Its not that I'm grumpy. I'm not. I'm just lazy. I just want to relax ... ALL the time. And you're making me get off the couch every two-and-a-half seconds.
And seriously, is it really fucking Halloween already? Coming off of GABF and Austin Beer Week in consecutive weeks, someone is just taunting me to kick my sobriety while its down.
Ah, yes, Halloween: the truist of patriotic due-diligences; gorging, drinking, carousing, ogling. Its like we're practically the founding fathers. And now that everyone is making alcohol with chocolate, its total validation to commandeer this children's holiday into our own, because, well, we are certainly not the greatest generation. Nor where our parents. And so somewhere between these two biological eras of selfishness, Holloween became a nocturnal decline in moral restraint before the Winter 20 craps on our Spring Break pool time.
Son of a ... I. DO NOT. want to go to Target tonight and rummage through all the terrible bags of sweets that the boxed-wine moms have left for us lazy fuckers to fight over. I'm expecting a few more tricks than treats after bashfully handing out the Necco Wafer/Good n' Plenty oh-your-neighbor-is-a-timely-fucker-mix to all the local kids in the hood.
But despite all that rubbish, I actually do love Halloween in its current state -- mid-week porch drinking, handing out socially accepted enamel poison, eating candy for dinner, and littering my own yard with mini-Nerds boxes. Those who know me well enough will know that I quite simply could not have forced myself to do anything if I didn’t enjoy it.
One of the staples of our Halloween -- and holidays in general -- is surrounding ourselves with those we love, and by that I mean seasonal offerings from the beer companies. And, so, to make this all come full circle and remain topical, All Hallow's Eve means chocolate ales.
Boulevard's Smokestack Series is exactly what makes me excited about being a beer-ghoul. Its a smartly conceptualized series of large-format beers made by one of the most underrated breweries in the country -- and released at timely point in the year with only mild-to-moderate hype depending on the release. Certain bottles are not so sniped by the nerds, that a little pre-planning can't nab a casual fan a chance at a great, limited release. Two of my favorites in this series are Tank 7 and Love Child #2 (with more discussions of other Smokestacks on the way when I have time to write more about 'em).
But in almost a direct contradiction of the previous paragraph, Chocolate Ale was one of the more difficult Smokestacks to find -- and to further complicate -- Boulevard unknowingly bottled and released a couple hundred spoiled bottles to the Southwest region, making the hunt all the more unusual in that Boulevard wanted its consumers to find them and report them based on a serial number. Total pain, so when I caught up to a store with enough to spare, I just bought 3 bottles because I was too lazy to check the numbers and went on the percentages.
For me, Chocolate Ale was kind of like figuring out if the band you just discovered will be big in 2012 or not -- I guess kinda like listening to an average band with a lot of hype like The Alabama Shakes along with 300 other people during SXSW.
This beer has a similar vibe -- you suspect there's something pretty good there, and you know the masses would probably consume it like fun size Butterfingers, but its hard to be completely smitten about it. Chocolate Ale was a catchy product with a buzzy reputation, but if it wasn't from Boulevard, I would have simply skipped over it.
And to top it all off -- and this is probably the primary scar on my memory -- is that one of the three bottles I consumed was from that rancid batch. It tasted like fundraiser chocolate that you sold out of the cardboard boxes in elementary school than a collaboration with a highly-regarded chocolatier. Okay, the acceptable bottles did contain a nice, charming light-bodied ale, which is unusual for the chocolate beer style, but I just couldn't see this one really having much of a career after winning the Grammy for Best New Artist.
Can I Find This in Austin? Yes, but its seasonal and limited, usually hits market for Valentines Day.
Album Otis Redding | Pain in My Heart (1964)
What I do absolutely remember is Mrs. [AA] pairing this perfectly with a Christmas-dinner-concluding pomegranate parfait that kicked the ever-living shit out of my palate like a drunk Liverpool fan. I'm not a huge beer-food pairing advocate, but 10th Anniversary Chocolate Indulgence was one of two beers that I remember very fondly as being extremely food-friendly (the other being this one, which I talked about back when I was less wordy).
The Belgian chocolate itself deserves its very own, holy shit!, paragraph. And there it was.
At the time of consumption, this beer had been given four magnificent cork-and-caged years of aging in a combination of store-shelving and personal cellaring -- of which, did nothing but complete justice to a product that developed as gracefully as Diane Lane.
Can I Find This in Austin? Found it in Austin last year, and was store-aged. Prolly long gone by now.
Album Bon Iver | For Emma, Forever Ago (2008)
As a superfan of stouts, my range of favorites begin with dry Irish and ends with boozy Russian Imperials. Otherwise stated, I celebrate stout's entire catalog.
Somewhere right in the middle of that widely nuanced spectrum is the smoothly-sweet milk stout. Fans of Mrs. [AA] might recollect her devotion to Left Hand's Milk Stout -- and as a huge fan of her's I agree with her discerning tastes.
Southern Tier's version is better than decent, bordering on very good. Its not as rich, creamy, or chewy as Left Hand's version, no -- and that's a bit of a buzzkill coming from highly-coveted Southern Tier Brewing -- but 2x Milk Stout, makes up for it with perceived chocolatiness. And its mightily there. If Left Hand Milk Stout is fresh glass of lactose, then Souther Tier's 2X is a heavily-spiked YooHoo.
Can I Find This in Austin? No, the closest Southern Tier distributes is Missouri.
Album Wolf Gang | Suego Faults (2011)
As snobbish as this may sound, this is a beer that absolutely proves the theory of 'glassware matters'.
When sampling with the goblet, Chocolate Sombrero -- a Mexican-style chocolate stout -- was quite tasty -- tons of chocolate notes ... and then, well, that was it. I didn't really get what was Mexican about it, other than being another gimmick from overtly-gimmicky brewers Clown Shoes (something that I generally despise in the craft brewing world). So, I tried it in a snifter, and really, the reaction was somewhere north of "fucking hell, this is amazing".
This is what this brewery meant by "Mexican-style chocolate stout"! There were the chocolate notes, still prevalent and large, but there was also ground cinnamon, roasted nuts, cloves, Mexican canela, and bread crumbs sitting right there at the back of the palate. It was truly exceptional.
Moral of the story: learn your glassware.
Can I Find This in Austin? Yep, easily. In liquor warehouses and bottle shops, not grocery stores.
Album Vampire Weekend | Contra (2010)
God help our livers, 10%! My go-to post Halloween stout. Only I can never wait until then. There is nothing I want to add to Black Chocolate Stout's reputation, only to insist that you consume this in large quantities.
Acquired East 1st Grocery
Can I Find This in Austin? Easily. The furthest state west to receive all Brooklyn Brewing's glory.
Album Santigold | s/t (2008)
While Dark Angel is not officially a chocolate beer, its portfolio of tasting notes includes hints of black-chocolate covered cherries and burnt molasses, making it damn near perfect for Halloween consumption if you love things like being better than everyone else in the world.
And, from what I've long-dubbed North Peak as The Most Photogenic Brewery ever, you will look absolutely stellar holding this while yelling at kids to 'get off your lawn'.
Acquired Jolly Pumpkin Traverse City
Can I Find This in Austin? Probably the hardest of this bunch to find anywhere in the US.
Album Camera Obscura | My Maudlin Career (2009)
Cheers! and have an absolutely safe Halloween!