Jackdaw: Zwarte Draak (Sweden: Belgian Strong Ale: 14% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black. Thin to moderate sized brown head. Still main body.

Nose: Smoked ham. Smoked blue cheese. Thick. Raisins underneath. Some chocolate character. Faint prunes.

Body: Thick. Brown sugar. Boozy weight. Bacon smoke. Slight alcohol prickle. Creamy chocolate. Black cherry. Brown bread. Charring. Liquorice. Slight toffee.

Finish: Alcohol air. Bitter chocolate. Bready. Charred. Smoke.

Conclusion: Fucking hell this is big. Then again, it is 14% abv so I shouldn’t be surprised. The strange thing is that generally, with one big exception, it doesn’t really show it much beyond a general “boozy” heaviness. We will get that that one exception in a mo.

Before that – this is fairly heavily smoked. I like that, and it being something different and pretty rare (at least in my experience) – a mix of heavy Belgian quad flavours with smoked styling. The smoke is wonderfull – smoked meat, tons of smoked blue cheese notes in the aroma – though disappointingly this second element doesn’t follow through into the body. Still, the body is brilliant as well even without that element. There is brown sugar sweetness as the main push against the meat and smoke, then as that fades away it has underlying chocolate, black-cherry and other dark fruit hints at the base. Above all it is just so chewy that you really feel like you can get your teeth into it to explore it.

So, anyway, back to that one thing. Erm, the finish is a bit rough. It has some of the notes before, but in general the finish has a simple alcohol air that kinds of hangs around. With a better developed and more refined finish this beer would be easily a classic and one of my favourites. The rest of the beer is an amazing liquid bread, smoked meat and chocolate sandwich that everyone should try.

Buuut, yeah the finish is sub par. Still definitely a beer worth getting. I don’t think I have seen a match of Belgian style to smoke done so well, or with this intensity before. Yeah, there are a few flaws at the end but it is still great.

Try it if you can, especially if you like hefty beers.

Background : A few things here, first, from a bit of googling it seems there are versions of this at 12.5% out there. Guess they must have brewed it up a bit in recent batches. Second, when I grabbed this I thought it was from a Brewery in Belgium I hadn’t run into before. It isn’t, it is from Sweden. Fair enough. Another one grabbed from Independent Spirit. Anyway, a big Belgian style beer was what I wanted at the time, and I drank without doing notes. I was so surprised at its smoked character that I grabbed another bottle to do notes on. This, is that bottle. Put on Louise Distras – Dreams From The Factory Floor while drinking – nice acoustic meets punk ethos meets protest song kind of mix. Looking forwards to whenever her new album finally comes out.

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