When it comes to beer, intensity is defined in a lot of different ways. Intensity can mean big booze. Intensity can mean big hops. It can mean big malt, and it can mean just about anything that the drinker finds effectual beyond the norm.
Well, I’ve got one for you. Wrap your senses around a Southern Tier Brewing Company Crème Brulee Imperial Milk Stout, which is available widely around town at your favorite grog shops and at some of the beer serving venues that look for the better stuff. I discovered mine at Mo’s O’Brady’s in the Carr’s Huffman Mall on the south side of town.
Buy one of these, or order it up at your favorite watering hole, if they have it, it you can’t get it within an arm’s reach of your face before your schnauz is slapped with what you might expect of a beer with crème brulee in its name. Note that I didn’t mention stout. Yeah, this one’s stout, but not like your paradigm-driven mind might lead you to think. Your nose is going to tell you sweet, vanilla, buttery, full custard crème, and lots of it. Remember that last time you were out at perhaps Glacier Brewhouse, Sullivan’s or another fine dining establishment and you rounded out you evening with a crème brulee? This beer will take you right back there in a hurry.
So, what I’m saying is that this is not the beer you want to slaughter back after shoveling snow for 45 minutes on a cold afternoon. Finish that task, build a warming fire, grab a couple of goblets, toss your feet up on the coffee table and share this brew with the person who appreciates your hard work the most.
This one pours black. Hold it up to the fire in the background and you won’t see through it. The head is tan and holds throughout the sample, leaving interesting, conversational lacing down the sides of the glass as you relish is delicious sip after sip. And, sip you must. The intensity in aroma and flavor is almost overwhelming. Put the spoon down. At 9.6 percent alcohol, that’s easily buried in the flavor, you might have to spoon yourself to bed after drinking a 22 ounce bomber of this alluring stuff.
The flavor follows the nose entirely. Expect rich vanilla, almost oak-like notes, along with sweet, buttery essence, plenty of custard and just enough hop bitterness to keep the beer from being entirely cloying. It is cloying, but it’s balanced. Expect as well, some of that forgotten dark stout character including a compendium of dark malt essences, some rich roastiness that compliments the fire, and hopefully your mood in the background, a sweet, chocolaty center and just a hint of the big booze that might make you sleepy before you finish your pour. Feeling a little stout? Get warm with your honey after splitting a bottle of this and you might re-define stoutness.
Intensity can be good or bad in a beer, but if you look for intensity in flavor and richness, this beer truly delivers.
Get creative. Back up before the aperitif. This beer would pair lovely with a complementing, rich dessert. Did someone say crème brulee? Give it a shot. Maybe some nice seasonal chocolates that are showing up around town as we bust into the holiday season? As the label proclaims, think “black and white.”
Back up even more. Try this beer with soft cheeses. Wander into Fromagio’s Artisan Cheese at 1120 O’Malley Center Drive, Suite C, and ask one of the true professionals there what might pair up nicely with this rich, dark sweetish brew. Shhhh….don’t tell anyone, but I love the contrast between Crème Brulee and a hunk of pepperoni or wine salami right off the nub. Introduce a lamb or stew meal with this stuff. It’ll overpower lighter fare and even spicy salads, so find your match elsewhere in the kitchen. Warm up the palate before the gastrointestinal ride of making the food blend with the brew.
Southern Tier’s Crème Brulee Imperial Milk Stout is not your everyday, workhorse brew. It’s refined, distinguished and fine, but very in-your-face. It’s an oddity, but a very good one and should be on hand for whatever occasion you find fit.
Southern Tier makes a basket of different beers, not all of which we get up here in Alaska, but the brand is worthy of seeking out. Aside from this one, reach for their porter, pale, imperial IPA (if you want intensity in hops) imperial red ale (if malt forwardness is your forte) and for sure right now Pumpking (yes, I spelled that right) if you want a pumpkin-pie-in-your-face intensity that matches right up with Crème Brulee if bigness is your penchant. Okay, just find anything Southern Tier, and you can’t go wrong.
Gold Rush Liquors, Brown Jug Warehouse, La Bodega and Gold Rush Liquors (in Ester, just before Fairbanks) are best bets, although other liquor stores that pack big flavor will likely carry these brews as well.
When it comes to intensity, remember, it’s how YOU define it, not someone else, but if you like the big side, you’ll do well to monitor beers in this line.