Beer Review 0532: 10 Barrel / Bluejacket / Stone Suede Imperial Porter

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The most recent collaboration beer from Stone Brewing Co. (Escondido, California) sees them teaming up with 10 Barrel Brewing Company of Bend, Oregon, and Bluejacket of Washington, D.C. for an Imperial Porter named for its texture: suede.

The collaborative idea came to fruition through email, where head brewers from 10 Barrel (Tonya Cornett) and Bluejacket (Megan O’Leary Parisi) decided to go with a high-alcohol, chocolatey porter. A few more emails later, the beer had suddenly become flavored with ingredients that could be obtained locally near Stone’s facility, where this beer was brewed. Suede Imperial Porter is brewed with avocado honey, jasmine, and calendula flowers. (A calendula is a marigold.)

The beer was released in a limited quantity in October; the ABV (alcohol by volume) comes in at 9.6%, and IBUs (International Bitterness Units) are 50.

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Pouring produced a small, creamy, light tan head that provided a nice, lasting cap. The beer was dark brown in color, with ruby highlights when held to a bright light. The body was clear, free of particles and sediment, and the lacing was excellent, leaving behind thin yet solid sheets of fine foam.

The aroma delivers sweet honey with equal parts milk chocolate and coffee up front, with backing notes of a nice roasted malt blend. The hops are herbal, and verge on some mild grapefruit rind; the large alcohol content is completely hidden, but this beer does kind of give off a grapey Imperial Stout note. Absent are the dark fruits that typically accompany the grape jam. As the beer warms, the roasted hit combines with a nice caramel note to really darken things up. What we have here is fairly typical for the style, but it’s fairly typical of a very good example of a Porter.

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On the taste, the avocado honey really comes out first, backing some nice thick caramel. It’s not too sweet, and the jasmine is a big player here, too. It hangs with this combination for a bit and you really notice the creamy, silky mouthfeel right away. A punch of dark fruits hit in the middle of the taste, backed up by the grape jam note found in the aroma. But on the taste, the dark fruits are here, as evidenced by raisin and prune. The grape flavor continues to the finish, which winds up with honey again, more jasmine, and minor finishers of milk chocolate and sweetened coffee. As it warms, there’s a growing grapefruit hop presence that doesn’t really provide any bitterness, just a pinch of dryness. Suede Imperial Porter is medium-bodied, with a medium mouthfeel that is very suede-like.

Smooth beer? Yes, achieved — and the other big achievement has to be the lack of alcohol on the aroma and taste. This is a big beer at 9.6%, but honestly, it drinks like a typical 5-6% Porter. You had better be careful with this one. The honey and jasmine add some interest to the flavor, but you have to recognize that this is just a very nice base beer that could probably stand alone without the “strange” ingredients. And marigolds? Never tasted one, so that’s just label speak to me.

10 Barrel / Bluejacket / Stone Suede Imperial Porter, 91 points. Price: $7.49 US for one 22 oz. bomber size bottle.

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