Fearful Symmetries

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22 December, 2015

A Behemoth of a Beer: Smoke Monster by Black Husky Brewing



Black Husky Brewing made the news earlier this year when it was announced that the tiny northwoods brewery would be moving to Milwaukee from Pembine – pop. ~1 ,000 - up in the northeast corner of the state. At the current facility brewmaster Tim Eichinger brews around 300 barrels per year while the new digs will increase capacity to around 2,000 barrel per year.

Eichinger has vowed to never brew a lager or session beer which, although disappointing, is not particularly surprising. Black Husky's line-up is a sea of big, boozy ales. They have two flagship beers: a pale ale and a double IPA brewed with spruce. I sampled the latter at The Great Taste of the Midwest a few years ago. It was certainly bracing in the mid-August heat. Then last year I saw bottles of Smoke Monster and picked one up. As the name implies, Smoke Monster is a smoke beer. The brew is part of the limited "Beware of the Dog" series which sounds strange because, Black Husky is so small as to make all of their beers limited editions. My bottle has been hibernating in my cellar until very recently when it was called up to be part of my mini-smoke beer marathon.

Smoke Monster pours a deep, dark mahogany. You have to hold up your glass to the light and peer at just the right angle but you'll see. From what I could tell the beer was clear. I got a finger or two of creamy light tan head that dispersed rather quickly. Peering at the glass I saw a lot of bubbles making their way up from the bottom.

The aroma was very fruity with both plum and pear scents. Smoke was underneath and rather subdued for a brew named "Smoke Monster". This is a big beer at 9.9% A.B.V. and it just smelled potent. The moniker became more apt on my first sip upon which my tongue was inundated with a fantastic bacon-like smoke taste. This flavor became less pronounced as I drank more and the beer warmed. As the smoke subsided, sweetness moved to the fore. There was the plum from the aroma but also a more honeyed malt flavor. Mixed in there was a mild tartness that reminded me of apple cider vinegar. This and the carbonation added a gentle acidulousness which I liked.

My guess is that the tartness was an off-flavor and the result of my storage practices. But it was mild and not off-putting to my palate. Indeed, I rather liked how the tartness contrasted with the sweeter tastes.

On the finish the sweet'n'smoke faded and the tartness became more prominent yet remained tasty. I was also able to taste the hops which had grassy and spicy flavors and added some bitterness. And there was also the reminder that this is a potent potable. I could really taste the booze. There wasn't much lacing to be had – only a few spots – as the vast majority of it slid down into the beer.

Smoke Monster made for a nice change of pace from the other smoke beers that I've been drinking lately which have been German styles. This is a sweeter brew with different fruit flavors than the banana-laden weizens of the past couple of weeks. I really enjoyed how the stone fruit and smoke complement one another here. Smoke Monster has a medium body but it drinks bigger than that. This is definitely one to sip leisurely. Sit back and enjoy the changes in the beer as it warms. What begins as a big smoky burst gradually mellows to a smolderingly good foil to the more toothsome flavors.

Junk food pairing: Being a big beer, Smoke Monster can withstand pretty much any food you throw at it. Jerky or snack sticks of any flavor – teriyaki, honey, plain – are a good match as are chips slathered in a sharp Velveeta cheese food product dip.

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|| Palmer, 9:33 AM

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