I hate writing these praise-heavy reviews for a multitude of reasons: first and foremost, my readers are 70% shitlords who complain that my impressions are somehow influenced by geography. The other 25% complain that the reviews with praise are less funny and contain less fingerbanging jokes. The final 5% meant to go to motherless and accidentally hit the DDB bookmark and dont give a shit about maple barrel stouts.
So this beer was never sold to the public, 1 per Hangar 24 Barrel Roll Membership, SO IT MUST BE AMAZING RITE? Notwithstanding the inaccessibility, this beer is an absolute masterpiece.
Alright so what is this shit, anyway?
“A single barrel of Pugachev’s Cobra that spent 6 months resting in a 25 year Heaven Hill barrel, then EIGHTEEN ADDITIONAL months in a bourbon barrel that we soaked in maple syrup for 3 months prior to filling with the beer.”
Initially I was going to do a head to head write-up due to the natural contrast between Puga Maple and StS, but dealing with Georgia cicerones is already tiresome, but suffice it to say, these two are not near one another in scope or execution. That’s not to say that StS wasn’t pretty good, it’s just the Black Maple is bonershattering in almost every way.
The pour is viscous and somewhere in between regular puga and Royale in sheeting, that Goldilocks sweet spot of legs and heft that never distracts. To be upfront, while I enjoy Maple stouts they aren’t my absolute jam. Often those IHOP notes are way overdone, or muted into a latent turbinado sugary sweetness. This is not the case here, the 14%+ abv can offer up a fusel bicep to wrangle the sticky pancake batter, whipping the bowl.
I hate hate hate pulling the branch down to make comparisons to KBBS, but that is the only beer that really runs neck and neck with what Puga Maple is up to. This beer presents excess and balance concurrently and through the paradox, the chocolate armor of Daedalus is forged, that bourbon Icarus flying so close to the sun, but never falling to the sea. You get a black blast of sticky molasses and Tollhouse chocolate chips, melted sugar daddies and carmelized lava cake. THE ROAST IMPARTS A DEGREE OF COFFEE LIKE ACIDITY TO BALANCE OUT THE SWEETNESS DESPITE THE FACT THAT THIS BEER DOES NOT CONTAIN COFFEE [fn1 this beer achieved this effect without added coffee, therefore this review is still a valid subjective account.]
THIS BEER IS BLAISEIN.
The swallow is long with Hershey squirts along the closer, lingering Nestle Quik and Aunt Jemima post nasal drip. This would have been included in the DDB top 10 of 2015, but I technically did not review it in 2015, so I had to grit my teeth. At higher temps the beer has an expansive frothiness like a Machiatto. The maple never is some sweet crutch to lean upon, nor is it some overbearing presence, it is seamlessly integrated into the narrative and functional to the plot, not some tacked on B story to pad out the length. Also fuck Hangar 24 for making these in small format. Cruel Redlands temptress.
To be candid, I dont think Hangar 24 is capable of brewing a better beer than this: but neither are the vast majority of other west coast breweries. It remains to be seen if H24 themselves could replicate this one. I foresee this as one of those lightning in a bottle beers that through some alignment of the planets, the single barrel yielded a mind blowing experience. I hope I am wrong. I hope I see these bottles next year in Total Wine, turding it up.
I shouldn’t have to type out 300 more words of tired syrup similes, this beer is world class without question. Absolutely staggering.