Three Years of Black Cauldron

A Vertical Tasting of Black Cauldron Imperial Stout

This is the third year that we have brewed Black Cauldron Imperial Stout, and I thought this would be a good time to go back and taste the three editions side-by-side-by-side. Black Cauldron was first brewed as a part of our Cellar Reserve series a few years ago, and when we began our seasonal program, we brought it back to brew each winter. Imperial Stouts tend to age well, due to the happy convergence of high alcohol, high hopping rates, and a heavy use of black malt–three ingredients that all help to preserve beer.

Black Cauldron Imperial Stout

8.0% Alcohol by Volume
2007 (1 liter bottle), 2009 (12 oz bottle), and 2010 (750 ml bottle) editions

Tasting Notes from February 2011:
Each of the three brews pours the same color of jet black–no ruby highlights or brown lacing to get in the way of the deep black beer that fills the glass. Likewise, a thin and quickly disappearing tan head tops each glass.

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.

Cellar Master Says: I’m amazed that three years of the same beer can all taste so differently. The 2007 Black Cauldron certainly tastes good now, and I encourage anyone out there hanging on to a bottle to pop the cap soon. The 2009 Black Cauldron is the most delicate of the three I tasted today, and I don’t expect it to stand up well to anymore aging. Go ahead and open this one, too. The 2010 Black Cauldron tastes young and impudent now, but in a couple of years should turn into a beer that is a little more refined and worthy of a special occasion.


One thought on “Three Years of Black Cauldron

  1. Pingback: What Do Witches and Brewers Have in Common? - Suds Hound

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s