Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Magic Hat "Odd Notion" - Fall 2009: Belgian Chocolate Stout


4.2
   AROMA 9/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 9/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 16/20
Chad9976 (597) - Albany, USA - MAR 27, 2010
With the continued growth of the craft beer industry I have been pleasantly satisfied to see so many mid-level breweries achieve supermarket distribution success. Beer snobs tend to mock the Magic Hat brewery for being “just a supermarket beer” and while I wouldn’t say they exactly on par with Dogfish Head, Rogue or Stone, the fact remains they make some tasty, very drinkable beers.

With their “Night of the Living Dead” mix pack for Fall, 2009 they have included a “Belgian Chocolate Stout” as the seasonal “Odd Notion.” Oftentimes, when American breweries market their beers as being “Belgian-style” it’s strictly a marketing gimmick, but in this case I’m willing to make an exception. I can’t say how close this beer is to a real Belgian chocolate stout (technically, it’s a Belgian dark ale), but for a beer in and of itself it’s impressive. Its mixture of chocolate, roasted malts and hop bitterness combined with a smooth finish all add up to make for one great beer.

APPEARANCE AND AROMA

When you hear the term “chocolate stout” a certain image comes to mind: a jet black beer with a dark brown, creamy head and that’s a dead-on description of this beer. It looks very inviting and tasty from the appearance alone, like dessert in a glass.

The aroma is strong with roasted malts and chocolate announcing their presence as soon as the bottle is opened. It’s similar to other chocolate beers I’ve had, which is a good indicator of how this beer will turn out.

TASTE

I’ve liked (and often LOVED) every chocolate beer I’ve ever had and yet it amazes me that some people still do not enjoy them. I don’t understand what’s not to like. Magic Hat’s Odd Notion has all the makings of beers of the style that I love: a complex palate of roasted (but not burnt) malts; milk chocolate and a bitter hoppy finish.

What distinguishes this beer from other American brews is its use of real Belgian yeast to give it just the slightest, Trappist-like taste. There is some spice on top of the chocolate to give it some pep, and perhaps a fruity taste of sorts (plum and apple). The flavor is much stronger on the finish and leaves a pleasant aftertaste that’s almost as strong as the initial swig.

The roasted malt flavor plays an almost equal role with the chocolate, but is milder than the more intense stouts. This is forgivable since that type of palate is for more discriminating tastes and I think Magic Hat is targeting a more pedestrian audience with this Odd Notion. I’m also impressed by how well the bitterness is balanced against the malt sweetness. At 50 IBUs this is at the level of a pale ale or IPA, but without any kind of dryness.

DRINKABILITY

Another reason I never understand people that dislike chocolate beers is the fact they’re some of the most drinker-friendly brews on the market. Belgian Chocolate Stout is surprisingly mild and just a bit watery in the initial sip, but all the flavor comes out in spades on the finish. The mouthfeel is actually quite soft, but noticeably weighty, but very drinkable overall. At 6.2% ABV it sounds much heavier than it feels, although I’d recommend drinking it instead of, rather than in addition to, dessert.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I’ve been drinking Magic Hat’s “Odd Notion” seasonal beers for almost two years now and have never been very impressed until now. Why they would choose to make such a high-quality beer a one-time-only brewing is rather perplexing. Still, as an addition to their mix pack ($14 - $20 depending on your area) it’s a totally worthy choice. I’d love to see it brewed year-round and sold on its own. I think it’s THAT good.

Grade: 9/10