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

Visual: Black. Thick creamy coffee coloured head with burnt toffee coloured bubbles at the base.

Nose: Smooth creamy chocolate. Milky coffee. Slight plums. Thick marmalade. A slight spirit edge.

Body: Bitter chocolate. Raisins. Figs. Quiet creamy. Cinnamon. Marmalade again. Caramel. Plums.

Finish:  Bitter chocolate gratings, or maybe chocolate cake. Cream. Milky coffee. A light hop touch.

Conclusion: One day I will get bored of barrel aged black hole variants. One day. Today is not that day however.  This one, cognac aged, initially seems remarkable unaltered by its time in the wood. I thought to myself “Maybe the cognac had found its match and could not escape the black hole of flavour”.

A bit more time proved that hypothesis incorrect. The beer is smoother, and does have a spirit touch to it. Though frankly standard black hole had enough of a punch with it’s abv that you can understand how that is easily missed.

A bit more time and the real differences started to show themselves. Marmalade and distinct dark fruit nestled dangerously at the beers heart.  While not transforming the Black Hole it does complement it well. The strength of the base beer guards it against the common criticism of barrel aged beers, that of losing the base beer to becoming a clone of whatever it was aged in. You can tell that the base beers bitter chocolate and coffee are still present in full force.

The fruit does give it a touch of Trappist Quadrupel in its impressions, and frankly I can think of very few situations where those words are not a compliment. I would say that while delicious that maybe the influence is still a tad too restrained. The Red Wine version walked the thin balance between influencing and overwhelming better.  This should not however be taken as a slight, like all Black Holes this is delicious, rich and powerful yet smooth. It is just not the best in the extraordinary class that is the barrel aged range. Frankly that is faint criticism indeed. A fine beer.

Background: Yet another barrel aged Black Hole. Black Hole was one of the first insanely big stouts, or possibly even the first if my memory holds true.  As of such I love trying the different variants. Cognac ageing intrigues me, though I have only really seen it in Fullers Brewers Reserve so far.  Mikkeller are a great bunch of brewers who use other peoples breweries to make their beer. A fine and fun set of brews is the result.