Monday, May 9, 2011

Left Hand - Fade to Black Vol. 1

This is another bottle traded to me by good friend Keith.  While there is no shortage of Left Hand in my area, this particular bottle is not carried locally.  I have been holding off on reviewing this one because I respect Left Hand's stouts and know that I am going to want an adequate amount of time to sit and savor.  That said, if it flops, I will not be afraid to call it as it is.  Before we begin, this bottle not only gets extra points for its awesome label art, but also because it includes a Metallica reference.  Let's pour!

Picture is my own.  Bottle art image used without permission for educational uses only.
Aroma 9/12
A dominant smell of smoke.  The beer does not indicate a style on the label so this could be indicative of a rauchbier or malt so darkly roasted that it was burnt a bit.  Once the head settles a bit, the smoke differentiates itself from the also present darkly roasted malt.  There is even a hint of "milk" from a milk stout.  This mix of darkening and lightening ingredients is intriguing.

Appearance 3/3
This brew is called Fade to Black and does not disappoint.  Even when held immediately next to a lightbulb, there is not even a glimmer of light that escapes this glass.  No ruby shades.  No brown edges.  Just completely opaque black.  It pours thick from the bottle and gives a medium-large sized head the color of frothy mud - a barely lightened brown.  EBC is infinity.

Picture is my own.

Flavor 19/20
Despite the aroma not showing much, the flavor is complex, robust, and not overwhelming.  Initial flavors are of dark fruit(!), which was a completely surprise having been grossly absent from the aroma.  The dark fruit hangs around into the backbone which adds charred coffee notes, small hints of dark chocolate, and wisps of smoke.  Absolutely fantastic!  The finish pares down the list of flavors and focuses on the charred malt and dark fruits, leading to an aftertaste that while still featuring the smoke, features a "coffee and cream" that slips gently into the bitter that one expects from a good stout.

Mouthfeel 5/5
A stout body with medium-high levels of tiny carbonation bubbles which make it very appropriate for the style  and delicious.  A moderate yet hidden warmth and wondrously creamy texture combine to aid this beer's flavors in wrapping up your taste buds like a perfect smoking jacket.  Stylistically excellent and superbly complimentary.

Overall Impression 10/10
A fantastic beer!  An excellent representation of the stout style while adding complex yet undistracting flavors.  Technically solid.  There is so much that is excellent about this beer, it would simply be a redundancy of the entire review to list them all.

Total 46/50 (Outstanding)
In case you could not tell, I am a bit enthusiastic about this beer.  I had high hopes for the Left Hand stout and they not only met them, but destroyed them!  You will love the technical wonders of this beer for the same reason you respect a Ferrari.  A Ferrari can go practically 200 mph (and over in some cases), but it also can turn like a jackrabbit.  The same applies here: power and nuance.  There are some bold flavors here, but each one is presented with nuance and keeps this beer from being a one-trick pony.  Besides having amazing flavors (yes, plural), the mouthfeel can easily be classified as a "man's beer."  It is a heavier body, smooth creamy goodness, and a great warmth.  I don't think you should be able to drink this under the age of 25 and if you have one in your hand there should be some sort of mandatory swagger.

Buy this.  Buy it now.  Buy a lot.

Brownie point inducing bottle art.  I own no rights to this art.

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