Friday, December 3, 2010

Southern Tier Choklat (2010)


4.9
   AROMA 10/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 10/10   PALATE 5/5   OVERALL 20/20
Chad9976 (617) - Albany, USA - FEB 1, 2010
I’ve never considered myself a fan of "big beers." Although I appreciate the intense taste that often accompanies a beer of the "imperial" style, more often than not I find the overt alcoholic presence distracting (if not off-putting). However, the brewers at Southern Tier seem to have the magic touch when it comes to making truly tasty and highly drinkable imperial beers. As impressed as I’ve been with them in the past, I am absolutely astounded by "Choklat" - their imperial chocolate stout.

This is not a Russian Imperial which is a big, bold, roasty beer that happens to have a chocolaty taste. No, this is a chocolate stout first and foremost with the boldness that comes with an imperial-type beer. It’s absolutely delicious to say the least.

APPEARANCE AND AROMA

As soon as I popped the cap to my 22oz bomber I could smell the rich chocolate malts to Southern Tier Choklat. As it poured, the chocolate announced its presence loud and cloud with a rich presence of high-end milk chocolate similar to Godiva or Ghirardelli candy. The alcohol is not noticeable in the least bit, although there is just a touch of "heat" to the nose.

The beer pours to a shade of opaque black. While this is a common appearance for stouts, the difference is there is no hints of ruby red around the edges. It forms a fairly small, light brown, frothy head which dissolves slowly and leaves minor lacing on the glass. The head reforms itself quite thick if the glass is swirled with enough vigor.

TASTE

I’ve drank many chocolate stouts before and most of them I have really enjoyed, but none have blown my hair back quite as far as Southern Tier Choklat on the first sip. As soon as the foam hit my lips I received the exact same taste sensation as eating a piece of gourmet chocolate candy. I guess this shouldn’t be surprising considering this beer is indeed made with real "bittersweet Belgian chocolate" as indicated on the bottle itself.

This is quite possibly the richest, creamiest, smoothest chocolate I’ve ever tasted in a chocolate stout. It’s a very bold flavor with a bit of a warmth to the finish which does not upstage or overshadow the chocolate in the least bit. This is as close as a beer will probably get to liquid chocolate.

But then again this IS a beer so shouldn’t there be presence of hops and malts? Choklat is brewed with Chinook and Willamette hops in the kettle which gives the beer just a touch of a bitter presence up front, but it finishes extremely smooth and rich thanks to the caramel and chocolate malts. Unlike a Russian Imperial, there is no presence of deeply roasted or even burned malts here - just slightly toasted ones. The sweetness is similar to that found in many oatmeal or milk stouts, but the chocolate presence is so strong you seem to forget you’re drinking beer.

DRINKABILITY

I don’t think there’s a better beer on the market today better suited for any kind of blind tasting since Southern Tier Choklat seems to defy its statistics. If you were to drink this beer not knowing it was 11% ABV you would not be able to guess this. Sure, you might think it’s 7, 8 or maybe even 9%, but not 11. How can a beer with such a creamy, velvety mouthfeel and only a slightly warming sensation as it finishes be so potent?

Drinking this beer is similar to taking a bite out of a slightly melted but high-end milk chocolate candy. The chocolate seems to coat the tongue in its rich sweetness and leaves a very pleasing aftertaste. It’s not sugary or gimmicky as the high alcohol content seems to compliment the sweetness quite well so as not create for an artificial sweetener-like taste many gimmicky beers seem to have.

FINAL THOUGHTS

If I had to find a flaw with Southern Tier Choklat it would be the fact it’s only sold in 22oz bombers and is rather expensive (I paid $9 for my bottle). The first serving did not effect me much at all, but after the second serving I had quite a buzz going (although I was able to write this review while drinking it - so either I’m either a great write who can tolerate a buzz or this beer isn’t quite as strong as its 11% ABV would indicate). Also, Southern Tier is still a burgeoning brewery and their beers are not available everywhere. But if you’re able to find a bottle I HIGHLY recommend picking one up regardless of price.

Not only is this one of, if not THE tastiest beer I’ve ever drank, at the very least it’s the most impressive by virtue of the fact it could be so flavorful, so easily drinkable and have such a genuine chocolate taste without smelling, tasting or feeling "boozy" in the least. That’s what I call an outstanding beer.

Grade: 10/10