Beer Review 0330: Southern Tier Choklat Imperial Stout
Southern Tier Brewing Company have been in the beer business since 2002, when founders Phineas DeMink and Allen Yahn started the brewery with the goal of reviving small batch brewing. At first, this goal was a reality — using equipment gained from the purchase of Old Saddleback Brewing Company, various beers were distributed in and around the Lakewood, New York area. The distribution circle quickly expanded to New York City, and then to the entire New York State. Small batch, not so much.
That’s what happens when you make good beer. The rest, as they say, is history. Since 2009, the brewery has continually expanded, and the bottling line at Southern Tier can crank out 10,000 bottles per hour. The company’s brews are now distributed in about half of the United States and several foreign countries.
Part of their Blackwater Series, Choklat Imperial Stout takes inspiration from a beverage known as xocoatl (cho-co-atle), an ancient Mayan drink made with, of course, chocolate. Chocolate played a special role in both Maya and Aztec royal and religious events, with priests serving chocolate drinks during sacred ceremonies, and offering up cacao seeds as offerings to the gods.
I don’t think Southern Tier’s intentions are quite that serious, but hey, chocolate in beer can be a serious thing. Coming in at 10% ABV (alcohol by volume), which is serious strength — this brew is made with two types of hops, four varieties of malt, and bittersweet Belgian chocolate. Choklat sees release once per year, in November.
The pour yielded a small, dark tan head, soapy in texture and fast diminishing. The beer was a very dark brown, just like dark chocolate, and was opaque but did have lighter brown edges. The body appeared to be clear and free of particles and sediment, and lacing was sparse, only leaving behind a couple strands of suds here and there.
The nose reminded me very much of creamy chocolate brownies; the actual chocolate itself was in between milk and dark; it also reminded me of microwave fudge. This beer is quite sweet and does offer a bit more than just chocolate: there’s also some caramel, toffee, and burnt sugar. As it warms, a large note of vanilla started to come out, and the unmistakable scent of marshmallows. Nice.
The initial sip offers a big hit of dark chocolate that contains just the right amount of sweetness to not be cloying. Middle of the mouth sees the drink open up and produce some dark fruits, like raisins. The finish brings on another blast of creamy dark chocolate, some burnt toast, and a mild cherry. As the beer warmed, the vanilla found on the nose came out even more, and so did the marshmallow. Let it warm even further to room temperature, and the chocolate takes on a Nestle Quik syrup-like quality. I found Choklat to be full-bodied with a foamy, medium mouthfeel, and the finish was bittersweet, but more sweet than bitter. The 10% ABV rears its head after the swallow, warming the throat and chest.
Without a doubt, Southern Tier have made a nice chocolate beer. However, I’ve had other beers that weren’t advertised as chocolate bombs that tasted more like chocolate, and had an even creamier or pleasant texture. Still, there’s something to be said for the subtle complexities going on in this beer, and I think it’s worth a try — I think you’ll either find it very good or you’ll want to go buy five cases.
Southern Tier Choklat Imperial Stout, 92 points. Price: $8.99 US for one 22 oz. bomber size bottle.