The FCC used to mandate bumpers during children’s cartoons to save them from deceptive advertising. It helped young minds differentiate between what was content and what was manipulative. IG doesn’t have that so instead we have pithy 26 word reviews with more hashtags and Tavour link promotion than actual writing.
Transparency matters. It isn’t that Pepper is a disappointing barleywine, it is, it’s that it isn’t a barleywine at all. When I saw the vanilla, my Madagascar alerts starting going off. When I heard the comparisons to Anabasis, I was wary. Kill confirmed: Pepper is an very good vanilla stout and nothing more.
If you heard the flavor descriptors: kit kat bar, Drumstick ice cream cone, burned s’more and robusto cigar your first question would not be “oh so was this an American or English barleywine?” Because it isn’t. Usually we have coward breweries calling barleywines anything but that to avoid perceived marketing pitfalls, this is a weird reverse alignment. The thing is though, it is a well done stout.
The apple brandy contributes this candy apple sweetness, bourbon lending complexity, cask is well managed. What did this beer even taste like before being Frankensteined with Peruvian vanilla beans? If someone drops $200 on this are they disappointed or happy that they got a solid, albeit completely different beer?
Here’s the rub: Microcosm I Volume II is the best beer that 8th state has made since Neck and Neck b2. It rights all the confusing wrongs that Pepper sets forth. If you wanted port complexity, here it is in all its raisin and fig newton glory. It is tighter, more nimble, and doesn’t have the messy vanilla distraction present. The two beers seem similar but MIVII is vastly superior in every way.
MIVII is a masterclass in managing waves of currant, prune, reconciling the intense sherry/cracker jack aspects, and closing with an impossible dry topgrain leather finish. It is a malty marvel to behold.
Style guidelines are amorphous, as long as the beer is good, I guess it isn’t fatal. But holy shit if I open one more can labeled “IPA” and it is default hazy I’m going to lose my god damn mind.