Tasting the Allagash Black

The Allagash Brewery is a unique artisan brewhouse in Portland Maine producing a large range of classic beers in a very modern way.  Their focus is on Belgian-style, bottle conditioned beers brewed with modern techniques, controls, and technology. 100% of the electricity used at the brewery is wind powered. The first Allagash beer I ever had was their 2007 Flexus; a Rye Beer brewed with yarrow, an ingredient used in beer in the 1800’s before hops were widely accepted.

This was a exceptionally spicy and appetizing beer, and really enticed me to explore the rest of their range. I journeyed though a few other beers, but nothing that really struck me as astounding – then came the Allagash Black. This Belgian-style Stout now lives among the high rollers in my stout collection, and is a prized bottle in my cellar.

The Allagash Black is unfortunately not available in Ontario, but is available across much of the United States. You can find it however is some great beer bars like the Beer Bistroon occasion. It comes only in 750 corked bottles, and is 7.5% abv. I have also heard that it can be found on tap in the U.S., if that is the case I will be looking for it!

It is brewed with German 2 row barley, roasted malts, torrified wheat and oats, and a large amount of Belgian candi sugar. It stands dark and silent in the bottle until you open it and unleash a sumptuous black stout with impressive character and distinct flavors.

I brought the Black out at a cool temperature, around 10C (50F) and poured it into a nice gold rimmed smooth chalice. A very soft and deep pour created an alluring black beer with rich nutty browns and amber highlights flickering throughout it. It was completely opaque and very close to pure black. A one and a half inch creamy tan, almost brown head rested gently atop the beer creating a beautiful contrast. Looking deep into the beer you can see the bottle conditioning can created a very effervescent beer, something rather unique to a stout.

The nose was rich, immediately bringing smoke and roast scents to my nose. Going in for another nose allowed me to then absorb coffee beans, cocoa, floral herbs, light earth, a touch of hops and bitter dark chocolate. A slight fruitiness existed here also in the back, probably from the candi sugar.

The back gently danced over my palate in a strange combination of a smooth oat and rye stout, but also bottle conditioned Belgian spice. It’s hard to really explain the sensation – it was smooth and creamy, but at the same time showed effervescence and delicate crackling carbonation. However you would explain it, it was perfect at lifting rich flavors across my palate.

Sweet roasty malts and smoke make their way in first closely followed by bitter roast coffee, high percentage cocoa chocolate, and malty caramel. It is sweeter than I was expecting showing notes of dried fruits, plums and dark berries. Belgian spicy character is loaded in every inch of the beer aiding its ability to plant rich flavors deep in your taste buds.

Really though, it is not overbearing or heavy as it may sound. At 7.5% it is totally reasonable, and its mouthfeel is elegant and uplifting. The black still shows light hops and elegant floral herb notes, and I still contest that there is a distinct yeast and earth-like flavor hiding deep inside the beer. This, along with its spice and lively feeling helps balance out the gummy, charred, sweet smoky flavors in the Black.

The finish is dry and malty, and also very appetizing. I definitely enjoyed this stout, and I think it has a lot of unique characteristics valuable to a stout which you don’t often see in one. Try it with roast beef, shepherds pie, or herbed goat cheeses. It would also be delicious with ice cream, cookies, or fruit cake.

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