Good evening, my friends! I hope these first days of December have been well to you all. Tonight, we’re stepping away from the lighter side of the holiday season and venturing down a much darker path. Fear not, for though it is dark, this road is lined with chocolate. Choklat, to be specific. It’s Southern Tier’s Choklat stout, part of their Blackwater series (which is another way of saying the tastiest stouts under the sun). To me, stouts lend themselves to cold weather because of their potent strength and super dark looks and flavors, reminding us that even though the sun forgets one half of the globe for a few months each year, there is still warmth to be found. Today, that warmth is carried on a wave of chocolate so large, Roland Emmerich is already filming the opening scenes. So everyone batten down the hatches, and let’s go get our stout on.
Alright, so you know how many stouts have hints of chocolate within the aroma? This beer has hints of stout swirling around within chocolate. Seriously, the initial aroma is a massive bloom of just about any chocolate you could think of. Bitter notes of dark bakers chocolate and bittersweet chocolate bar mingle with deeply roasted malts to form a super dark base. Sweeter hints of milk chocolate converge with a sprinkle of almond nuttiness and sweet, floral vanilla to create a massive middle layer of aromatic bliss. On top, a dusting of cinnamon and even a drop or two of bold coffee complete a super-charged cloud of stoutish wonder. As an added seasonal bonus, the aroma brings back memories of holiday baking and Christmas at Grandma’s house. Chalk one up for festiveness!
For the initial taste, I’ll begin with a disclaimer: I may be starting this beer off a few degree’s below optimum temperature. Having said that, it’s already bursting with flavor. Thick, bittersweet chocolate and unsweetened chocolate dominates the initial wave. It spreads out over the tongue as if it was poured from a bottle of adult chocolate syrup. Following that, an edge of milk chocolate sweetness arrives, bringing the same nutty and vanilla notes from the aroma, and countering the bitterness of the darker chocolate perfectly. It creates a wonderfully drinkable stout with each taste. At the very bottom, hidden under the chocolate deluge, is a base of deeply roasted malts, steeped in a shot of espresso, creating a back edge that is both bold and rich. The 10% ABV is almost unnoticeable, save for a growing tingle that spreads over your cheeks starting with the initial drink. Each taste clings to the tongue and lasts as roasty chocolate for about three years.
Poured out into a snifter, the aromas subdue a bit. The major profile becomes a mellow batch of roasted malts, drizzled with a dark chocolate syrup. A touch of floral vanilla accents the chocolate, lending a small amount of crisp sweetness that appears here and there within the aroma cloud. Visually, it pours a jet black – as dark as a frigid winter night. A layer of mocha colored foam settles on top, thick and bubbly. It pours as thick as motor oil, which is always awesome. I don’t usually list pouring tips here, but try to pour this towards the center of your snifter. It’ll make the aromas burst initially and envelop your face in an instant of chocolate heaven.
By now, it has warmed up to that magical temperature and has engaged Epic Stout Mode! Sweet milk chocolate is quite noticeable now, mingling with the dark and bitter baker’s chocolate that forms the steadfast base. Richly roasted malts supports the dark chocolate from the bottom, while vanilla flows in from the top, creating delicious complexity within your glass. Hints of cinnamon and a sprinkling of almond flavor settles in on top, lending some additional sweetness while a mild bitterness takes hold at the back. Most of this is from the bittersweet chocolate, but there are some earthy notes of hops as well. The alcohol warmth has been boosted a bit as well. It is still remarkably masked, but each taste will leave you quite toasty. Despite all of the side flavors, chocolate still dominates, with a strength and potency that would make Willy Wonka weep with envy.
I’m not sure why this beer lends itself to winter as well as it does. Many stouts are robust and chocolatey (though if chocolate stouts had a king, this would be it). There are other beers out there that are stronger than this one, and other beers feature quite a bit more holiday spicing and flavoring. Actually, I have two theories why Choklat is such a perfect winter beer. The first is that Southern Tier somehow managed to extract the spirit of winter from a flock of elves and adds a dash or two to each bottle. Or, the combination of darkness, warmth, and chocolate conjures up memories of holiday comfort – baking cookies or sitting around a fire or – if you were a particularly lucky child – the annual Winter Swim in the Family Vat of Chocolate. Whatever Southern Tier’s secret may be, it works on an epic level. Bittersweet chocolate, unsweetened chocolate, sweet milk chocolate, chocolate espresso, whipped mocha, chocolate-covered almonds – it’s just like the shrimp scene from Forrest Gump. Just about any form of chocolate can be found in this beer. Additional bonus notes of floral vanilla and cinnamon add a slight edge of sweetness and holiday cheer, while hugely roasted malts create a backbone as dark as it is tasty. It brings the warmth big time, but you won’t realize it until later – any trace of alcohol is masked beneath layers of flavor. Because of this, each taste is a velvety experience that rolls over the tongue like chocolate syrup. Be sure to pour this into a snifter and let it rest for a bit, and then take your time as you enjoy. It’ll be a bit pricier than other craft beers because of its size and seasonal availability, but that’s all the more reason to buy it. It’s the holidays – treat yourself!
I would recommend this with just about any dessert. Stay away from most foods though – it’s sweetness that would clash with most dishes. The bottle recommends smokey foods, but why take the chance? This would also be a great beer to enjoy over the course of an evening in front of the fire – maybe smoking a pipe if you’re into that, or simply just wearing a tweed jacket with the elbow patches. I’ve now found a new reason to dread the spring – having to wait another year for the return of this beer. Southern Tier’s Choklat earns a massively tasty A+.
Lasting Strength: 10/10
Overall: 9.8/10 A+
Winter Warming Bonus: 10/10