This was my first post for Belching Monkey which I am republishing here.
I want to preface my review with a brief intro. I am something of a “food dude”, an espresso freak and a beer imbiber… not necessarily in that order. Now, as a morning person, I hold a special fondness for espresso. It might even be said I adore it. How the bean is chosen, picked, blended, roasted, aged after roasting, the grind, the brewing pressure/temperature/time…you get the picture, all important. Not a lot of ‘dunkin d’s for me. I also love beer! The chill, the tingle, the sound, the variety – a beer for every occasion, every mood. Nothing warms my heart like a “…cold beer on a hot Christmas morning” (Homer Simpson) So, very appropriate that my start as a BM correspondent is a review of a local brew here in Calgary, the Big Rock Espresso Stout. Beer and espresso – what could be better?
Upon opening, the initial waft of smell was amazingly underwhelming. I expected a stronger, heavy malt smell. What I got was a sweet, toasted barley odor, but very subtle. The pour was very reminiscent of a perfect espresso pull – dark, almost black with a thick, dense, crema like head.
The first sip was a fantastic surprise – almost carbonated on the tongue, a bit of gingerbread, lightly sweet yet very flavorful, a strong roasted barley flavor without a hint of bitterness. On the tail end of the swallow, there it was – the espresso. Not the bitterness normally attributed to espresso, but the sweet, almost oily slide of a perfect crema on a perfect espresso shot. As a way of explanation, only a very few espresso shots achieve the venerable “sweet” nomer. A perfect pull will extract only the most complete flavour attributes leaving all bitterness behind. The resulting taste, rather than being the normal “kick in the head” bitterness we are all accustomed to, is actually sweet and very thick and syrupy in consistency. What Big Rock has done, amazingly, is achieve that with their blend here. And no aftertaste, no bitterness whatsoever.
Interestingly enough, as the stout increased in temperature, the complexity of flavour increased as well. There was more caramel and chocolate coming across. So much so that since I was baking chocolate cupcakes for my daughter’s birthday while tasting, I decided to sample one at the tail end of my glass. Fantastic! Truly one of the only beers I have ever known that not only holds up against something as sweet as a cupcake, but actually added to the experience. The cupcake, bitten after the stout, achieved an almost smoky chocolate taste. And the espresso of the stout deepened and became even bolder, yet still without a hint of bitter.
Summary? A very sessionable stout that goes extremely well on its own but could shine as a dessert beer too. I will be keeping a case of this in my fridge to drink responsibly all through this holiday season.