The Black One
At its inception, Imperial Stout was a savage concoction. The Russian czars’ thirst for stouts could not be quenched, and English and Irish producers couldn’t produce beer that would survive the brutal cold of a month-long trip to St. Petersburg. Their answer was a beer that could withstand any voyage; a brew so high in alcohol that it would not spoil, and so flavorful from roasted malts that it would still taste amazing in the event that it did. Imagine bulging barrels of viscous beer the color of crude oil, hefted deftly one after another by British maritime brutes. Cargo hulls full of alcoholic ballast destined for the dead city of the Eastern Lords …
Black Flag Imperial Stout evokes the evil spirit of its English ancestor. The head churns in your glass like the dark version of the foam from which Aphrodite emerged; it’s fluffy and thick, but has a caramel tint that precludes something less than loving. Your tongue, relieved of saliva, almost ventures down your gullet with the black torrent, leaving a long finish that starts by coating your uvula with hooch molasses. The generous hops quickly segue into lasting coffee notes that are more fruity than chocolatey—almost behaving like a lighter roasted coffee with the viscosity and kick of a super-short shot of espresso. The boozy flavors linger between your teeth so vividly that chewing seems more than reasonable. Don’t bite your tongue.
Yeah, all Imperial Stouts exhibit these flavors and feelings, but whereas Stone’s or Avery’s (both of which we revere) are like a charged black metal ballad brutalizing your mouth in quick, jolting blows, Black Flag inverts the temporal field of your palate. The sound of steeling a knife goes from a quick "shikkk" to a long, lulling sine wave of metal on metal. The northwest brewers of Black Flag emerge in the New Mexican desert like skeletal Bedouins, hauling earthen kegs from an undead sock hop at some brew-court in Portland, where zombie hipsters wink sunken eyes and sip frothy mugs of fuckyeah.
Black Flag is the session Stout for Stout fiends. This bottle could easily find a permanent place in your fridge or in your burgeoning beer cellar. You might find yourself drinking way too much, turning your teeth black and making you talk like some kind of scurvy-ridden ex-member of Christian Death. But would that really be so bad?
Dairy Pairy: an intense cheddar
Soundtrack: Danzig III
Find It: Wild Oats, Whole Foods (Albuquerque and Santa Fe), The Quarters, Kelly Liquors, Jubilation Fine Wine and Spirits, Westside Liquors, Susan's Fine Wine and Spirits (Santa Fe), Liquor Barn (Santa Fe), Kokoman Fine Wines and Liquors (Santa Fe)