Sunday, July 31, 2011

Black Hawk Stout (Mendocino Brewing Company)

According to the Mendocino Brewing Company website, the brewery came into being in August of 1983, and bottles of their product started hitting the market in December of that year. Amazingly, it has taken me this long to get my hands on one. But let's forget the past and see whether there is any future for us together.

The bottle at hand is Black Hawk Stout, and its label is illustrated, as are the labels of all Mendocino's "Legend" and "Select" series, with a bold head shot of the eponymous bird. It raises in my pint tumbler two or more inches of structurally sound head. Held to light, the beer is pitch black with ruby fringes. The nose is of buttery malt and subtle minerals.

At first taste it is clear that this ale is more kindred to the dry Irish stout style than to the sweeter Russian imperial stout style that seems to predominate in the American craft brew scene. It is mild and smoky, and not particularly sweet. It is well balanced, with the predominant note being the smokiness of grains that are roasted but stop short of being scorched. Subdued carbonation and glassy mouthfeel make it seem creamy -- though not to the downright slippery extent of that delicious Lancaster Milk Stout I had a while back. Again, dry along the lines of Guinness, but perhaps a bit richer.

Black Hawk Stout is somewhat restrained, but has a very nice overall character. I do like wrestling with the darkness of intense, hard-charging imperial stouts, but I find this lighter stout highly drinkable. Would drink again, and would recommend to fanciers of dark beer.

Featured beer:
Black Hawk Stout

Honorable mention:
Lancaster Milk Stout

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