Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Magic Hat Heart of Darkness

I stopped by the "Artifactory" (Magic Hat) today after work to see what was brewing. I haven't kept up with any of their seasonal beers lately as my interests have turned to newer breweries' creations. It has also been a while since my last post so I decided to give Heart of Darkness a try - A dark stout balanced with English hops for a dark, winter night. Their website describes the yeast as an English-style ale yeast, which I believe is Ringwood like most of their other beers.

Alcohol Content: 5.7%
IBU: 30
Malts: 2-Row Pale, Crystal, Roasted Barley, Chocolate, Munich
Hops: Apollo, Goldings

Price: ~$15/ Variety pack

Aroma: Smooth, bittersweet chocolate mingles with touches of roasted barley. Alcohol adds spice and complexity, with a faint ester of winter-fruit. Hops add light floral notes but are mostly masked by the fermentation and malt backbone. Chocolate comes back around with subtle warmth - this is the most noticeable probably for new tasters.
Appearance: Jet black, or as they say inky black. Even under bright lighting I can hardly pick out any other colors such as deep reds typically present to some degree in stouts (more so for porters). An SRM (Standard Reference Method) of 80 units is a lab technique to describe this as a very dark stout - other examples may fall in the 40's range. A thick frothy brown head develops and remains afloat for quite some time.
Flavor: Letting the beer warm for a few minutes to pick out aromas and flavors, my senses were quickly turned to the bittersweet notes of chocolate malt, crystal, and Munich. A moderate level of caramel sweetness is perceived at the front end of the palate but comes back around even stronger in the finish, leaving residual sweetness in the aftertaste. Combined with roast and more chocolate notes, the beer finishes with a touch of alcohol spice. Hops contribute to the perceived floral spiciness. I picked up on grainy notes after drinking about half of the glass. Yeast character provides some fruity background notes of fig.
Mouthfeel: Moderately heavy body with a silky texture.Warmth in the finish and aftertaste from the alcohol. Considerable degree of astringency, giving that puckering effect in aftertaste. Despite the astringency, it starts out smooth and is pretty easy-drinking. Some residual sweetness and slightly tannic (think wine). A better description for the overall mouthfeel is that it leaves a dry, coffee-like finish from roasted grains. Strongly brewed coffee is a great example of the astringent bite.
Overall Impression: I was surprised to come across such a degree of astringency. A little is okay but this was a just too much for me. Depending on what type of chocolate malt they used, perhaps a paler malt and revising the roasted barley would aid in contributing a more pleasant aftertaste. Yeast adds another layer of flavor that complements the bittersweet chocolate. This is one of three stouts currently available from the brewery this winter.

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