Friday, May 10, 2013

Black Diamond Brandy Barrel Grand Cru (2011 vintage)

4.5
   AROMA 9/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 9/10   PALATE 5/5   OVERALL 18/20
Chad9976 (877) - Albany, New York, USA - MAY 10, 2013
I received a 22oz bottle in a trade with a friend in California (thanks, Mario!). I poured it into a Trappist chalice. There was no freshness date other than its 2011 vintage.

Appearance: Dark burgundy/mahogany hue, slightly translucent. Plenty of fine carbonation seen at the glass’s edge. Forms a small, beige, foamy/soapy head which mostly dissipates and doesn’t leave much lacing.

Smell: Dark red fruit with classic Belgian yeast character, plus significant chocolate presence.

Taste: There’s a lot of creativity to Black Diamond Brandy Barrel Grand Cru. Though technically a Belgian-style dubbel, the addition of vanilla bean as well as the aging in brandy barrels, really makes for a creative and impressive (dare I say amazing) beer. For a traditional Belgian style brew, it’s surprisingly American in character. Big and bold in pretty much all aspects, yet not cloying or imbalanced.

It’s actually a difficult palette to describe. The base recipe is that of an Abbey-style dubbel, yet that character is only noticeable at the beginning of the serving. The barrel-aging, combined with the addition of vanilla beans, create for a one-two punch of delicious woody/chocolaty flavors. You wouldn’t think these would complement each other, but they do surprisingly well. The dark and dried fruits of apple, cherry, fig, raisin and currants are all prominent as well, especially on the finish. Not much in the way of sourness or tartness, though, but there’s no overt wine character either (all of which is fine by me). This is a pretty delicious palate worthy of the "Grand Cru" designation.

Drinkability: I was pleasantly surprised by how drinkable Black Diamond Brandy Barrel Grand Cru was, as I assumed it would be an intense sipper. The mouthfeel is on the thicker and heavier end of the spectrum, but the body is calm, soft and comfortable. It goes down smooth with a mild malty/fruity aftertaste. The 9% ABV is a perfect size for this beer since it has definite weight, but nothing obese or overtly boozy. A great stand-alone dessert beer, but would pair well with the right gourmet food I’m sure. 
Grade: 10/10