Notes of a Beer Nerd: Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Ops
***Notes of a Beer Nerd is a column written by resident cellar dwelling mammal, Timperial Stout. Feel free to e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions, concerns or comments***
Enjoyed on 10/20/2010
Brewery: Brooklyn Brewery
Location: Brooklyn, New York
Beer: Black Ops
Presentation: 750ml – Blown Glass Bottle – Corked and Caged
Style: Imperial Stout
Recommended Serving Temp: 55 degrees
Brooklyn Black Ops does not exist. However, if it did exist, it would be a robust stout concocted by the Brooklyn brewing team under cover of secrecy and hidden from everyone else at the brewery. Supposedly “Black ops” was aged for four months in bourbon barrels, bottled flat, and re-fermented with Champagne yeast, creating big chocolate and coffee flavors with a rich underpinning of vanilla-like oat notes. They say there are only 1,000 cases. We have no idea what they’re talking about.
Food Pairings: Grilled meat, ice cream, brownies
Cheese Pairings: Aged Gouda, Cheddar, Parmesan
Music Pairing: Small Black from Brooklyn
Beer Advocate: A- (4.25)
Rate Beer: 100 (4.00)
Being from Philadelphia, I have had pretty much every beer that Brooklyn makes. Well, at least the ones that were available before I moved to Seattle three and a half years ago. In PA, there are some very odd laws based around beer. As a consumer, you have to buy any beer that you want to take home with you from either a bar (six-packs only) or a distributor (full cases only). You cannot buy beer at a grocery store, convenience store, etc. There are a few bottle shops around that sell individual bottles, but they are few and far between. With this in mind, many larger breweries end up producing “variety” cases, almost exclusively for PA consumers. Most of the time, these include 4 different six-packs, but sometimes there’s even more variety.
Brooklyn was one of the breweries that offered the variety case and I purchased it quite often. For me, this was one of the few variety options where I liked every beer, even the lager, and that fact stuck with me. I have always respected Garret Oliver and Brooklyn since those burgeoning days of beer nerdiness. As that nerdiness reached full bloom, I abandoned the variety case all together and exclusively shopped at the bottle shops, despite the inconvenience. Those days allowed me to find Brooklyn’s Black Chocolate Stout. To this day, that beer is one of the beers I most miss from the East coast. It’s just like what you think it would be like, chocolatey, sweet, smooth and warming.
Once I heard that the brewery that made one of my favorite East coast stouts was doing a limited run of bourbon barrel aged imperial stout, I flipped out. But, alas, I quickly excepted the fact that I would probably never get a chance to try it, being so far away from the distribution area. But then, the other 2/3 of beerblotter took a trip to NYC. I said to them before they departed, “If there is one bottle that you return with, for the love of god make it be Black Ops!” Yadda, yadda, yadda, here we are today.
This monster pours with a huge head of brown and a slight hint of clay color. It should go without saying that the liquid itself is oil black. As the head dwindles, which takes quite a while I may add, there is some serious lacing left on the glass that seems to be caramelized or heated to crystallization on the inside of the glass. It’s a sight to see! The head never does fully dissipate, leaving an impressive 1/8 of an inch to the very end.
The scent is outrageously smooth and complex. Notes of bourbon, pretzels, vanilla, white cookie or white cake batter, wood, tobacco and a medicinal booziness exist. As it warms, there is a sense of saltiness that is produced in the nose, possibly a suggestion from the pretzel connotation, or possibly the other way around. Maybe the scent really is of salt and the baked, malty notes bring pretzels to mind. The world may never know. Also uncovered: Burnt sugar, creme brulee, brown sugar, rum, almond biscotti…did I mention that this is complex?
This is smooth without being too cloying or syrupy. The champagne yeast is not as active as I suspected it would feel in the mouth, but it must play a massive role in the body, which is super unique. The use of champagne yeast in beer is rare, but it has produced fantastic results here.
Many of the bourbon flavors are realized on the tongue, which I feel is unique – I generally just get the odors. The dark, roasted malts seem to be most prevalent near the end of the flavor profile. They impart a chocolate nib bitterness, but there is no dryness to be found. Vinous and a bit juicy (read: not drying) with an intense mouth watering nature, but not overly sweet. It’s perplexing how the flavor lingers forever and is not dry but it’s simultaneously not very sweet. Many of the flavors associated with the scents listed above come and go as the liquid washes over the taste buds. The experience is like eating a slurry of every desert ever made, and it’s awesome!
There is a whole butt load of booze in the aftertaste, which makes it a bit challenging to pinpoint the subtle nuances. There is definitely some licorice in there, I did get that.
This beer was shared amongst the three beerblotter members, and each one of us was completely smitten by it. It is, without a doubt, one of the best bourbon barrel aged imperial stouts we have ever had. This beer is not easy to find, especially on the West Coast, but hear me now: do WHATEVER you must to get this!
If you like Brooklyn Black Ops, you should try…
Disclaimer: This beer was purchased on my own with my own hard-earned money at a local bottle shop, and aged to perfection by yours truly.