I don’t normally care about label art, as it seems superfluous to the enjoyment of the stuff inside the bottle. But those guys over at Magic Hat have their collective metaphorical shit together, it seems. All of the labels, down to the “thumb-print fly-maze” of their mainstay “#9” are really well designed, and make me stop to appreciate them, just before I appreciate the beer.
Just look at that eye. Creepy as hell, in the best kind of way.
I’m a literature guy, but I’ve never read Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. I thought it was about a tiger who ate some guy, but I think I was actually remembering that Michael Douglas movie (that also had Iceman from Top Gun in it) where he shoots some poor lions who were just trying to get some dinner because he’s a jerk. Either that, or I confused it with The Most Dangerous Game. My apologies for mixing up my turn-of-the-century post-colonial American-British-African Lit.
I discovered this little gem in the Magic Hat Winter Sampler (which also included #9 x3, Encore Wheat IPA x3, and Wooly ESB x3 – reviews coming soon!*) It was labeled as “a smooth, round palate with a dreamlike undercurrent of bittersweet chocolate.”
An undercurrent is an understatement. This thing tasted like a chocolate bock made with unsweetened baking chocolate and cocktail sours.
But if that sounds unpalatable, I apologize. My palate is quite bizarre (I like to eat raw garlic). This Joseph Conrad nod is really enjoyable, especially as a winter seasonal. It is appropriately heavy with only a mild hint of malty sugar, making for something that feels like it belongs in a snifter, in your left hand, while you read the collected works of Edgar Allan Poe with your right. And you should probably be in front of a slowly dying fire. Probably.
If you hold it up to a light and let the rays shine through just the lightly laced periphery of the beer, it almost looks purple. Purple beer is a first for me.
But unlike creamy counterparts, this stout is almost effervescent. Its finish is deceptively crisp, given the coffee black color and undeniable roasted aroma. I expected a finish like Young’s Oatmeal Stout, but I found my lips tingling a little bit the more I sipped. The texture reminds me of Sierra Nevada Stout; it’s still got all the rights ingredients, but the brewers seemed to remember that carbonation isn’t always a bad thing when it comes to dark beer.
Whether you’re hunkered down on a steamboat dodging a storm of arrows from Congo-natives, or you’re hiding from whatever lurks in the cold, dark of winter nights (it’s probably a tiger) crack open a Heart of Darkness so that the last thing on your lips can be something tasty.
8.75 out of 10.
*I have already “reviewed” #9, so Encore and Wooly are up next!