Tuesday, February 14, 2017
Valentine Sherpa: Love Potion #9
No beer sounds better on paper than a fruit stout--and that's where I first encountered the idea. It appeared in the recipes section of Charlie Papazian's classic Complete Joy of Homebrewing (in print since 1976!), and seemed so obvious. What goes better with cherry than chocolate? Alas, no beer more often fails to live up to our expectations than a fruited stout. I have had maybe five in the last twenty years that were good, but none that fully lived up to the simple obviousness of the concept--until now.
Just in time for Valentine's Day, Block 15 has released a seductive treat equal to its billing. Love Potion #9 is a raspberry rather than cherry stout, and melts like a chocolate truffle on the tongue. The challenge to this style is finding the balance, of ratcheting back the flavors so they don't overwhelm each other. The effect of the beer should be decadence; brewers almost always shoot too high, though, finding excess instead. Love Potion succeeds because the intense, silken dark chocolate that floods the mouth is immediately followed by the slightly tart berry. That acidity is key; it adds structure and restraint to the various sweet notes swirling around. The beer is, for its style, dry; another key to success. As you can see, I had a pint, and never did the berry-and-chocolate sweetness begin to collect on my palate. Each sip was an infusion of intensity but never excess, allowing my senses to revisit the sensation of a liquid truffle over and over again. It is almost impossible to imagine that I would not only drink a whole pint of this stuff, but consider going in for a second. But there it was.
This is the beer I imagined when I read about it all those years ago.
"Beer Sherpa Recommends" is an irregular feature. In this fallen world, when the number of beers outnumber your woeful stomach capacity by several orders of magnitude, you risk exposing yourself to substandard beer. Worse, you risk selecting substandard beer when there are tasty alternatives at hand. In this terrible jungle of overabundance, wouldn't it be nice to have a neon sign pointing to the few beers among the crowd that really stand out? A beer sherpa, if you will, to guide you to the beery mountaintop. I don't profess to drink all the beers out there, but from time to time I stumble across a winner and when I do, I'll pass it along to you.