DDB is full of inconsistencies. Sometimes breweries get lit up for using ingredients as a crutch, others get praise for the same shit. Ideological conflicts rub like strike slip tectonic plates creating that magma friction rumbling that is too underlying to ignore. The ultimate benchmark of the aesthetic valuations primarily lies in this amorphous conception of “net quality.” This may be some cloud of invincibility to retreat within when the sky is blackened by projectiles alleging “HOMERISM” or “CONSUMER BIAS” or “GEOGRAPHICAL FAVORITISM” but there are instances where, regardless of the placement of the brite tank, some people are simply more skilled at metabolizing sugarwater into ethanol.
These are the trappings of deconstructive commentary, the thin veneer of objectivity predicated at all times upon an aggregate of subjective impressions. No amount of ground effects or aluminum triple tier wings converts a Dodge Neon Expresso into that which it is not.
That being said: Highland Park Brewing made a fucking awesome stout riddled to shit with adjunct ingredients. Allow me to elaborate.
So let’s lay some foundation for this shit before we bust out the triple beam and start bagging up the raw:
“Brewed for The 10th Annual Woodshop Tasting(s) in San Diego and Los Angeles, 10/3-10/4/15. A double oatmeal stout with Trystero Ethiopian Dry Process Yirga Cheffe Buufata Konga coffee, lactose, cinnamon, vanilla beans, and cedar.”
They sold these at the Woodshop blind rating/bottleshare. Most people were too rekt to even buy these at the event or completely forgot because they left a toddler in their idling Pathfinder.
The carb is minimal, but you probably weren’t legitimately expecting some effervescent bubbler of mocha foam. If you remember my lengthy write up of the strengths and weaknesses of HPB you will recall this is a brewery that makes incredible saisons but bigger beers that are underwhelming because they are too fucking attenuated and thin.
So on paper we have 1) non-barrel aged 2) adjunct stout 3) made by a brewery who exhibited difficulties making a hefty beer 4) cedar. I was like “god fucking damnit” and almost bought zero. Thank god I did because this was a 12:1 runaway that cashed out hard.
The problems with other Highland Park Beers are decimated by the same thing that fucking RUINS stouts from Florida and the midwest: lactose. You see, other breweries don’t have a program focused on dialing in dry/clean beers. Highland park has TOO MUCH in this regard. As a result the lactose fills in the hole of the mouthfeel like a decadent sex doll. The sweetness from the lactose is tempered by PHENOMENAL coffee, a dry roasty floral execution like Stumptown rounders. The cinnamon, like a best friend “there for moral support while she picks up her things from your apartment” thankfully shuts the fuck up. It is a little crackle of spice that feels like rye oak and not some Cinnabon mall centerpiece.
The problem of lack of barrel aging loomed like them ships in ID4: WHAT WILL ADD THE DEPTH TO AMAZING MOUTHFEEL AND COFFEE BLASTS? Shockingly, cedar helps to dry out the sweetness from the lactose and serves as a foundation in conjunction with the coffee to make a faux american oak taste. This might be the singular example of these ingredients not completely fucking ruining a beer. The vanilla rounds out the butterscotch/coldstone creamery GOTTA HAVE IT barrel experience. It feels deceptively barrel aged, and I am content to drink the Kool-aid and put up with all of the bullshit because the net result is a fucking PHENOMENAL beer.
I will do some filthy things to tolerate awesome stouts.
So in sum, this is the Mad Max Fury Road of the beer world: you expect it to be some one dimensional stupid shit that shouldn’t hold your attention and it comes out of nowhere and rocks your tits off, inexplicably and amazingly.