De Molen: Hel en Verdoemenis – Bruichladdich Barrel Aged (Netherlands: Imperial Stout: 12% ABV)
Visual: Black. Still. No head. Viscous sheen.
Nose: Brown bread. Smoked bacon. Salt touch. Nougat. Sour black cherries. Sour cider notes.
Body: Smooth. Salt and charring. Bitter cocoa and chocolate liquore. Medicinal touch. Milky chocolate. Sherry trifle.
Finish: Salt. Toasted marshmallows. Medicinal touch. Malt chocolate and brown bread. Light peanuts. Charred oak. Sherry trifle. Apples.
Conclusion: After last year’s Octomore Aged beer I was raring at the bit to try this years barrel aged beer from De Molen. Seriously, the Octomore Aged beer was a legend.
This. Well this is not a legend, but it is a very interesting beer in itself. It seems to be a mix of three main strands. The first strand is a deep bitter and charred stout; Bitter chocolate is the order of the day – lots of slow and heavy set flavour. It is a brutal backdrop that the more medicinal Islay character actually adds to rather than subsumes. Speaking of that second strand, this is actually more salted and medicinal than I expected from the lighter Bruichladdich distillery. It is actually done a bit too harsh – leading for an overly charred and charcoal beer that is what lasts out into the finish.
What saves it, to a degree, is the third strand. There is a soft nougat and sherry trifle sweetness that rises up from underneath the darker notes. This, if just against the chocolate of the first strand, would be spot on, and as the beer warms it does get much closer to this ideal. The body thickens and the charring level drops. Still a tad rough edged, but much better than at first.
The barrel ageing for this one doesn’t seem quite to work, but doesn’t manage to ruin what is a solid beer. Ok, and heavy duty, but not special.
Background: I didn’t have my tasting note kit last year, so I was intrigued to see what De Molen had for us at the Great British Beer Fest this year. This didn’t sound as instantly awesome as the Octomore, but I had my tasting note book this time so decided to give it a go. De Molen have been solid as hell so far, and as the lighter end of Islay I imagined Bruichladdich would let the base beer open up a bit. My friend Adam who also tried it was probably more disappointed with the beer than I was, so take that as a counter point.