Monday, April 11, 2011

Terrapin - Wake N Bake Coffee Oatmeal Imperial Stout

Readers, I thank you for your patience.  I've been a bit under the weather the past week and while I do not completely endorse "tea totalling" during illness, I would not have been able to tell you the aroma of a beer if I tried.  That said, I will be making up for lost time and writing one review every day for the next week.

This week's beer is Terrapin Beer Co.'s Wake N Bake Coffee Oatmeal Imperial Stout (discretely labeled on the bottle as "W-n-B").  To me that sounds like a mouthful.  The only types of stout the left out were oatmeal raisin, oak aged, milk, and several types of overpriced, caffeinated beverages (espresso, mocha, cappucino, etc).  While this will make the beer harder to categorize under a single particular style, I will hopefully be able to differentiate some characteristics it takes from each.  Big thanks to Brent C. (Bartender Extraordinaire) for the suggestion and Keith for the bottle.  Let's pour!

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

Aroma 9/12
First sniff is of dark chocolate, but boy has he brought some friends!  There is also the essence of a milk stout and a bit of smokiness, though in subsequent sniffs I determined that the smoke was merely the dark roasted malt.  You can even smell the warmth in this one!  Exciting!  I love a good, stiff brew.

Appearance 3/3
This beer poured thick, which is almost always a good sign in a stout.  In the glass, it did not take much effort to produce a nice-sized, brown head on top.  The beer is pitch, friggin' black, which is exactly what I like to see in a stout.  Not only is the color awesome in the beer and the head, but the latter had some decent retention as well.  If I could give bonus points, I would.

Picture is my own.

Flavor 20/20
If you think I am about to drop every stout description in the universe, it is because I may.  Do not forget, this is called a "coffee oatmeal imperial stout."  Long story short, this beer is complex and I love that.  Initial sips are sweet.  The milk stout (ahem, the oatmeal which GIVES the milk stout flavor) of the aroma makes itself known and is accompanied by rich, dark fruit flavor.  Other times, it will also include a dark caramel in the  initial flavor.  The dark fruit-based sweetness is the primary flavor in the beer, but far from solitary.  This sweetness will hang around in your mouth as long as you let it.  It waits for you to take the next step (which is really cool).  Once you do begin to swallow, this beer performs a perfect transition from its current sweetness to the bitter tones beneath it.  As I drank the pint, I thought the sweetness was fading into a dark chocolate flavor just before a drier, coffee finish.  However, I now think the chocolate flavor was just a perfect melding of the sweet and the dark bitter.  The warmth from the aroma makes its appearance in the aftertaste along with the coffee bean bitterness.  Note:  not "coffee", but "coffee bean."  Very balanced and very tasty.

Mouthfeel 4/5
This had a good body for a stout.  It did not drink as thick as it poured, but was still a heavier-than-medium body.  The carbonation (appropriately) faded away to low levels quickly after the pour.  The warmth in this beer was a very nice touch.  It was not until later that I looked at the bottle and discovered it had a 8.1% ABV!  No wonder I could smell the warmth!  In fact, this is also VERY appropriate to the imperial stout style  as high alcohol contents were need to preserve the beer while shipping the long journey to Russia.  The body and warmth make this a sipper, but the flavor always has you picking up the glass for another taste.

Overall Impression 10/10
It hits the nail on the head and I have no idea how.  OK, so I see how its feasible to nail the appearance since all three are stouts (coffee, oatmeal, imperial), but the flavor?!  Yet, all three are there without the compromise of any other.  Its an amazing accomplishment.  This beer is dark, balanced, warm, complex, opaque, and a very exciting combination of styles.

Total 46/50 (Outstanding)
This beer promised us a lot in its name and it delivered.  While it is primarily a imperial stout, there is certainly coffee present and the oatmeal shows itself in milk stout and caramel tones.  I initially had ranked this beer lower in some categories, but as I was reviewing the scores I could not justify them.  Of course it deserves a 10 in overall impression!  Not only did it peg one style, but three.  Of course it deserves a 20 in flavor!  What more do I want?  More complexity?  More experimentation of the style?  If I gave it a 19/20, what more was looking for in this beer?  What was I hoping to see that I did not which would have made it perfect?

I could not answer that.  I have a hard time finding this beer, but I am in a much smaller market.  If you see this, buy it.  Kudos to the boys at Terrapin.  We owe you one.

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