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Black on Track 

Two black beers that range from rich and boozy to light and crisp.

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MIKE RIEDEL
  • Mike Riedel

Epic - Big Bad Baptist GingerBread: This new variant from Epic is just in time for those who are craving dark holiday stouts with familiar Christmas flavors. Gingerbread Stout has very little head, and isn't brown like the treat after which it's named. This jet-black beer is dark as coffee/espresso, but it's not as flat. It looks not only like it goes with dessert, but could also serve as dessert in and of itself. The aroma smells like dessert alright; gingerbread cookies are at the top of the list, along with black forest cake, hazelnut chocolate truffles and a big frothy cup of latte.

The first sip reveals a tasty, richly-flavored spiced stout that is quite nicely balanced. Caramel and molasses sweetness, together with that unshakeable gingerbread flavor, give this stout a hearty, generous feel—sort of like a cake, or perhaps a (gingerbread) muffin. Nuances of chocolate and roasted malts dwell mostly in the background, while cinnamon and ginger spiciness provide an added kick on the tail end, with suggestions of coffee, chocolate and roasted malts, which effectively dry the palate. It's full-bodied, with low carbonation levels that weakly nudge the tongue; the mouthfeel is smooth and soft, as if there are oats in here, and it's highly quaffable at 11.5 percent ABV.

Verdict: The BBB Gingerbread Stout is a seriously well-made stout that should pair perfectly with your Christmas dessert of choice. Its flaws are minor and generally forgivable; the body's on the full-side, and the roasted malts don't come through as well as I'd hoped. The spices, however, have been added in precisely the proper quantities—strong enough to complement and add complexity, but not so strong that they drown the other elements out. Excellent stuff; I'll be buying another bottle or two for later enjoyment.

Kiitos - German-Style Black Lager: There are quite a few dark lager styles floating around out there. You have Czech style, German style, American, Schwarzbier and Baltics. Aside from the Baltics, they should have dark roasted qualities, but light bodies, unlike stouts and porters. This beer qualifies as a dark lager for sure.

The dark brown, almost black beer with reddish tinges pours out into a typical Kiitos curved glass with a 3/4-inch tan head that soon recedes to leave some large patches and legs of lacing on the sides of the glass. Sipping creates several small patches of lacing, many of which slide back down the sides of the glass. Most of the foam on the surface is gone well before mid-way through the beer. The aromas are all about the dark roasted malts that have both some chocolate and some dark caramel. There don't seem to be any hops noticeable.

The flavors are much as expected from the nose, with the dark roasted malts providing some chocolate and caramel sweetness. A very light bitterness in the background seems more from the dark roasted malt than from the hops. The mouthfeel for this 5.0 percent beer is on the light side of medium-bodied, with moderate carbonation. The moderately long finish begins as the chocolate and malt sweetness begin to recede, leaving some light dark roast bitterness to close the semi-dry ending.

Verdict: While the flavors and aromas are not particularly complex, this is a reasonably tasty Schwartzbier that touches some of the right bases, and I'd have it again in a heartbeat.

You can find the German-Style Black Lager on draft and in 16-ounce cans at the brewery, and it will likely be at stores and bars anytime now as well. Big Bad Baptist GingerBread is cold at the brewery to enjoy there or to take home. Some are making their way into DABS stores as we speak, so keep an eye out. As always, cheers!

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