My wife and I went out for dinner tonight and also got a work out in at the same time. It’s one of those New England nights where the wind is swirling, the air is dry, and old man winter is as curmudgeony as ever. We ran out our door, ran to the car, raced to the restaurant sitting in glacial leather seats, ran through the parking lot, and found refuge in fire wheeling hibachi restaurant. Then, repeat the former sentence on the way home. Needless to say, the legs were a little stiff after the trek. With our apartment lacking a functional fireplace, I turned to sunny California to bitch slap winter across the face. Bear Republic, from pleasant northern California, created their Big Bear Black Stout for nights like this. With my body shivering and my teeth doing the only chattering, I figured the only remedy was the hair of the dog… a little beer chatter. Time to crunch those numbers.
Appearance: Jet black, more so than John Travolta’s poorly dyed Just for Men hair. Essentially, zero head. I poured it right down the middle and all it left behind was a half inch of bubbly. Dissipated quickly too, but at 8% ABV it’s not shocking. Also – no lacing.
Smell: Very sweet. Camp fire s’mores, dark coco, brown sugar, and crème brûlée are things that come to mind with the nose. Unfortunately, I get some musty basement smell too that leaves much to be desired along with the big malts traditionally found in a stout. Surprisingly, I find very little espresso and coffee flavors. The sweet smell reminds me of a cross between Southern Tier Mokah and Southern Tier’s Crème Brûlée. Wondering if I’m going to get a mouthful of sugar…
Taste: Not nearly as roasty as some other stouts and not nearly as sweet as it lets off. At first taste, I literally raised my eyebrows in surprise enjoyment. On second taste, I get molasses, balanced by coco bitterness. The malts linger throughout the beer and it finishes crisp and well balanced. I’d say the most distinct flavor on the finish is a tad bit of vanilla, which is the most identifiable sweetness that carries over from the smell. That musty basement smell did not appear in the taste.
There is not one overpowering flavor coming from this guy. For a stout, this is surprisingly drinkable in the sense that it really doesn’t fill you up. Many stouts reviewed this season on Beer Chatter were one and done; I couldn’t dare think of having another brew afterwards or anything to eat either. With Big Bear, although it’s satisfying, it’s not too much after the bottle is empty. There is a trade off with that however; with lack of a big filling flavor you also have a lighter mouthfeel to it. For some, perhaps many, that’s not a trade off at all, but I typically like those thicker bolder stouts in the winter.
Overall, I’d give the beer a strong B+. The easy drinking is a plus and a minus at the same time. If you’re into stouts that yield less roasty and burnt flavors, I’d steer you in this direction. I may be a little critical with this one, but there really aren’t a lot of reasons to knock this beer, I just don’t find it to be one that blows me out of the water. It is, however, very good and recommended to all. This is the beer that Yogi was hoping to find in his pick-a-nick basket.