Now in my second year, A Whale A Week is my challenge to try (with an array of beer loving friends) a rare beer for every week of the year. Last year I had a great time with this and have continued it for 2016. Not every beer will be a truly "white whale" beer, but all are hard to find and a treat to try!
Perennial Artisan Ales out of Saint Louis, is one of my very favorite breweries. With as many breweries as I've been to and reviewed, this is high praise from me! They put out consistently high quality beers, often challenging and unique as well. Possibly my favorite beer of all time is Barrel Aged Abraxas--also from Perennial. When I discovered a bottle of Sump at a bottle shop in Oregon, I had to bring it back to Minnesota with me.
Sump is a Russian Imperial Stout made with coffee from local Saint Louis coffee shop/roastery of the same name. The beer has a solid 100 rating on RateBeer and a 96 on Beer Advocate.
Our tasting panel this session is made of: Me (homebrewer more than 25 years, beer fan, self coffee roaster), Sarajo (my wife, lover of RIS style beers); Hassan Saffouri and Chris Kunz (beer geeks, Happy Gnome beer dinner alumni, veteran travelers with us on beer trips to Belgium). We tasted this beer out on their backyard patio surrounded by a plethora of flowering plants, on a cool and overcast late afternoon.
Eric: Strong but mellow earthy coffee aroma--I get more of an African, dry processed character to it. Sweet malt. Dark chocolate. Some light vegetal green pepper on the finish.
Hassan: Tobacco and leather.
Eric: Black. Just plain black. Deep brown colored head that is fairly large and persistent. Thick.
Hassan: Swarthy (plus!)
Eric: Up front sweetness, dark chocolate malt. Medium roast African coffee. Thick creamy mouthfeel--like a thick shake. Hint of leather on the finish. End is slightly astringent. Dark cherry notes. Hint of vegetal from fading coffee. Coffee actually comes out better as the beer warms up.
Hassan: Deep flavor, but astringent. Leathery-er and sharper than expected.
Eric: A very good beer, but not as complex and rich as I expected. The coffee was less front-and-center than I thought it would be. Looking at the bottle it suggests drinking within 60 days, and this was bottled January 2016, so we're past that point. From previous tasting of aged coffee beers, the coffee fades and often leaves that astringent and vegetal finish. I think this would have rated higher if it were fresher. 3.75
Hassan: Very good...if you want a challenge in a stout with unexpected overtones. 3.9
Chris: The nose is very "green" and not enough coffee. 4
Sarajo: I wish it was a bit sweeter. 4.25
Overall Score: 4