Tasting Notes: Chipotle Double Bass from Starr Hill Brewery

SHBChipotle1000.jpgFor this week’s installment of Tasting Notes, we unwrap a Box of Chocolates from Starr Hill Brewery (Charlottesville, Virginia) to enjoy some Chipotle Double Bass Double Chocolate Stout as a holiday treat.

Not too long ago, we brought you news of Starr Hill Brewery’s intentions to treat the craft beer community to its Box of Chocolates Stout Pack containing variants of its fan-favorite Double Bass Double Chocolate Stout.  To create this collection of liquid indulgence, the brewers at Starr Hill infused Double Bass “with all-natural ingredients including organic peppermint leaves, smoke-dried jalapeño peppers, and locally roasted whole coffee beans.”  The results were stellar, and Double Bass Double Chocolate Stout, Peppermint Double Bass, Chipotle Double Bass and Mocha Double Bass (three 12 oz. bottles of each) earned their place in a Mixed 12-pack that is guaranteed to satisfy the sweet tooth of any craft beer fan.  The Box of Chocolates Stout Pack was officially released in mid-November in limited quantities, but there are still a few packs floating around at select beer retailers located within Starr Hill Brewery’s distribution area.  (hint, hint . . . A Box of Chocolates Stout Pack would make for an amazing holiday gift if you are still out there scrambling for ideas)

To keep this post from being a novel-length read, we decided to sit down with all four Box of Chocolate offerings and pick an office favorite to feature in this week’s Tasting Notes.  Since all four Double Bass beers proved to be damn tasty, this was a difficult task that we took incredibly seriously.  Maybe too seriously.  There was much deliberation and disagreement . . . words were said . . . non-holiday appropriate gestures were exchanged . . . palates were challenged . . .  things got weird and borderline violent . . . but we eventually came to an agreement that Chipotle Double Bass has earned the spotlight.  With that now resolved, let’s get to those Tasting Notes!

Tasting Notes for Chipotle Double Bass from Starr Hill Brewery

Appearance: Nearly black, Chipotle Double Bass is actually the darkest of browns in color.  When held to direct light, this is fully confirmed as dark cola and caramel tones push through at the top and bottom of the glass.  Even so, the beer remains completely opaque and its carbonation level is not visible.  The pour produced a solid finger of brown sugar-colored head that has decent retention.  The foam eventually falls to a thin ring that leaves behind some spotty lacing.

Aroma:  The OG Double Bass Double Chocolate Stout is alive and well here with defined notes of dark chocolate, dark roast coffee and vanilla showing up big out of the gate.  The chipotle subtly moves in with a good deal of smoke, peppery heat and just a touch of green veggie presence.  As soon as those aromas hit your nose, there is no denying that you want a sip.

Taste:  The chipotle certainly finds its footing in the flavor with pleasant, nicely developed notes of smoke and heat.  More smoke than heat really . . . and it is lovely.  Chocolate, coffee and roasted malt tones turn up in timely fashion to tame the heat and support the smoke.  The flavor profile eventually closes with a soothing presence of vanilla and cocoa.

Mouthfeel:  Medium in body with a medium carbonation level, this brew has a solid weight to it but avoids being too heavy, overbearing or sticky.  It is mostly sweet on the palate, but the chipotle actually lends a hand in creating a nice balance.  There is a slight tingle of heat on the throat . . . from the peppers.  The ABV, on the other hand, is well hidden and incredibly tame for 7.8%.  The aftertaste is a little smoke, some vanilla, and touch of peppery spice.

Final Thoughts:  “Composed.” “Complex.” “Entrancing.” “Tempting.” “Sexy AF” (told you things got weird).  These are just a few of the many descriptors that were thrown around while we discussed Chipotle Double Bass, and they are all dead on.  When you are dealing with an ingredient as powerful as chipotles, it is so easy to end up with an unrefined experience completely dominated by one note.  Not at all the case here.  Double Bass Double Chocolate Stout’s original characteristics of dark chocolate, mocha and vanilla are all here to be placed gently alongside that chipotle.  Hell, even the chipotle has a crazy amount of depth with distinguishable, stand-alone levels of gorgeous smoke and reserved heat.  The chipotles absolutely make their presence known, but they never push the boundaries, get out of hand or bully the notes that are found at the soul of Double Bass.  The base beer and the featured ingredient both end up with equal billing, resulting in an experience that is notable and praise-worthy.  Seriously, you need to check out Chipotle Double Bass and the rest of the variants found in Starr Hill’s Box of Chocolates Stout Pack while you still have the chance.  Make it happen.  Prost!

