Beer Review 0311: Mother Earth Silent Night Imperial Stout

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Mother Earth Brewing is a local brewery to me, headquartered in Kinston, North Carolina. Started in 2008, the founders are Trent Mooring and Stephen Hill, both of whom had a love for home-grown vegetables and hand-crafted beer. These two men became family when Trent married Stephen’s daughter — and when Stephen, who had been home brewing beer since the mid-1980’s, gave Trent a taste of his “Red Eye,” a beer made with tomato juice, the two forged an even deeper bond.

After listening to some old vinyl albums from the 1960’s, the idea for Mother Earth came about. And as the name suggests, this brewery is environmentally friendly, using solar panels for power, recycled blue jeans for insulation; even tap handles are made from bamboo. And they’re growing their own hops.

Silent Night is a limited release beer that comes out each December. Aged in bourbon barrels, this Imperial Stout comes in at 9% ABV (alcohol by volume) and is brewed with Counter Culture coffee, which is located in nearby Durham, North Carolina. The bottle comes corked and caged and carries a toothy price tag.

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When I finally got the cork out (this one was a beast!) the pour yielded a small, soapy head, light tan in color, and it didn’t hang around long. The color of the beer was a dark black, opaque, but with lighter brown edges when swirled in the light. The body appeared to be clear and free of particles and sediment; lacing was sparse at first, then non-existent in the later stages of drinking.

For a beer brewed with specialty coffee, you don’t get much on the nose. The barrel aspect completely takes over here, issuing up layer upon layer of coconut, vanilla, and bourbon. What a great problem to have, eh? These aromas mix with the standards of caramel, chocolate, and a dash of dark fruit. Way in the background, I detected a touch of smoke, which rounded things out nicely. As it warmed, some dark acidic coffee came through, along with an amping up of booze (undetectable when first poured).

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Tasting, the tongue is greeted with vanilla and coconut, which quickly collides with decadent dark chocolate, producing an excellent and pleasant flavor. In the middle of the taste, the coffee comes to the front, and it continued to do so more prevalently as the drink warmed. The flavors are deep and highly concentrated, bringing on a finish that lasts a couple of minutes, hitting the taste buds with lots of dark chocolate, coffee, and a dash of hot bourbon. The finish starts out rather sweet but fast turns black coffee bitter, with a slight acidic note. Silent Night is full-bodied, has a medium, foamy mouthfeel and a soft carbonation.

This is a great barrel aged stout; excellent flavors, a nice palate of barrel characteristics and traditional stout choruses. What’s missing here is body — I expected this to be a thick, chewy brew…sadly, it was not, coming in at what I call medium-medium, which is the midpoint of…medium. I also found the final part of the finish to be a bit too bitter; I desire a bit more sweetness. Still, this is a good example of a beer that knows when to quit with the barrel and throw in just the right amount of stout. And it’s daringly drinkable.

Mother Earth Silent Night Imperial Stout, 96 points. Price: $17.99 US for one 750 ml corked & caged bottle.

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