Three Floyd’s Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout (2013)

[dark lord] cap intro

While I am a person who enjoys beer, I am not a Beer Person.

How do I know I’m not a Beer Person? Because I have no opinion on the Fuggle hop. Because I can and do drink Miller High Life in public, I don’t know what flavor crystal malt imparts, and I don’t give a single lonely fuck if you serve me a saison in a pint glass. I’m not proud of my ignorance, nor am I ashamed. I just don’t care that much. Because I’m not a Beer Person.

The corollary is that I don’t get to try the worlds best beers, because I’m not willing to do things like fly to Belgium, or even really set an alarm. The beer I drink is the beer of convenience; it is the beer that is already in my path.

That being said, when my excellent friend Justin Platt gifted me a bottle of the elusive Three Floyd’s Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout, I admit, I got Christmas-morning excited.

Dark Lord Day:

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The Dark Lord is a Russian Imperial Stout brewed with coffee, vanilla, and sugar, weighing in at around 15% alcohol. It is available for exactly one day a year, Dark Lord Day, the last Saturday in April, and only at Three Floyd’s Brewery, in Munster, Indiana.

To get it, you have to perch yourself online for the moment tickets go on sale, as they will sell out very quickly. You are allowed to buy two tickets. The ticket is $30, and doesn’t get you the beer, but rather earns you the opportunity to buy the beer. Upon showing up on Dark Lord Day (itself a beerfest with live music and such), you’re sorted into groups A-E, and when your group is called, you wait in line for the privilege of buying one (1) allotment of Dark Lord, which is between 2 and 4 bottles, depending on that year’s yield.

And if that all seems like a giant pain in the ass, consider this: the two variants of Dark Lord currently sit at #8 and #11 on ratebeer.com‘s Best Beers Ever list, and #8 and #61 on beeradvocate’s. Which is why it’s not something I’d fly to Indiana for, but it’s something I’ll absolutely fucking drink.

Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout:

[dark lord] taste

This beer was seriously amazing. Sits heavy. Mouthfeel like heavy cream. Caramel, obviously, but also a very pleasant fig/dried fruit presence. Darker fruits like plums show up too. Not very bitter, a balancing presence is all. Lots and lots of complexity. And as I settled into it, the dominant flavor for me turned to be milk chocolate, probably because of the mouthfeel. “So much damn chocolate,” I wrote. Coffee and vanilla integrated seamlessly. Crazy good. A+.

A warm thank you to Justin for this bottle. What a cool experience. California’s a bit far, but if I still lived in Chicago, I can see driving an hour for this.

Up in Smoke

I was recently asked to make a beer cocktail (read: a cocktail featuring beer in some way) for a mini-competition at Sessions Public. The peremeters were broad and the rules few, and yet I’ve never had a more difficult time inventing a drink. It felt like coaxing blood from a fucking stone, I think mostly because I don’t have a huge amount of respect for the category. Beer cocktails always feel forced to me, more interesting than they are delicious — I’ll have one and find it intellectually satisfying, and not need another. I think that was true of the one I ended up making, and that’s in fact been true of every beer cocktail I’ve ever had, except for one:*

Up In Smoke
1oz Laphroig Islay Scotch
1oz Fuji Apple simple syrup
0.25oz lime juice
3-4oz Allagash Curieux

Shake the scotch, syrup, and lime juice over ice. Strain into collins glass half-full with ice. Top with beer. Garnish with apple slice, and serve.

The Up in Smoke has been on Craft and Commerce’s list since they opened, I believe a Phil Ward original (but I welcome corrections on that point). While it wouldn’t take much mental horsepower to pair, say, a dark rum (caramel and vanilla flavors) with a stout or porter (vanilla and coffee flavors), this drink is the exact opposite. This pulls flavors from all over the place.

The Curieux is a Belgian-style tripel aged in bourbon barrels for 8 weeks. The beer is full of malty sweetness and almost affects a fruity character, which is here compounded by the apple syrup and given a backbone of briny, smokey scotch, a choice as strange as it is successful. Belgian beers can sometimes be too rich for beer cocktails, but the acidity of the lime juice and tart echo of the apple bat it back down.

This is a marvelously creative drink. It’s both fascinating and completely delicious, a 7-10 split in the culinary world. In 100 years, I would never have thought to invent this. Though I’ve thought of drinking it twice this week, and it’s only Thursday.

*MITIGATING DETAIL: A very talented bartender named Adam at Sessions did come up with one that I thought was superb, a rum/ginger concoction with muddled strawberries and topped with Liefmans Fruitesse, a bright, sweet fruit beer from Belgium. This echos the best drink Nick Budrow has ever made me, which was muddled strawberries with Buffalo Trace, lemon juice, simple syrup and again the Liefmans. The sweet/tart, vaguely balsamic quality of sours and lambics lends themselves to mixing with cocktails, particularly when actual berries are involved. Not that it’s necessarily better than not, but they sit more comfortably within the spectrum of deliciousness.