For this installment of Tasting Notes, we do our best to ward off the cold with the soothing warmth found within a bottle of Willettized Coffee Stout from Lagunitas Brewing Company (Petaluma, California).
Released back in December as the perfect partner for “fireside-swigging and sweater-sipping”, Willettized Coffee Stout is a “big and burly stout” brewed with coffee beans from Metropolis Coffee Company and then aged for “up to 24 months” in Rye Whiskey casks sourced from Willett Distillery. 100% barrel aged and blended, Willettized (12% ABV) is a “chocolatey, coffee-y, smoky, oak-y, rye-y beast” that is “meant to be shared and/or aged . . . or not . . . whatever.”
A limited amount of Willettized Coffee Stout was released at the tail end of 2018, but there is a chance that a few bottles could still be hanging around out there. Look for this OneHitter Release to (possibly) be available in 22 oz. bottles and on draft at select craft beer-focused establishments located in Alabama, Florida, California, Illinois, Washington and throughout the rest of Lagunitas Brewing Company’s nationwide distribution territory.
Now that we are all a bit more familiar with this beer’s background information, what do you say we cozy up to a bottle and get into these Tasting Notes?
Tasting Notes for Willettized Coffee Stout from Lagunitas Brewing Company
Appearance: A gentle pour produces a glossy black Imperial Stout topped with two fingers of foamy, brown sugar-colored head. When held to direct light, the black color softens a bit at the edges to expose some brown, cola-like tones. The beer is completely opaque, hiding any visual hint at its carbonation level. Retention is good, gracefully falling to a tightly packed cap that coats the glass with creamy sheets of lace throughout the experience.
Aroma: Whiskey greets the nose with gentle, alluring notes of booze, vanilla, earthy/spicy rye, and oak. Rich dark chocolate and a dollop of caramel then work their way in to round off the alcohol with a soothing sweetness. Dark roast coffee then turns up to offer a final layer of complexity with light notes of roast, smoke and bittersweet chocolate – accentuating both the whiskey and chocolate notes that preceded it. Everything here is wonderfully straightforward and beautifully on point.
Taste: Dark chocolate and dark roast coffee take the lead here by laying a rich foundation that is bitter and sweet, earthy and decadent. The coffee gently opens further, coaxing out the rye whiskey’s notes of vanilla, oak, rye spice, molasses, and caramel. A bit of coconut and a toasted bready/crackery quality (almost graham cracker-like) seemingly come out of nowhere only to be quickly enveloped by a faint waft of smoke and tobacco in the finish.
Mouthfeel: Full-bodied with a soft carbonation level, this Imperial Stout is velvety and viscous in texture. On the palate, it is beautifully balanced as any sweetness is kept in check thanks to the bitterness of the coffee and earthiness sourced from the rye whiskey barrel. The ABV does bring some heat, but it is pretty tame for 12%. The aftertaste is just lingering, warm notes of rye whiskey and coffee.
Final Thoughts: Living up to all expectations set by its name, Willettized Coffee Stout is simply an incredibly well-composed Imperial Stout brewed with damn good coffee and clearly aged in high-quality whiskey barrels. The rye whiskey notes are extraordinarily clean, well-represented, and effortlessly drive the entire experience. With that said, the base Imperial Stout – with its pronounced aromas and flavors of coffee and chocolate – maintains a fantastic depth of character and refuses to get lost in all that barrel character. Each note is interlocking and depends on the others to come together to create a top tier barrel-aged stout experience. Seriously, if you are at all a fan of those old school, annually released barrel-aged beers that have served as a rite of passage for so many of us over the years (think KBS and Bourbon County Brand Stout), Willettized Coffee Stout is a must try. It just does not get much better than this. Prost!