Monday, March 21, 2011

Stevens Point Brewing Co. - 2012 Black Ale

As you may have noticed, I have been a bit out of commission since St. Patrick's Day.  While it certainly felt like the end of the world, I indeed recovered and decided to get cracking on some new brew reviews.  I decided to take on the "end of the world" theme and review Point's - 2012 Black Ale.  Let's pour!

Picture is my own.  Bottle art image used without permission for educational uses only

Aroma 6/12
The aroma is rather light for something claiming to be a black ale.  Instead of robust bitters and über-dark roast there is a dark roast present (though not nearly dark enough) with a hint of chocolate.  Perhaps even a smoky scent peeking its head out, but only ever so faintly.  But sweetness in a black ale?  It is a bit troubling and I carried on to other areas of the beer hoping for more hints.

Appearance 2/3
When they said black ale, they were not kidding!  This thing is opaque!  It is pitch black and you can barely catch a brown from the edges even when held to light.  Very nice.  The head is a dark tan that cannot maintain retention long enough for me to even take a few snapshots and take a sip.  It leaves only a small collar and no lace.  I wish I could tell you its consistency, but it had vanished.  It keeps its points for its color and clarity (or lack thereof).

Picture is my own.
Flavor 12/20
This beer definitely has flavor, but it is not true to style.  It should be considered a robust porter before it is considered a "black" anything.  Perhaps the marketing folks are getting a bit out of hand?  I have had other great beers from Point, but this particular brew misses the mark.  The first sensation is sweet; the aroma did not mislead.  While the chocolate I detected in the aroma was a mix of sweetness and roasted malt, the flavor lacks chocolate.  Instead, there is a caramel that is made darker by the roasted malt.  Hops are not individually detectable, but do make their presence noticed with a slightly bitter finish and their contribution to the coffee afters.

Mouthfeel 3/5
There were some conflicting sensations here.  However, the mouthfeel is one of the more noticeable attributes of this beer.  Before noting any flavors whatsoever, I noted at least two different mouthfeel sensations.  The first was that this beer is smooth.  I almost confused it for a creaminess, but the body was not heavy enough for that.  This is a light bodied beer (again, not true to style) but tries to cover that up with a technique that could come in handy with some other styles of beer.  That technique was the carbonation.  The carbonation in this beer was almost that of nitrogen and not carbonation at all.  It was a very light, thin carbonation that made this beer feel "creamier" than its body actually was.  A neat trick and I would not mind seeing it again.

Overall Impression 5/10
This is not a bad beer.  It is simply not to style.  This is a porter masquerading in a black ale's bottle.  It is dominated by sweetness with very little in the way of bitter.  The appearance was fantastic!  I have had imperials that were not this black.  Overall, I'd say this beer takes some of the finer points of a stout (thin carbonation, color) and a porter (sweetness, lighter body) and mashes them together quite pleasantly.

Total 29/50
This ranking puts this beer in the very top of the "Good" category as that it "misses the mark on style and/or has minor flaws."  There were no flaws I could detect.  All I can say is that this beer was sweet and that is not what one expects from a black ale.  It was a dark sweet from the get-go in both aroma and flavor and while it would be pretty darn good as a robust porter, it is not a black ale.  In fact, as a porter or brown ale, this beer would rank significantly higher.  If someone was looking to get into the "super dark" beers, I would recommend this as an introduction to the style or a transition beer from something lighter.  After all, there are few things as nice as introducing friends to new beer experiences - or exbeeriences.  Oo!  Consider that trademarked.

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