Thank you Rick Harris for giving me this at the end of our brewery tour trip to Des Moines this past weekend. Having recently build his kegorator, he's been purchasing kegs of high quality to fill his taps such as Delerium and Third Coast Old ale. He picked this up at John's Grocery in Iowa City while we made a quick stop to gander at the wealthy beer selection. I got to reviewing this Monday morning following a recovery run through Rock Island.
Appearance: Deep mahogany brown with a tint of red when held to the light. The head cream colored and dense in texture and is outstandingly well retained complete with peaks and a dry coated lacing. Dark enough to make carbonation difficult to observe.
Aroma: A bit musty, like that of an old brewery cellar (I'm thinking of Great Lakes basement bar) But some notes of kilned amber and toasted malt arise, followed by dark fruit and a dash of alcohol. Toffee takes a prominent cast amongst many of the layered complexities. A touch of browned applesauce and grapes.
Taste: Toffee and pumpernickel bread make up what most of the foretaste consists of. To follow, a rich fruity ester complexity develows only to then develop into a chocolate undertone to round out the well balanced sweetness within the beer. Think Chocolate covered cherries! Nearing the end, a dryness sets in giving a perceptively different character to the sweetness as it fades. More of a nuttiness. The finish leads a tannic woodiness, but more palatable and relatively maple syrup like. The finish s dry tasting with notes of estery alcohols and dry lignin.
Mouthfeel: Rich viscous feel. Chewy to say the least. Cloying on the roof of the mouth, yet drying overall on the palate. The carbonation is minimal, but against the thickness of the liquid, it still adds an enticingly favorable feel to the beer. Definitely tacky to the lips.
Overall Impression: At first taste, I though of it as a typical high alcohol beer, but taken apart and observed from a sensory analysis, one can enlighten its complexities. It's very mellow in all flavors, but Rich and robustly malted all the way through. Toffee, bready, and maple make much of the foundation. Hops add a drying aspect to the beer to still balance but not undertake the malt. This is one of the best high-octane, yet (alcohol) hardly acknowledgeable beers I've had. Bell's certainly does master the dark of ales