First and foremost, the ddb podcast, Malt Couture drops on 6/21/18, so pepper your angus.
Like some Sisyphean task, every year I overtrade for Dark Lord variants, and every year I go through the same crushing disappointment attendant to putting myself through Dark Wort deviants. Like Mercury in retrograde I constantly subject myself to this annual flagellation. Usually it is on the insistence of an increase in quality of Dark Lord from some self-interested dude trying to move his Brozerker before impartial opinions roll in. Every May I consistently make the absolute worst trades of the entire year and it isnt even close.
Bitter taste from perpetual hoodwinking aside, the beers themselves warrant comment. So let’s dig into these deviants that vary so wildly that one can scarcely generalize about the Dark Lord canon at all.
Greatest Teachable Moments
Jesus Christ this beer was a lemon pledge disaster. Some beer reviewers will reach for some top shelf hyperbole to drum up attention or grasp at relevance. I dont even need to engage in that pageantry, this beer is pure nightmare liquid. I have to address each component in turn like some dysfunctional underattenuated Megazord. First, if you have had Brandy barrel Dark Lord alone that already is total chore to consume. It is like those Mexican dulces that somehow become sweeter with each passing taste. Sugar begetting more sucrose like those brooms in Fantasia dumping Stevia at your doorstep. Next, we have verbena. They added fucking flowers and I can only assume it is lemon verbena because it is a complete furniture polish trainwreck. This may have been designed to temper the sweetness but it seriously comes across like CLR or some bathroom antiseptic. To further compound the problems, they added ginger. Ginger darklord practically writes the Kikoman jokes for itself. If they added wasabi you would already have the uni meets gross Airwick profile that I can only assume they wanted. No one needs to drink this. There is no reason for this to exist and beer as a whole is damaged for this exercise in punitive palate penance. As a garnish, they added orange peel because I mean, at a certain point does it even matter. If you rolled dads GTO into the lake, might as well spraypaint an orange cock on the side of it. You can’t get any more grounded. The entire beer is torturous from the olfactory to the taste to the long floorwax and tobacco finish. The teachable moment was that this 3:1 resulted in a strong contender for DDB worst beer of 2018.
2017 French Vanilla Militia
For the love of God, the hits keep coming with this wince inducing Muscat batterboarding. This beer was a notorious nosedive in quality and it concerns me that Three Floyds would even release a beer this fundamentally flawed in almost every aspect. The firesale evacuation in which dudes offloaded these beers last year was straight up shameful. Once people learned that this beer was not infected, but just intentionally executed in a way that would burn a QC sensory panel to the ground, it became infamous. On paper it sounds great: coffee, vanilla, cocoa nibs, oh but those baleful Muscat barrels. People know this is terrible and they still demand $200 for this AXIS IV psychologically damaging beer. It’s intensely sweet in the worst way, like drinking Torani pumps of iced wine. I don’t know many Indiana Golden Corral palate fucks who also enjoy port and massive dessert wines, but apparently there’s a huge market for them around Munster. Orchard rot and oversteeped espresso dominate with some astringent digestif aspects. Some people have fetishes where they hire escorts to destroy their most prized possessions. FVM17 is that experience in beer form.
This was the one beer I was extremely excited to try. I gave up Ardea + Duck Duck Gooze + Roll for Initiative + Jam the Radar for this, 4:1. The degree to which I overpaid for this tremendous letdown could visually be represented by a gaping glass buttplug. At least with other Dark Lord bottles you cup your backsack and just take the abuse. This is so much more hurtful because you come in with high expectations that grab the yoke and dive headfirst into Pineau Des Charentes mountain. It’s the exact same beer as FMV but it has another different fortified wine. Was there seriously any demand for this? The barrel profile is sickeningly tannic and cloyingly sweet in equal measure. Any hopes of vanilla or coffee bailing this out are roundhoused to the face by Mexican sweet breads with this saccharine grape jelly and a dry odd drag that just completely conflicts with everything else going on. This is the beer equivalent of Xzibit putting a fish tank in your Civic. What am I even supposed to do with this? I know it seems like I am taking the piss just to pander and boast and demonize these beers but I swear, I wanted this to be amazing and it was patently depressing. It’s less bad than FVM17 and Greatest Teachable Moments, but that’s like being the best behaved inmate in Arkham, it’s still completely fucked up.
2017 CHEMTRAIL MIX
Alright, finally THIS BEER, this beer has to be the one to grab the reigns and drive this stagecoach to TastyTown. Oh, and it absolutely does. I drank this side by side with BA Abraxas for some detached palate calibration to grind my cinnamon stick. It’s better than BA Abraxas, but here’s the issue, I don’t like BA Abraxas that much either. Chemtrail is easily the best Dark Wort Deviant I have had outside of Handjee, but it’s still markedly overhyped, overpriced, overvalued, overpraised, and its merit doesn’t come within a country mile of its $500(?) asking price. But is it fair to push an epidermal into this beer’s perineum due to the shittiness of the surrounding fans? Not entirely. Three Floyds absolutely killed it and stuck the landing with the balance of cinnamon, sweet casks imparting the structure of caramel and mallow to subdue the tobacco and roast of the base beer. It all works exceedingly well and this is an example of what Dark Lord innovation could and should be.
The pink peppercorns are more of a garnish that imparts a light crackly dryness that could be overlooked without the intensity of most mexican style stouts. I almost never get to praise FFF for balance and nuance, especially not in the Dark Lord context, but this is masterfully done. My gripes are the relatively oppressive cinnamons aspects but they seem laconic compared to the Cinnabon cunnilingus that is BA Abraxas. God old DDB deepthroating that churro, mascara running and mixing with confectionary sugar. Five bills is just too steep to drop on theme park sweets.
2018 Marshmallow Handjee vs. 2013 Bourbon Vanilla Dark Lord
Both of these are so god damn good and represent the simple pinnacle of what the recalcitrant base Dark Lord can be manipulated into. This year’s Handjee is so unwieldy but it provides the massive scope and range that the hamfisted delightful vanilla beans impart. It’s almost one dimensional in the waffle cone Coldstone realm but never dips its wick into the Yankee Candle zone. The way it weaves between that turbinado sugar sweetness, deep roast, char and tobacco, with a ribbon of Dreyers seamlessly integrated is phenomenal. Here’s the rub: 2013 was even better.
2013 lacks the sweetness and offputting aspects in the fresh MHJ but somehow maintains such a vibrant vanilla character. I rag on 8th owner Vanilla Rye owners peddling their sad impressions of “HAS NOT FADED AT ALL” from dudes who got into beer three years after VR was released. This is not that. This is so substantial and sewn together lovingly that it’s almost like Whoppers or Kit Kat wafers. I can’t imagine Dark Lord being massaged into any finer form and the 2013 BVDL represents the pinnacle of not just Dark Wort, but pastry stouts in general. It is the standard bearer of split bean excellence. From insane experimentation to demonstrating the absolute ceiling of what stouts are capable of, three Floyds runs the entire spectrum.