Soaking Up the Suds with James Crane


The beer I’m drinking this week is a collaboration ale from 10 Barrel, Blue Jacket and Stone breweries. Its name is simple, yet somehow sexy. Suede Imperial Porter promised an ale brewed with avocado honey, jasmine and calendula flowers. Normally, I’d be a bit dubious that such subtle flavors could blend together properly in a beer as robust as an Imperial porter. Honey and flowers seemed as though they would be over powered by alcohol and intense roasted malt flavor. These are breweries that excel in creating subtleties and complexities in bold, strong beers, however. I had a bit of faith they could do it.
The pour was typical of an imperial porter. The liquid was dark brown to black with a beautiful, albeit slight, head to it. It quickly dissipated, but left lacing down the side of the glass. It looked syrupy and thick, a hearty beer appropriate for a winter’s eve. Upon closer inspection, tiny bubbles continued to rise through the brew, hinting at more carbonation than I would have expected in a porter.
I thought I’d be overwhelmed by roasted malts and alcohol when I sniffed the brew. While absolutely present, it was not the first thing that hit my nose. The beer was certainly floral, the scent of the jasmine and calendula racing to the forefront. This gave it a sort of exotic quality that was exciting and intriguing. Backing this up was the nutty roasted malts and sweetness I expected. The alcoholic burn of this 9.6% ABV beer lingered in the back ground. It added a certain spiciness to it as well as another layer of depth.
Oddly, the first thing I noticed when it hit my tongue was not the taste — it was how incredibly smooth it was. Swallowing this beer was like drinking liquid velvet. Despite the higher alcohol content, it went down incredibly easy. I would not have wanted to drink it in any great quantity, as thick as it was, but the amount I had after sharing the bottle went down really well.
I had to take a few more swallows before I could really get a bead on the taste. There were a lot of flavors here vying for supremacy. On top of that, it was a big and bold beer. The tongue had to acclimate to some of the stronger flavors before it could really shine. There was certainly no shortage of chocolate and roasted notes, which both paired exceedingly well with its full body. The floral qualities of it were ever present, however. The honey also added a delicate flavor that paired so well with the sweetness that was present in the brew. It was a little bit like a chocolate stout and a nicely floral-hopped IPA had a baby that was more attractive than either of the parents. The alcohol lingered in the back ground, letting you know it was doing its job but wasn’t about to get in the way of some serious complexities of taste.
I was glad I shared this one. It became quite a conversation piece as we sipped our glasses, each swallow bringing about more nuances. We paired it with a delightful assortment of Christmas cookies. Good company, good booze and good food; if I need more in life than that, I’m not sure what it is.