Beer Review 0387: Aviator Black Mamba Bourbon Barrel Aged Oatmeal Stout
Aviator Brewing Company are located in Fuquay Varina, North Carolina (near the state capital of Raleigh) and are appropriately named — the brewery began producing beer in an airplane hangar, using retrofitted dairy equipment.
In 2010, just two short years after opening, Aviator moved to a larger location just a few miles away, where they continue to grow. Recently, they installed a canning line and began canning some of their beers. They also have a tap house and a smokehouse, where they smoke meat and cook barbecue.
Aviator distributes to North Carolina, South Carolina, and parts of Kentucky and Florida. Today’s beer is their Black Mamba Oatmeal Stout, which is aged in American oak bourbon barrels for several weeks. Aviator makes a non-barrel aged version of this brew, but strangely enough, it’s not bottled. The barrel-aged Black Mamba is brewed with molasses, comes in at 6.5% ABV (alcohol by volume), and a very bitter 87 IBUs (International Bitterness Units). I’m wondering if that IBU number isn’t a mistake; after all, this is an Oatmeal Stout…
Release from bottle produced a small, creamy, tan colored head that lasted. The beer was very dark brown, almost black, and had a clear body that featured only a dusting of light sediment. The lacing was very nice, leaving behind creamy spider web sheets all along my glass.
The nose reminded me of a classic bourbon barrel aged stout; there’s plenty of nice bourbon up front, not too hot, coupled with vanilla and chocolate. There’s coffee and caramel, which contribute to the sweetness, and just a touch of pine hops on the back end. Lingering in the mix are woodsy oak, and the whole aroma really reminded me of a nice cake batter. Sweet!
But things began to change a little on the taste. Those 87 IBUs I thought might have been a mistake? Oh, they’re here, alright: lots of pine bitterness from the get-go, which mixes with bourbon and dark chocolate. I can’t say that the pine and bourbon mix well together; it’s fairly astringent but subsides to a nice middle of the mouth, which smooths out into more of an Oatmeal Stout with chocolate, coffee, and oaked bourbon. There’s even a creamy texture for a fleeting moment, until the finish, where the hops kick back up and deliver a massive wall of grapefruit/pine bitterness and hot bourbon. Black Mamba is full-bodied, with a thin, foamy mouthfeel.
This beer is more like a Black IPA than an Oatmeal Stout. And honestly, the bourbon doesn’t exactly play well with the hops but for half of the taste. Decent flavors are here, but this beer is odd. Worthy of a try, but go in thinking barrel aged Black IPA, not Oatmeal Stout.
Aviator Black Mamba Bourbon Barrel Aged Oatmeal Stout, 85 points. Price: $9.99 US for one 22 oz. bomber size bottle.