Beer Review 0350: Epic Big Bad Baptist Imperial Stout
Review #350! Epic Brewing Company hails out of Salt Lake City, Utah, and they primarily focus on high alcohol content beer. Operations started in 2008, when Utah modified its state laws and higher ABV (alcohol by volume) beers could be produced — the founders are David Cole and Peter Erickson, both of whom shared a longtime dream of opening a microbrewery.
The company divides its offerings into three different series: Classic, Elevated, and Exponential. As you might expect, the beers get more extreme and creative with each jump of series; Big Bad Baptist, the beer I’m looking at today, belongs in the Exponential series.
Beers in the Exponential series see release in batches — each batch is brewed a bit different, whether it be ingredients or different aging barrels, or anything, really. The batch of Big Bad Baptist I’m sampling is release 10, which was brewed on August 24, 2012, and bottled on November 15 of the same year. The malt list for this beer is lengthy: Muntons Maris Otter, Briess 2-Row, Crystal Muntons, Weyermann Light Munich, 2-Row Chocolate, 2-row black, and roasted barley. This beer is brewed with Ibis coffee (Gayo Mountain Sumatra Dark) and cocoa nibs; it was then aged in both whiskey and bourbon barrels. The whiskey barrels were first-use, while the bourbon casks were second-use. Coming in at 11.4% ABV, this is one Big Bad Imperial Stout for sure.
Releasing from the bottle produced a small, dark brown and fizzy head, which quickly disappeared. The color of the beer was pitch black, with no lighter edges. I could tell as I poured that this didn’t have any particles or sediment, as it didn’t pour muddy or thick. Lacing was very nice, leaving a nice film on my glass.
On the nose, as soon as I opened the bottle, I got rich, opulent notes of dark chocolate and coffee. The coffee is nearly burnt and is very strong while the chocolate reminded me of melted cake icing. Subtle barrel notes were also present, showing a trace of bourbon and a nice flurry of vanilla. There are touches of dark fruit, and the overall vibe to my nose is that of dessert, sweet, but with lots of body.
The taste is initially sweet, starting off mild with roasted coffee and some chocolate, but hold on — a short display of dark cherries bring on layer after layer of dark chocolate. There’s a steady mild vanilla presence, before this finishes solid on dark chocolate and black, burnt coffee. The kind of coffee you’d find in a convenience store at 4 AM that’s been sitting in the pot all night. There’s a moderate bitterness and acidity, and the closing note bites with a hint of woodsy smoke. Full-bodied, the mouthfeel is thick and foamy, with soft carbonation.
I was really expecting more barrel components to this beer, especially given that it is aged in two different types of wood. But what we have here is still impressive; the chocolate and coffee flavors are spot-on, strong and powerful. The most shocking thing about Big Bad Baptist: at 11.4% ABV, you don’t taste or feel a single percentage of it — in fact, this beer drinks better than most 6-9% brews. Outstanding, but not quite to the classic level.
Epic Big Bad Baptist Imperial Stout, 94 points. Price: $11.99 US for one 22 oz. bomber size bottle.