|One of the best beers I've ever had|
I rarely write reviews about individual beers on The Beer Whisperers electing instead to focus on the breweries that make them and, preferably, ones that I have personally visited. After trying Modern Times' City Of The Dead though I decided to make an exception. Simply put, this is one of the most amazing beers that I have ever had.
Prior to pouring, I took a peek at the back label to see what this beer was all about. After a perfunctory perusal, I saw the words "Guatemalan Coffee" and "Bourbon Barrels" and I stopped reading. It doesn't take much to please me when it comes to beer and few things achieve that more quickly than a coffee/bourbon combination.
With that said--I've been incredibly disappointed by a number of seemingly incredible beers lately. I will never buy another Clown Shoes beer after a string of drain pours (I'm not knocking them because a few of the beers have World Class ratings on Beer Advocate, which says to me that it's likely just my palette and not anything they're doing on their end). These were barrel aged beers that should have bowled me over and instead just left me shaking my head in disgust.
Back to the beer at hand! As soon as I poured it into my glass I knew that I was in for something special. The rich coffee aroma caught me by surprise not in its composition but in its intensity; rarely are coffee stouts so imbued with such redolent roastiness. There was a hint of bourbon too but it wasn't as prominent as I was anticipating. Having had over 150 bourbon-kissed beers, I've found that my nose has become particularly attuned to picking out the sweet vanilla and oaky notes that often accompany the spirit's presence in my glass. This time though something was different.
I took my first sip and my eyes widened. The commingling of coffee flavors and aromas titillated my taste buds and left me in awe. Rarely does a beer manage to combine the smooth, luxurious elements of cold brewed coffee with the rich, roasted burst of dark, hot brewed. City Of The Dead held the perfect blend of both but bore also deeper complexities; these I needed to sort out through additional sips. The bourbon came through mostly towards the end of the swallow but in a way I had never experienced before. I have had beers that proffered only a hint of bourbon sweetness and others that were utterly drenched in it (you can guess which ones I prefer!). Usually the former is a result of a) not enough time in the barrel and/or b) a lack of mastery when it comes to barrel aging beers.
The bourbon in City Of The Dead left me confounded: it didn't smack me across the face like some of my favorite barrel aged beers nor was it faded or muted. With each sip, it felt like it was waiting in the wings--playing coy as it slipped between the roast, the chocolate, and the oak layers that were growing ever more varied. With each sip, it was like it whispered to me but when I turned around there was no one there; it was driving me nuts.
I decided finally to read the back label fully and there I found the missing piece of knowledge and understanding. I had skimmed the label and misread it making assumptions based on my experience with scores of other similar beers, mistakenly grouping in City Of The Dead with the familiar. My excitement only grew as I read the label and reread the beginning that said, in full, "GUATEMALAN COFFEE AGED IN BOURBON BARRELS."
Yeah. I'll let that sink in for a minute.
I pieced it together myself just before reading it further along the label: the beer never touched a bourbon barrel; it was the coffee beans that were imbued with magical bourbon superpowers.
Needless to say, I was flipping out. As the beer warmed, it got only better and I grew ever more impressed with what I was drinking. The ONLY negative about the brew was that the mouthfeel was a little thin but I couldn't give less of a shit about that given the flavor explosion occurring with each sip. Seriously--from the first to the very last, it got continually more awesome.
Bourbon barrel aged coffee stouts are phenomenal but this? A beer brewed with barrel-aged coffee beans? It's barrel aging par excellence.
If you love this style of beer then you absolutely have to seek this one out. And if you're interested in their coffee (Modern Times is the first combination brewery/roastery in the world according to their label) you can purchase bags individually of the regular beans or sign up for a monthly subscription that includes barrel aged versions. Here's the link: http://www.moderntimesmerch.com/