Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Bent River - Jingle Java

Gang, I've got good news and bad news.  Bad news is my job "restructured" on Friday and restructured me right out of a job.  It's a job I was planning on buying a house and starting a family with and now I'm set back a bit on those plans.  The good news is that there will be a significant increase in posts for the foreseeable future.

Don't think that this "job" thing is going to hold me back.  I've already got a good application in at a local craft brewery (today's review actually!) and can fall back on some substitute teaching to help make ends meet.  Who trusts me around children?  I'm not sure, but I'm glad they do.  In any case, I had big plans for 2012 and I'm not about to let them die.  I'm.  Still.  Here.

Personal stuff aside, today's review is for Bent River's Jingle Java, a seasonal treat that I look forward to every year.  In fact, Bent River recently started selling this in growlers at local supermarket chains!  A very exciting development for a local craft brewer.  Today's sample was originally to be given to a friend in trade for some East Coast beer, but that trade fell through for good reasons and now I'm left with a very tasty option for a winter seasonal beer review.  Before I get started, I would like to make it clear that just because I've got an application in at this brewery, does not mean that I'll be brown-nosing this review.  However, I have had this beer before and know it to be very, very tasty - and that is the only bias I'll be allowing.  Now it's time to drink this stuff before it goes too flat!  Let's pour!

Black as the growler it came from...
Aroma 12/12
Opening the growler releases a belch of coffee aroma (still carbonated!).  Dark chocolate abounds, cappucino roasts float in the nose, fresh ground coffee permeates the air, and is all followed by a secondary molasses note.  This smells EXACTLY like you have walked into a gourmet coffee shop.  Simply awesome.

Appearance 3/3
As you can see from the picture, this beer is as dark as the growler in which it came.  Only when held to light does one get a dark chestnut brown at the beer's surface.  I'm allowing for a little less head in this review as this growler has been in my possession for more than its allotted time.  Even with that allowance, as I poured no initial carbonation rose to the top and I was worried.  Then, ever so slowly, carbonation started to appear and rise to the top.  I'm very impressed that it has held its carbonation this long!  This beer has more legs than a centipede.

Flavor 18/20
First to the palate are darkly roasted, smoky malts with a bit of a salty tinge.  The backbone is righteously smooth, and brings authentic coffee flavors, rich thick chocolates, and touches of charred malt.  The coffee and char take over, leaving the chocolate not as much of a starring role as in the delicious aroma.  However, this is a coffee stout, not a chocolate coffee stout.  When heading into the finish, the first thing I noticed was the prick of pepper on my tongue.  Not something I was expecting, but there is a hidden spice element in this beer.  The finish is a lighter coffee than in the aroma or the backbone, but unlike coffee, leaves the mouth dry and relatively clean (again, compared to regular coffee).  A bitter remains that shows a hint of grass or herbal hops and that sensation lingers as a nice aftertaste to a flavor-filled beer.

Mouthfeel 5/5
Again, this category becomes a little harder to judge.  Because I've had it in a growler longer than intended, the carbonation was not at its optimal levels.  In fairness, I've never had a complaint with it before and I'm not about to start now.  Even in its current state, the carbonation is wonderfully present, lending the beer a silky, foamy quality to compliment the heavier-than-average body and the wonderfully rich, smooth nature of the beer.

Overall Impression 10/10
This beer is a winner from start to finish.  The aroma is one of the best introductions to a stout that I recall and the flavor is nothing short of filthy rich.  Bent River offers more than just the coffee/chocolate combination that many breweries can ride to success.  Instead choosing to imbue its beer with molasses, charred malt remnants, and a light hop bitter in the finish.  This beer is truly a holiday treat that I, like many a petulant child, wish I didn't have to wait for the holidays to receive.

Total 48/50
Full disclosure, this is my favorite local brew available, but I'm not the only one that thinks so.  Bent River's Jingle Java is so popular that they have hosted an event called "Christmas in July" where they tap a keg or two of Jingle Java in July just to satisfy their customers' cravings (as if their Uncommon Stout wasn't enough!).  This beer makes me swear every time I take my initial sip.  It's just that good.  Silky, rich, chocolatey, coffee-drenched goodness awaits you all.  Now if only I can make it until July...

Today's Song of the Moment


  1. Did you save me any?! You said chocolate and jingle I knew I needed to get a taste!

  2. I did, but only because we're married. :)

  3. This is easily the best stout type beer I've ever had. I still tell people about it to this day. Granted, I have yet to hit Portland's stouts yet because I've been too captivated by their IPAs, but Bent River's Jingle Bell Java (as well as their Jalapeno Ale) are two of the best beers I've ever had.

  4. "...like many a petulant child..." brilliant

  5. Ha! Good call. Looks like I'll have to find a growler of their Jalepeño Ale next!

  6. Chocolate Imperial Stout is so much better.

  7. It was a fine brew! I was happy to get several snifters at the bar and would definitely support that becoming a more frequent brew. The chocolate in it was immense!

    Now if only we can convince them to make enough of it so that we can buy growlers of it... :)