Potency has always been a key word here at The Daily Beard. Strength of flavor, depth of emotion, and of course the alcohol kick are always welcome in the world of craft brew, and continuing on with that love of all things ‘oomph’ is New Holland’s Night Tripper – a massive 11% Imperial stout of pure darkness. I can only guess why the jester on the front of the bottle looks so strung out and surprised, but I assume it has something to do with the potency of the bottle that he happens to be sitting on (if you were made from liquid Russia, you’d look a little wide-eyed as well).But, where there are ocular-frantic jesters, there is tasty beer (probably), so we’ve little time to spare for guesses and wonderments. To beer and glory!
Starting things out is a colossal bouquet of roasted malts and bittersweet dark chocolate. Actually, the chocolate is much more sweet than bitter, pushing sticky notes of milk chocolate to the top of the aroma cloud. If sweet stouts aren’t your thing, fear not – a roasty base lies just below the chocolatey goodness, chilling out with a layer of earthy darkness that calls upon a sprinkling of herbal oomph to ensure the bouquet remains on the dark side. Additionally, faint whisps of smoke drift by every now and then, coupling with the chocolate to both enhance the sweetness, and to anchor everything firmly within Stoutland. There’s a great back and forth process that occurs within this aroma – the heavy notes (roasted malts, smoke and bitter chocolate) focus the sweet (creamy milk chocolate and a touch of molasses), while the same sweet notes team up with the darker tones to sink back into the depths and pump up the midnight richness. Complex? You better believe it! On top of all that, there’s a faint yet noticeable trace of alcohol that reaches in from the sides on every other breath – just another indication of the beer’s strength. It pours a thick, pitch black beneath a creamy tan head of perfect stout fluffiness.
If you thought the beer was intense just from the aroma description, the taste will blow you away. Chocolate shows up huge from the get-go, arriving first as a potent base of bitter dark chocolate, just before a layer of sweet milk chocolate tempers the bitter strength and adds its own tasty, syrupy flavors. Despite this, the sweet notes don’t run away and steal the show. Instead, they just swirl around, thinking about chocolate stuff, being awesome, and adding a tasty chocolate milk vibe. While the chocolate is making friends with your tongue, a powerful tide of roasted malts sweeps in and settles at the base, taking its place as the stoutish foundation while contributing flavorful hints of flakey oatmeal and charred malts. Be sure to let the beer warm up a bit to really notice the oats – it’s worth it. following this, an onslaught of darkness arrives, bringing notes of licorice, molasses and toffee all at once. These three flavors create a rich, toasty vibe carried upon wings of earthy, herbal sweetness. The toffee char hooks up with the roasted malts, while the licorice and molasses team up with the chocolate gang to enhance the darkened sweetness that sits at the front of the tongue. As the taste continues, boozy streaks of alcohol swirl across the taste buds, bringing a tingle to the mouth but refraining from unleashing a devastating assault of tongue destruction. In other words, even with the noticeable alcohol potency, it remains silky smooth from start to finish, like a liquid storm cloud. As the beer draws to a close, hints of smoke and coffee seep in and settle on top, finishing with a potent roastiness that sweeps into a smokey chocolate sheen at the back of the tongue.
Drinking this beer is a massive experience. There are about 83,000 layers of flavor – ranging from milk chocolate to smoky malts, and everything in between. Throughout each mouthful, flavors swirl and mingle with one another, creating ever-changing complexity. It’s like a beer square dance! Smoke joins up with chocolate to hone the sweetness before the darker chocolate tones drift over to the malts and cast a tasty stoutish shadow over your tongue. It’s downright delicious. Before you drink this, chill it for about half an hour – just enough to subdue the flavors a bit. Then, take your time and enjoy slowly, letting it warm as you drink. You’ll be sure to witness the growth of flavors as the chill fades, as well as an increase of all-around potency. Its price is on par with other Imperial stouts, but with the amount of flavors within this beer, each bottle feels like you’re drinking for two.
I recommend New Holland’s Night Tripper over a chilly evening, settled in your favorite chair, reading a book and relaxing after the day. Let the complexity soothe your mind as the warming strength chases away the Winter chills. Layers upon layers of huge flavor earns this beer a delicious A, and my whole-hearted recommendation for imbibement.
Lasting Strength: 9.5/10
Overall: 9.5/10 A