Beer Review 0439: Southern Tier Crème Brûlée Imperial Stout
Southern Tier have been brewing beer in Lakewood, New York since 2002. Their goal is to get back to small batch brewing, and the beer we’re looking at today is part of their “Blackwater Series,” a grouping of high ABV (alcohol by volume) beers released in 22 ounce bomber size bottles. While not limited release beers, these bottles can be hard to find as the brews are released only one time per year.
Since 2009, the brewery has continually expanded, and the bottling line at Southern Tier can churn out 10,000 bottles per hour. The company’s brews are now distributed in about half of the United States and several foreign countries.
Crème Brûlée is released each June; brewed to 9.5% ABV, the beer is actually an Imperial Milk Stout. A Milk Stout is a beer brewed with lactose, an unfermentable sugar used to add sweetness to beer. This beer is also brewed with vanilla beans.
The pour produced a small, creamy, and lasting tan head. Color of the beer was dark brown, and the body was clear, free of particles and sediment. When held to bright light, the brew is translucent. Lacing is excellent, leaving thin foam all around the glass.
On the nose, WOW. This beer smells amazing and unlike any other beer I have ever sniffed. In fact, it doesn’t smell like beer at all; this smells like hot chocolate made with real bars of chocolate, combined with a bottle of imitation vanilla. There’s a bit of very sweet coffee in here, too; otherwise, there aren’t any classic beery scents to report. Wild and incredible — like vanilla chai or latte. With whipped cream.
But the taste doesn’t hold to the same high accolades. Up front, we’ve got creamy and milky vanilla, which opens up to some bittersweet dark chocolate. There’s raw, shaved vanilla bean and burnt sugar. Is this crème brûlée? Well, yes, until a stark edge of bitterness sweeps into the finish and sort of ruins things. This beer is monstrously sweet until the sharp bitter end; yep, it’s too sweet, but honestly, had the sweetness continued, it would have been better than the sharp drop-off into bitter land. Just before the bitterness drops, there’s a hint of hazelnut; as the beer warms, the bitterness picks up a mild alcohol note.
Certainly this is an incredible feat in a bottle given the fact it is called “beer.” This does not taste like beer at all, and this is not highly drinkable. Crème Brûlée is a bottle you’ll want to split many different ways, but that said, you must try it because it’s so unique.
Southern Tier Crème Brûlée Imperial Stout, 87 points. Price: $8.99 US for one 22 oz. bomber size bottle.