Beer Review 0444: Clown Shoes Porcine Unidragon Imperial Stout

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Clown Shoes beer is contract brewed by Mercury Brewing Company in Ipswich, Massachusetts. Having only been around for three years, Clown Shoes have made a big impact on the craft beer scene, producing several high quality barrel aged Imperial Stouts — with accompanying reasonable price tags. I know that I was a little leery of the company at first, but after tasting several of their beers, they are some of the highest rated on this website.

The beer we’re tasting today is a version of their Blaecorn Unidragon (original review, 96 points) that uses beechwood smoked malts. Named Porcine Unidragon (a ‘blaecorn unidragon’ is a combination of a dragon and unicorn) for the meaty flavors the smoked malts impart, this beer is 100% aged in bourbon barrels. The ABV (alcohol by volume) comes in at 12.5%.

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Porcine Unidragon pours with a small, creamy dark tan head that lasts atop a pitch black, true-to-style opaque beer. As I poured, I noticed it appeared to contain no sediment; as for the body, you’re guess is as good as mine because it’s too dark to see if it’s cloudy or not. Lacing is good, and there are plenty of alcohol legs to watch ease down the glass when the beer is swirled. This is an imposing looking brew.

On the nose, the beechwood smoked malt is heavy at first, but when allowed to settle in the glass for a minute, the bourbon characteristics begin to shine through, relegating the smoke to just a background player. Big, sweet tones of vanilla and dark chocolate shine through, along with rich coffee, caramel, and a touch of dark fruits (prunes). As it warms, the smoke starts to become more prevalent, again; it’s like freshly chopped wood smoke, not barrel or aged wood smoke. In general, excellent.

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In short, this is a classic bourbon barrel aged stout, quite sweet and moderately boozy, but the smoked malts reign these big flavors in and provide a good bit of balance. Up front, the palate is hit with toned down bourbon and vanilla, and a good bit of ashy smoke. The smoke is meaty and while I wouldn’t call it bacon-like, it is like a meat you put on your grill with some wood chips that is slow cooked. The smoke adds a good deal of bitterness, but it is tempered with massive waves of dark chocolate and vanilla, and a mild to (as it warms) growing blast of alcohol, leading to a finish that gives a fresh wash of bourbon, woodsy smoke, and lingering dark chocolate. Full-bodied, the mouthfeel is thick and creamy, and the alcohol hit is more of a feeling than a taste, especially in the nose. After half a glass, I can feel it.

Score up another winner for Clown Shoes! I think the beechwood smoked malt adds a much needed balance to what would normally be a big, ballsy, sweet beer. It’s still big and ballsy, but I can easily drink my way through this bomber without needing an appointment at my dentist. And this needs to be said in size ninety font: smoke and bourbon go oh-so-well together. What a value this bomber of beer is, and I’m thinking only terrific things will happen if you store one for a year or two.

Clown Shoes Porcine Unidragon Imperial Stout, 95 points. Price: $9.99 US for one 22 oz. bomber size bottle.

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