Mikkeller: Black Hole: Red Wine Barrel (Denmark: Imperial Stout: 13.1% ABV)

Visual: Visual: Pours thick, black and with a good sized bubbled froth of head considering the abv. The head is a lovely toffee colour, but not too long lasting.

Nose: Jelly babies. Red cherries. Strong milky chocolate. Dusty cocoa beans. Strawberry jam and milky coffee. Red wine.

Body: Big thick milky chocolate with a very thick creamy texture. Solid bitter behind that. Glacier cherries and jelly babies. Red grapes and vinous touches as it warms. Cream.

Finish:  Milky and bitter chocolate mix with dry coffee.  As you wait the bitter chocolate wins out over the other two.  Grapes and slightly stewed apples as side airs.

Conclusion:  Much as I love the odd ageing you can apply to beers, I have come to realise that they are a very difficult balancing act to pull off.  So many barrel ageings come in so strong that they obliterate the original base beer that you loved so, which kinda misses the point.

Now Black Hole is a hard beer to hide, yet on first sniff you think that the red wine has actually done it.  The first whiff is all red fruit, and also oddly the same jelly baby style I found in the tequila aged version.

Main body however is classic Black Hole chocolate and coffee with the red wine fruitiness relegated to bubbling away underneath.  The red wine never quite comes to the fore, but you can see it there all the time, rounding off the edges and infusing a new richness in its place.

The natural bitter dryness of the stout and the fruit sweetness are a great match. The only thing I would say is not to come into it expecting the red wine to be a booming element. While it is definitely there it’s polite and intrudes only when it has something new to offer.

A subtly changed beer which results in a definite improvement to the Black Hole stout. A beer that invites exploration and probing searches, unlike its namesake.  A great twist then on an already great beer from a great set of brewers.

Background: Ah Mikkeller black hole, pretty much the first craft Imperial Stout I ran into and still and old favourite.  This beer actually has quite the back story to it.  Due to problems over at Brewdogs store at the tail end of last year there ended up being a few breakages of beers I had ordered. They had no more of that beer left in stock so sent me this beer as a replacement. Which promptly disappeared in the post. Still, dedicated bastards that they are they finally got the beer to me, which I can now joyously review.