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Tasting Notes: Double Bass from Starr Hill Brewery

doublebassbottle500As the work week finally comes to an end, we settle into our Friday by indulging in some Double Bass Double Chocolate Stout from Starr Hill Brewery (Charlottesville, Virginia) for this week’s Tasting Notes.

Starr Hill Brewery introduced Double Bass Double Chocolate Stout in January as a new member of their All Access Series, a limited lineup of the brewery’s “most unique & inspired beers.”  This offering is a 7.8% ABV Imperial Stout that has been loaded with six malts (2-Row, Chocolate, Caramel, Crystal, Golden Oats and Flaked Barley), cocoa powder, cocoa nibs, vanilla beans and lactose.  Clearly all about that malt and chocolate, the decadent recipe for Double Bass produces aromatic and flavor notes of dark chocolate, mocha, vanilla, bittersweet chocolate and dark fruit. Double Bass Double Chocolate Stout is a limited release that is available in 4-packs of 12 oz. bottles and on draft.  If you wish to try this offering, Double Bass is still pouring in the Starr Hill Brewery Tap Room and can also be found hanging around on shelves and taps at select craft beer establishments in Alabama, Virginia, and other areas within the brewery’s distribution footprint.

Now that we are all caught up on this beer’s background information, it is finally time to put some Double Bass in this snifter and get to some Tasting Notes!

Tasting Notes for Double Bass Double Chocolate Stout from Starr Hill Brewery

Appearance:  Double Bass pours as a glossy, inky black in color.  Held to direct light, the deep and dark blacks hold but a bit of cola brown presents itself at the top of the pour.  The body is completely opaque, so the carbonation level cannot be observed visually.  The pour produced well over a finger of mocha colored foam (impressive considering the size of this snifter), and the head gradually falls to a thin top cap over time.  When swirled in the glass, the beer leaves behind a coating oil slick that makes it difficult for any lace to gain a firm hold.

Aroma:  Sweet and deeply roasted malts hit the nose first.  The malts eventually open up to expose luscious notes of chocolate.  Creamy fudge, rich dark chocolate, and satisfying milk chocolate are all present.  The roasted malts circle back around to finish things off with a black coffee character that works beautifully with all the chocolate currently filling the air.

Taste:  The flavor profile begins with a huge pop of bittersweet dark chocolate, and this note holds for quite some time.  As it fades, tones of cream, vanilla, cocoa and milk chocolate develop to create a flavor combination that is strikingly reminiscent of a gourmet, scratch-made hot chocolate.  The roasted malts supply closing notes of caramelized brown sugar and dark coffee.  Rich and intense, but still smooth and composed.

Mouthfeel:  Silky in texture, this Stout is on the lighter side of full-bodied thanks to a lifting carbonation presence. It is sweet on the palate, but still has a good amount of balancing bitterness from the heavily roasted malts, cocoa nibs and added hops.  Although gently warming, it certainly does not feel like this beer is pushing 8% ABV.  Decadence also resides in the aftertaste as it leaves behind notes of dark chocolate and fine coffee.

Final Thoughts:  To put it simply, Double Bass is a wonderfully executed, big, beautiful Chocolate Stout.  It possesses all of the roast and chocolate character you could possibly want while still somehow avoiding being overly sweet or cloying.  The hops are dialed in perfectly to stealthily provide balance while hiding behind the lightly bitter qualities supplied by the cocoa nibs and the more heavily roasted malts. Oh, and the mouthfeel on this Stout . . . a thing of beauty.  It has more than enough weight to it to firmly establish itself as a robust representation of the style, but it does so with a gliding gracefulness while on the palate.  Factor in that the ABV is so well hidden, and then you are left with a full-flavored Imperial Stout that maintains an almost unrivaled level of drinkability.  If there was a list of beers out there that makes a case for any time of year being Stout Season, Double Bass Double Chocolate Stout would certainly make our Top 5.  Prost!