My Christmas Presents, part III

17 Feb

Labyrinth Black Ale

The Labyrinth is part of Unita Brewing’s Crooked line of beers.  They have a cute little story about how the crooked path is more fun, blah blah blah.  This is a black ale brewed with licorice sticks that clocks in at 13.2% from a brewery in Salt Lake City, Utah!  This is the same state that just made happy hour illegal.  I assumed day old Kool-Aid had too much alcohol in it to be served in Utah.  Guess I should have listened to my Mom about ASSumptions.  Seriously, is there anyone out there that can clear up Utah’s ass backwards liquor laws for me?  Is a beer like this for “export” only?  But before anyone thinks I am not accepting of all craft beer or at least willing to give a new one a try, lets get down to tasting this bad boy, all 750mL.  Did I mention its 13.2%?

Just pulling the cork out, which was a slight workout, I could tell the Labyrinth is a lightly carbonated beer.  The pour confirmed this; a few visible bubbles and no head.  As many good English ales are lightly carbonated, I do not see this as a negative whatsoever.  The beer had a strong sweet, dark malt nose.  I could also smell the alcohol and wood from the barrel aging.

After my first taste I have to say that a black ale is a good description as it is black – obviously, did you look at the picture – and rich like a stout but with a thinner body.  There are no detectible hops but the beer was not sweet at all as the smell indicated.  This is a two-part beer with each part quite complex.  Up front is the dark malt and licorice that carries through to the finish, and second, is the finish of alcohol and tannins.  I have tried many beers that use licorice, and brew one myself (mmm…Evil Diva), but this is the first one where the licorice is a prominent flavor.  I love licorice, but if you don’t, I would suggest you avoid this beer.  I have to say I like how strong the licorice flavor makes what could be a nondescript black ale so complex.  Now to the finish, this is a great winter warmer, the 13.2% is definitely warming, but not harsh.  I am still on the fence whether or not the barrel aging is too much.  The tannins are a bit strong to me.  I would like to know what kind of oak barrel the beer was aged in.  I did not detect any flavors a wine or bourbon barrel might add, so I suspect for the lack of other flavors and the strong tannins, this beer may have been aged in new oak barrels.

Now that I am on my second glass, I have come to the realization this beer needs food to go with it – dessert to be precise.  Damn I wish I hadn’t eaten all of Mynell’s (Brian’s wife) leftover birthday cake this morning for breakfast.  I wonder if I can sneak what’s left in the bottle into Pix patisserie…

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