Saturday, May 29, 2010

Black Cauldron Imperial Stout

This installment of my grueling experiment was interesting for several reasons.  For one (if you've already skipped to the pictures, you might notice already) I used a different glass for my drinks this go around.  The reason behind that leads me to reason number 2: I didn't select my beers this time --- my wife did!  And she did it without my knowledge, input, or influence.  She was accompanying some friends to our (read "mine") favorite beer distributor here in LA.  While there, she thought it'd be nice to pick me up something special along with a new pint glass.  Only knowing that I am a fan of darker beers, she asked the salesperson for a recommendation and brought home a 4-pack of Black Cauldron Imperial Stout from Grand Teton Brewing Co.  The Sapporo glass?  Well, it was cheap and near the counter I impulse buy if there ever was one...and one I'm thankful for!
The Beer:
While I wasn't quite planning on adding another stout to this blog just yet, who am I to argue with free beer for the cause.  Black Cauldron was certainly a unique beer to try.  Not so much because of its flavor, taste, or originality....but because the package came full of details about the beer.  For instance, did you know that it's said that Catherine the Great discovered stout while visiting England and ordered some for the Russian Court?  No?  Neither did I.  Wanna know something else?  When the first shipment spoiled at sea, a special batch --- stronger and bitter enough to travel was produced.  It arrived in St. Petersberg and became known as Russian Imperial Stout.  Never thought that this wacky project would be filled with all sorts of knowledgeable trivia, huh?  But how did it taste?  In a word, strong!  I've had plenty of Stouts before, but this one was thicker than most and packed a wallop of smokey flavor with it.  The bitterness was a bit overwhelming at times though.  And I couldn't manage to finish all 4 in one sitting.  By the end, I'd had enough.  My palate couldn't tolerate any more spiced or dried fruity tones.  For one or two beers, it would've been ok throughout the night. But once I got through number 3, it was too much and had me not really desiring a fourth, but rather a big glass of water.
The Buzz:
The thing with Imperial Stouts like this that I was aware of beforehand, I was certainly going to get druuuuunk!  Boasting an impressive 8.0% abv, it wasn't the most potent beer I've had, but it certainly wasn't anywhere near the weakest.  In addition to the facts provided on the packaging, Grand Teton Brewing Co. provided a bevy of figures to match.  Black Cauldron has an Original Gravity of 22, measures 43 on the IBU scale, and falls at the very upper end of the Lovibonde spectrum around 35.  What do all those numbers mean though?  Well, just turn that packaging on its end and underneath they'll tell you!  Original Gravity refers to the "strength" of beer prior to fermentation.  It denotes how much sugar has been extracted from the malted grain into the unfermented beer.  The IBU scale stands of International Bitterness Units and represents the amount of bitterness in the beer.  IBU is an expression in parts per million of alpha acid in the beer.  And the Lovibonde spectrum, well, that is obviously the color of the beer.  Which in itself comes from the color of the hops.  The scale ranges from 1 to 30 with the lower numbers being very pale to the upper ends being black.  So there you go.  That's your beer class for the day.  I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.  Oh yeah, the buzz...uh, I was certainly fucked up by the end of the 3 beers I drank.
The Hangover:
Coming off last month's experiment and painful recovery from the Lagunitas Censored Rich Copper Ale, I was praying for a more merciful hangover.  It could've been the decision to leave that 4th beer in the fridge.  Could've been the huge glass of water I downed before bed.  Maybe it was just that the beer gods were listening to my prayers.  But, after the typical aspirin, water, antacid cocktail I take every morning after drinking, any lingering symptoms of a hangover ceased to exist.  By noon, I had taken Murdoch (my boxer) on a nice long walk through one of the most expensive neighborhoods in LA where we were hoping to run into some other dog-loving family who just happened to have a 6000 sq ft guest house in the back they were hoping my family could move into.  Yeah...Sunday walks are fun!

The Verdict:
Black Cauldron Imperial Stout was far from a favorite of mine.  But that's not to say it was a bad beer.  It just wasn't right for this experiment.  It will however be notable for me for a few reasons.  The fact that it was one not of my choice, the fact that I actually learned something useful from this experiment, and the fact that part of me actually feels smarter (although admittedly, after each of these projects, most of me actually feels slightly dumber).  But kudos to Grand Teton Brewing.  I'd be interested in getting my hands on some of their other batches not only to taste, but to see what else I could learn from their packaging.  For now though, I'll be hanging on to Black Cauldron's 4-pack...if only for reference!
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