Visual: Black. Still. Moderate beige froth that leaves suds.
Nose: Habanero sauce. Tequila touched. Fresh bread. Slight sour cherries. Muted chocolate.
Body: Warming, becomes tingling heat when it hits the back of the throat. Chilli seeds. Milky chocolate. Mild dates. Cream. Mild sour cherries. Chilli powder. Brown bread. Habanero sauce mixed with brown sauce.
Finish: Chilli powder. Warming and tingling. Charring. Brown sauce.
Conclusion: Ok, I may be the wrong person for doing these notes – as mentioned in the background I prefer my chillies for flavour over heat. Now, this isn’t that hot – it is tingling not burning – but any attempt to hold this on the tongue for any length of time results in the chilli seeds warmth filling the mouth into a chilli powder style, which makes it very hard to differentiate notes. Each sip is a race against time to identify elements before they are lost.
Thankfully, like many things, the human body can adapt, so the chilli becomes numbed over time allowing the base, thick feeling, but not heavy in flavour, chocolate elements to come out. The chocolate really is mild here, in fact there is more of a habanero touched brown sauce element going on. It results in a thick, slightly oily tasting and feeling thing.
I still feel that there is more to this that I am not getting due to the chilli. The reason is that I am using the aroma as a guideline and there I get subtle, slightly tart and sour, cherry hints – If these had been present as anything but light hints in the body then it would have been the welcome break the beer needed. I also occasionally got hints of dates in the body, then again that could be because I knew they were used in making the beer – they don’t really have a huge impact.
Now I am halfway through the beer and the heat feels a tad more balanced – like this we seem to have ended up with an ok but not overly interesting porter than only stands out due to being punched up by chilli which adds heat and simple chilli character but not any real synergy with the Imperial Porter to create new complexities and bring out the best in the beer.
It is okish, but feels simple. The chilli doesn’t add enough to make it work for me. I’d say leave it be, if you are a chilli fan then maybe this will do more for you. I would say there are far better out there.
Background: This was a birthday gift from friends, many thanks! This one is an Imperial Porter made with habanero chilli, cacao nibs and dates. Despite mentioning habanero roughly a million times in the notes at the time I was only aware it had been made with chilli, it was only when looking at the back of the bottle I realised how accurate I had been! For once. I tend to prefer my chilli influence on the mild and flavoursome end of the scale – a far cry from university days when I ate insane heat curries. I prefer a gentler life these days. Drunk while listening to some of the excellent Svalbard!