With college over for Christmas, it's time for me to finally transcribe notes on some of the beer I've been enjoying over the past week or two. This trio of 'Back to Black' beers was a generous donation from Eight Degrees, along with a second bottle of each for, you know, rigorous quality control. Thanks Eight Degrees!
On the first day I started with Zeus, the black IPA. The aroma is gorgeous to begin with, with a rather potent and pungent tropical fruit and lemon peel nose, suggesting a plenty hoppy flavour. However, the palate begins in a different manner; roasty coffee and a touch hot, it does let some bitter citrus fruit stuff through the gaps, but not much. It's nice, but not half as nice as it smells. Maybe it's a good iteration of the style, but I wouldn't really know. My opinion of the Black IPA as a style is indifferent at best, with no examples ever hitting the spot like a good IPA or a good porter, and Zeus isn't doing anything to change my mind.
On to the Russian Imperial Stout at 9% ABV. The most eminent aroma characteristic here is coffee, followed by caramel chocolate and some dark fruits, before taking a brown sugar turn after some time. Promising. The taste delivers sticky malts, toffee chocolate and bitter dark roasted coffee flavours on a thick and full body. While it may not quite reach the heights of, say Black Chocolate, it's a much smoother and more drinkable imperial stout. Kindred Spirit was supposed to be Irish stout reborn, but this has blown that out of the water.
The following day I was very excited to be popping open the Aztec Stout, a beer that's seen the intervention of cocoa nibs, vanilla pods and chipotle chillies. Despite the interesting additions, the aroma is more subdued than I'd expected, with milk chocolate and - you guessed it - coffee making up the bulk of it, with perhaps a hint of chilli somewhere in the background. The taste is roasty and chocolatey and this time there's no mistaking the spicy heat of chilli on the back of the throat after each swallow. Interesting to say the least, but I found the body wanting, especially compared (however unfairly) to the Imperial stout the night before.
A commendable effort that gives us two decent beers and one really good one. A good, Irish imperial stout is perfectly timed for Christmas too.