no usability testing with their market which would determine that it is a ridiculous set up. Full- stop.
My other complaint is $14 for a $750mL bottle. WTF? Are you kidding? I mean this has to be beyond special to pay more money than a six-pack or average bottle of wine for a beer that measures two bottles (three, if you factor in the extra alcohol by volume). But even at that, you’re paying double you should. Take a look at the incredibly detailed and beautiful artwork and packaging and you can figure out where $2-3 went, but this is beer is $2 more than even the Oddity was last year. Why?
Well, one answer to the ‘why’ would be that this is freakin’ good … I mean really freakin’ good. You ask, “Can you put that in numbers, Dale, something we can relate to?” How about a 95 out of a 100 rating? Heck, it might even be better than that. It loses a small point for a slightly papery, astringent finish, but the rest is really me being a hard-ass teacher that has hard time giving out 100’s.
What is the beer? It’s a stout, a double-stout (aka “imperial” stout), a double chocolate stout, a double chocolate stout with cranberries. So if this beer is going to be measured, it should measured against itself and all the talk it talks all over its label. But let me tell you, from the aroma to the first taste to the final taste, you get the chocolate, you get the stout, and you get the cranberries. It’s all there and it tastes divine.
The combination of alcohol, malts, chocolate, and cranberries reminds me of the equally and freakishly amazing “Chocolaterie des Pères Trappistes” in Saguenay, Quebec who produce the most amazing wild blueberries covered in black dark chocolate … which if it weren’t made by monks, you’d think it was a sin to enjoy. Ok, focus Dale … back to the beer now.
What could have made this an intolerable beer would have been sweetness. What makes this beer work is that with the flavours of the cranberry which are subtle but unquestionably there from nose to final taste, there is the flavour and essence of a dark, unsweetened chocolate which moves this from candy to adult and onto aficionado. Imagine the best chocolatiere you can and now imagine they made beer. Got it? Now taste it ….
There is nothing overly complex about the beer. The beer is what the name and label say. It’s pretty straight forward and it is what it is, but perfect at that.
There is an exquisite bitterness that wraps the mouth with the creaminess of this beer that doesn’t become milk chocolate, but is more like a bitter sip of an imperial stout covered in malted barley powder (yes, that’s a real thing … and it’s good), and covered in dark dark chocolate before being ejected into the mouth, then immediately melting with another dash of stout.
I love this beer. I love it enough that even at the ridiculous prices they’re charging, I’m going to buy another two bottles and cellar them and see what magic happens with age. But act now and soon because these vintage beers get discontinued very soon.