Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Beer That Does Not Exist ...

There is a beer that does not exist.  Search for it on the brewer's website and you are left with nothing.  Literally, nothing.

But there are rumors.  If the beer existed, it is a "robust stout," brewed in secret.  If the beer existed, the brewers trained the beer in bourbon barrels for four months.  Having passed that training, the beer faced its final test ... being bottled flat in a bottle and re-fermented with Champagne yeast.  That is, if the beer actually existed. 

There have been sightings.  Anywhere from 1,000 to 1,200 cases ... total during a year.  Those cases hide in the crowd of millions of barrels of Miller Genuine Draft, Rolling Rock and Bud Light.  Very rarely, individual bottles emerge on the store shelves, only to be strike at the hearts of beer aficionados and beer lovers, like myself.  

After one long and bad day, I was staring at the store shelves, looking at dozens of beers that I've seen in the past.  Then, I caught a glimpse of the beer that does not exist.  One bottle.  No price tag.  I turned to the employee stocking the shelves and asked him, what about this beer?  He said, it was the last bottle.  Someone asked the employee to set it aside, but the employee felt that he could not do that. The bottle re-emerged on the shelf.  I grabbed the bottle and, as I looked at the label, the employee explained that the store had gotten only one case, which had basically been sold within a couple of days.  There was only one bottle left.  I asked how much the beer cost, as if it actually mattered.  The decision had been made. 

So, I purchased a bottle of the beer that does not exist ... Brooklyn Black Ops.  The Brooklyn Brewery, and its head brewer Garrett Oliver, brew this beer in the style of a Russian Imperial Stout aged in Woodford Reserve bourbon barrels.  The brewer describes the beer as "creating big chocolate and coffee flavors with a rich underpinning of vanilla-like oak notes."  This description is actually an understatement.  

The Black Ops pours pitch black, with a caramel hued foam. The aroma gets the nose with Woodford bourbon and Madagascar vanilla.  Perhaps the aromas of Bourbon vanilla, i.e., vanilla from the island of Bourbon in the Indian Ocean.  Wherever the vanilla came from, its sweetness and alcohol warm the drinker before even the first taste.

The taste of this beer ranks as definitely one of the best barrel-aged beers that I have tasted and, one of the best beers that I have tried.   The chocolate, bourbon, and vanilla elements were clear and well-defined.  These flavors dominated the front and middle of each taste.  As the finish emerged, the coffee flavors arose and grabbed the edges of the tongue.  As the beer is consumed, the warmth from the 10.7% ABV becomes noticeable, or maybe that is just the smile of contentment.

With only 1,000 to 1,200 cases produced a year, the Black Ops is hard to find.  It is also quite expensive, at $25.99 a bottle.  However, in this case, the beer is definitely worth the price. 


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