Since we’ve finished up our Japanese imperial stouts for this year let’s try a couple of foreign ones just for comparison. Today we’ll have the De Dochter van de Korenaar Sans Pardon and the Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout.
De Dochter van de Korenaar Sans Pardon
Package: 330mL bottle
Misc: IBU – 50; hops – Pilgrim, East Kent Goldings, Millenium, Challenger
Pour – Very rich and creamy carbonation, just floats and stays, a very smooth black
Aroma – Chocolate, alcohol, plum, raisins, nuts
Flavor – Initially bitter roast chocolate, then plum and raisins and fruit, finish is bitter before having a dying burst of sweet chocolate that lingers, quite fruity at the end especially as it warms up, rich and creamy texture
This is our second look at a De Dochter van de Korenaar beer – we first looked at their Crime Passionnel wheat IPA a while ago,and that one is a pretty interesting beer, with the twist on that one being that it’s a bit of a cross between a weizen and an IPA. The twist with their Sans Pardon imperial stout is that it contains a relatively uncommon ingredient called rooibos. Rooibos is a plant most closely associated with South Africa that is used to make herbal tea. They use it here to inject a bit more fruitiness into the beer, so let’s see what effect it has.
The Sans Pardon starts out great – it’s got a very interesting flavor profile, which to me seemed to go in two similar sets of phases. First there was bitter roast chocolate, and then a splash of raisin and fruit, but then quickly moved on to a bitterness, and then sweet chocolate and fruit at the very end. Quite impressive, from that perspective, and I thought it was quite unusual how it had two distinct patches each of bitter chocolate and fruitiness.
However, as it warmed up, the sweet fruit began to take over and distract from the rest of the beer. Given that it’s a pretty strong beer and one that you’re not likely to chug, it’s a fairly significant minus, but overall it certainly is still an interesting one. I purchased mine at Tanakaya for a relatively inexpensive 595 yen, so if you see this one around it’s certainly worth picking up. Also it’s one of the few imperials stouts that is available year-round, so if you get that summer imperial stout craving this is your fix.
Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout
Package: 12 fl oz bottle
Misc: hops – Willamette, American Fuggle
Pour – Oily black pour, little carbonation but lacing stays
Aroma – Beautifully balanced aroma with chocolate, roast, and licorice
Flavor – Very subtle initially, malts at first, then licorice kicks in and combines with malts for an interesting twist, then chocolate and very dry finish, plum and licorice get stronger as it warms up, especially on the finish
We haven’t reviewed any Brooklyn beers yet, but of course you’re probably familiar with them – according to the Brewer’s Association Brooklyn Brewery is the 11th largest microbrewery in the US (as of 2014 data), and the Brooklyn Lager is so ubiquitous that it even has an entry in Urban Dictionary. In fact, the Brooklyn Lager is even brewed in Japan! It’s a bit of an odd arrangement, but Kiuchi (of Hitachino Nest) brews Brooklyn Lager for draft distribution in Japan, while the bottles I’ve seen for sale are still imported from the US.
Enough about the lager, though – what about the Black Chocolate Stout? This winter seasonal first debuted in 1994, and still is a well-loved beer with a 100 rating on RateBeer. There isn’t too much to note about the brewing or the ingredients, although it does mention that some wheat is used on the product page (the Japanese label, however, did not note the wheat addition).
The Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout is a well-made stout – it’s got a lot going on, and given the 10% ABV it’s actually quite drinkable and never feels heavy. In a way, that’s a bit of a double-edged sword though, in the sense that sometimes you want that heaviness in a stout. This one doesn’t provide that, but succeeds on a number of other fronts – it’s got the licorice/plum which is always nice in an imperial stout, but also starts out with noticeable malts, which is somewhat rare in a stout. It also has chocolate, as you would expect from the name of the beer, and the finish is very dry. I don’t see much bitterness here, which is a minor deduction, but overall this is a nicely done beer. Lots of fruit, lots of chocolate, but not so heavy and never a hint of alcohol in either the aroma or the flavor.
You could deduct points for too much plum/cherry as it warms up, and much like the Sans Pardon it becomes a bit distracting. Overall, though, I think the balance is better in the Black Chocolate Stout and holds up better as it warms up, and I quite enjoyed it. It’s also a supreme bargain at 507 yen (I purchased mine at Shinanoya), and I can recommend it without any caveats. Great beer for a great price.
So bringing it back local a bit, how do these compare with their Japanese counterparts? In a bit of a surprise, I would actually rate the Swan Lake Imperial Stout the highest, followed closely by the Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout. The Swan Lake gets the edge because while it also has the same level of complexity as the Brooklyn it never gets too sweet. Of course, the price is about double that of the Brooklyn, even accounting for the fact that the Brooklyn is imported from the US, so if you’re taking price into account the Brooklyn clearly wins. On flavor alone though I’d give the nod to the Swan Lake.
As for the others, the Sans Pardon is a clear bronze medal, followed by the Baird Dark Sky, and then the SanktGallen Imperial Chocolate Stout and the Minoh Imperial Stout would bring up the rear. So to rearrange the imperial stout ranking so far, including the foreign entrants, we have:
- Swan Lake Imperial Stout
- Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout (import)
- De Dochter van de Korenaar Sans Pardon (import)
- Baird Dark Sky Imperial Stout
- SanktGallen Imperial Chocolate Stout
- Minoh Imperial Stout
So there you have it! Those are the standings after the 2015-2016 winter season, but we’ll get our hands on a few more next winter.