Some beers you walk into the store looking for. Some beers you walk in and buy because you’ve had them before. Then there are some beers that just pop out at you rather unexpectedly. As I said in a previous review, I was searching out the Dogfish Head Punkin here in DC, and I managed to find it one Friday. Of course, I have a tough time not looking around while I’m in the store; however, I did manage to keep it to one bottle. This little bottle was actually sitting behind a much larger bottle of something else. I kind of saw half the word espresso behind the other bottle and thought I knew what I saw. Moving the other bottle, I was right about the type of beer, but I had no idea who the brewer was. However, I was automatically hooked. Even the guy at the counter commented that he didn’t know they had this one.
There were a few things that jumped out at me right away. First of all, this one is a stout, but not only is it a stout, but it outright says it’s an espresso stout. I love coffee; therefore, I was hoping for something that would be overwhelming with coffee. Secondly, looking at the bottle, I wanted to know a little more about where this was from. Right on the back it says imported from Japan. I didn’t even look back. Those two facts had me heading for the counter.
Looking a little more into the brewery. You can actually trace this brewery all the way back to 1823. Back then it was actually only a producer of sake. It stayed that way for many years; however, in 1996 these guys decided to branch out into the world of beer. Over the years, these guys have managed to win many awards and, not only gain popularity in Japan, but all over the world.
This beer pours out a very dark black color. I don’t even think I can call it brown. The rich brown head that develops on top isn’t very plentiful, but it gives the beer a literal espresso look as well. The bottle does state that this is a Japanese dark ale brewed with coffee beans. I don’t know what people in Japan consider a dark beer, but I consider it a very dark beer. Swirling the glass does result in some slight lacing; however, it is only slight and really doesn’t last.
The most noticeable smell is the overwhelming scent of coffee that comes off this one. Of course I find this exciting. I bought this in the hope of some big coffee flavors. There is also some very clear roasted quality that comes through in the smell as well. The chocolate notes are definitely noticeable right along with all of the coffee. Other than those two expected smells, I also pull out some very light sweet smells like caramel. These smells do not dominate, but can definitely be found in the scent. There really seems to be no hops at all hidden in here. Ultimately, I don’t think they even had much of a thought to mess around with some hops.
The flavors start with some very nice rich malt flavors. There is some really smokey wood quality here as well. The roasted flavoring hits you before the really deep coffee notes do. From there, there is some nice sweet caramel and chocolate notes that enter. I really like how they almost have their own separate spot in the flavor profile before getting overwhelmed with coffee. It really helps to give a nice mellow sweetness to the middle of the flavor. The finish is huge blast of espresso coffee. With a lot of stouts, I expect it to be more mellow coffee flavors; however, this one definitely backs up the espresso part of its name. The espresso rocks your taste buds and lasts long into the aftertaste. If you love coffee, which I do, you’ll really love how this one finishes.
The mouthfeel here is slightly more typical for the stout genre. The carbonation is a good amount. Stouts don’t really overwhelm the drinker, and this one gives you a slight blast of carbonation, but mellows quickly. There is almost a syrup quality at the end, but don’t take that in a bad way. It isn’t sticky or undesirable. As I said, the coffee extends well into the aftertaste, but it isn’t terrible. Coffee drinkers are used to having those flavors last slightly longer.
I was really happy with this find. It gave me everything that I wanted it to. The coffee is not only there, but it is dominant. However, this isn’t a coffee bomb. There are other flavors in there that give a nice flavor profile. The depth of this one really creates a very enjoyable sipping beer. If you happen to see this one in the store, definitely pick it up!
Teacher Grade: A+