Peppers in beer are a crapshoot. You want the flavor, and people expect the spice, but you also don’t want to make hot sauce.
And I have had my fair share of hot sauce beers where the pain and the pepper is so great, it overshadows everything else that the beer could have had going on. The recent bottle release of Lena (Imperial Stout, 12% ABV) from Bay Cannon managed to control its pepper qualities while also letting everything else shine.
There’s a lot going on in this beer. The pepper in question is habanero, and Bay Cannon brewed this stout with copious amounts of that habanero along with coffee before aging it in Bourbon barrels and releasing it in bottles.
Everything seems to work just nicely. The imperial stout is bold and chewy, and comes complete with deep and dark fruity notes. You also get the coffee, kicked up a bit with a backing of coffee notes naturally coming from the heavily roasted malt.
When you taste it, the coffee comes up first, along with a vanilla oak sweetness from the Bourbon barrel that leaves enough of the flavor without any of the strong booze qualities that other brewers forget to control.
There’s also a slight vegetative flavor. You know the peppers are there, you can begin to taste them a little bit, but the beer starts out focusing more on the coffee and the Bourbon barrel. Once those subside, you get a heat that enters in on the back of the throat and gives it enough of a kick for you to know that it’s there, but not so much that you choke. It’s also soft enough to where the next sip starts the process over again.
Bay Cannon spent the time making a delicious and balanced beer where no single ingredient, especially the peppers, bullies everything else into submission. It’s wonderfully blended and the story it tells on your palate is enjoyable and makes sure every adjunct and ingredient has the time to shine.
For a limited beer, and a small run, from a great brewery, this is to be expected and they pulled it off quite nicely.
Even with the peppers.
Drink Florida Craft,
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