This imperial stout was aged on cacao nibs, vanilla beans, chili peppers, and coffee beans provided by a local roaster. It’s commonplace to add one or maybe two of these ingredients to take things up a notch, but it’s practically unheard of to combine all four (though a few other examples exist). An exceptional aroma is dominated by espresso, complemented by cocoa powder that balance accordingly with sweet maple syrup, then followed up by a trail of smoke.
The palate opens up to dry, roasted, bitter espresso paired with an immense amount of cocoa. Burnt molasses rounds things out, infusing a solid sweet support that doesn’t overstep its bounds. Midway, a dark fruit character surfaces in the form of cherries and blackcurrants, with a touch of black licorice. Hops add a great deal of herbal spice to the background as bitter oils continue to percolate up. Vanilla owns the finish, and it comes off tasting like crème brulée and burnt caramel. Mouthfeel is creamy, floating semi-dry over an almost full body, leaving with a faint touch of chili pepper capsaicin that coincides with a slow alcoholic chest warming that comes together perfectly.
Prairie steps away from their focus on the Saison, showing off their ability to craft an equally good dark beer. This beer really makes a statement, if at least in the form of a testament to the strong abilities of the brewery. If this were any other style of beer, the 14% ABV would be pushing the boozy boundaries, but the chocolate, coffee, and roasted barley work together to mask the alcohol so that it doesn’t come across as heavy as it actually is. All the ingredients come together with pleasant compatibility and each gets a moment to shine. I realize $8 for a 12 oz. is steep ($30/4-pack), but flavor and alcohol help make up for that if you care to do the math. Overall, I think this is a stunning beer that really impressed me. Every sip opens up a distinct shade and character, and for this reason I find it best served room temperature. This is absolutely worth trying if you’re a fan of this delectable style. I highly recommend it!