A Vertical Tasting of Black Cauldron Imperial Stout
The 2007 Black Cauldron (hereafter, just BC) has by far the deepest, most complex aroma. I’m happily surprised to see that the oxidation aromas (sometimes called “sherry-like” or “cardboard” or “band-aid”) are very slight. These aromas can be fine in very small doses, but have ruined many a fine beer by overpowering any other flavors. Among that light sherry aroma is a very dark caramel–almost burnt– and a black olive briny kind of savory flavor. A really nice almond, or perhaps cherry pit, aroma shows up on the finish, which is something I really didn’t expect.
In comparison, the 2009 and 2010 BCs don’t have nearly the depth in the aroma department. The 2010 is probably the lightest aroma, with just the faintest whiff of chocolate rising from the glass. The 2011 aroma is a little stronger, with more of a coffee emphasis.
When it comes time to finally taste, the 2007 BC really stands apart from the other two. Whether this is strictly from age, or from changes in recipes and ingredients, I can only imagine. What I do know is that the body on the 2007 is remarkably fuller and creamier than the other two years, both of which leave a sharpness on the tongue due to a carbonic bite from the higher carbonation levels. The 2007 BC reminds me so much of chocolate mousse–rich and chocolately but with a light, uplifting finish. There is still a touch of smoke lingering in this brew, but it is very subdued.
As for our more recent editions, the main difference lies between the emphasis on chocolate and coffee. These two flavors exist in nearly every stout in one form or another, and in our Black Cauldrons we seem to have a slight difference in one year to the next. The 2009 BC has a stronger chocolate flavor and a pretty clean finish. There is a bit of graininess in the middle, but not too much bitterness or sharpness.
The 2010 BC–our most recent edition–has a very strong dark roasted coffee flavor, and a somewhat roasty bitterness to match. Add to that a fresher hop bitterness level, and this brew tastes much more potent than the other two. This BC seems to actually have a little more balance than the 2009, and I think that in a couple years will match the complexity of the 2007.