Beer Review 0305: Left Hand Fade To Black, Volume 4

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Longmont, Colorado’s Left Hand Brewing Company was started in 1990 after Dick Doore received a home brewing kit for Christmas. For three years, Doore passionately made batch after batch, eventually getting his college buddy Eric Wallace involved.

Doore brewed the beer while Wallace brought along travel experience of being exposed to great beers all around the world. After passing their home brew around to friends and neighbors, becoming more confident in their craft, Wallace had an idea while drinking a stout they had made. “Let’s start a brewery.”

The original brewery was called Indian Peaks Brewing Company, but after finding another company was using the name for a style of beer, they changed to Left Hand, in honor of Indian Chief Niwot, whose tribe lived in the local area. ‘Niwot’ is an Arapahoe word for left hand.

Each fall, Left Hand put out a seasonal release in their Fade To Black series. I’ve reviewed two of the beers — Volume 2, released in 2010, was a Smoked Baltic Porter (I gave it 89 points), and Volume 3, released in 2011, was a Pepper Porter (91 points).

Volume 4 sees the brewery taking a different direction in the series; instead of a Stout or Porter, a traditional dark beer, they’re utilizing some hops this time and have created a Black Ale. Coming in at 6.5% ABV (alcohol by volume) and 64 IBUs (International Bitterness Units), this beer is hopped with Columbus and Centennial, and features 2-row, Munich, dark chocolate, Crystal, and Carafa malts.

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Pouring kicked up an average size head, creamy and fast diminishing. The color is as described on the bottle, dark black and opaque, with just a little bit of light getting though on the edges. The body looked to be clear and free of particles and sediment, and the lacing was great, leaving wispy trails all over my glass. Volume 4 is a very nice looking beer, and holds up to what you’d expect from the style.

Those Columbus and Centennial hops come through in the nose, mixing well with a blanket layer of coffee, which is supported by a hint of chocolate; the hops come over top with some orange and grapefruit. This beer is roasty and has notes of bread and grassy hops; as it warms, the coffee scent deepens.

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Tasting, there’s a faded orange hop up front, coupled with a mild roasted coffee. These flavors settle in before the middle opens up more, offering some toasted bread and more coffee; this time, black and slightly acidic. The finish brings on some solid bitterness, grapefruit, dark chocolate, and ample black coffee. This beer is medium-bodied but has a surprisingly thin mouthfeel, and it’s foamy when swirled around the tongue.

This is a very drinkable ale that surprised me with the amount of bitterness on the finish. This tastes like more than 64 IBUs, but it does work and my palate never tired. Another solid offering in this Fade To Black series from Left Hand. This is worth checking out. I could drink a couple of these in one sitting.

Left Hand Fade To Black, Volume 4, 88 points. Price: $1.79 US for one twelve ounce bottle.

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