Friday, March 11, 2016

Long Trail Brewing Culmination Imperial Chocolate Porter (6/10)

Before finding Culmination on a local store shelf, I had only heard of Long Trail Brewing Co. of Vermont.  I looked up Culmination on Beer Advocate and saw that it got a 90 ("outstanding") rating there and a 96 from Rate Beer, so I bought it.

Culmination pours a dark black color with finger-thick tan head that doesn't last long, owing to the 9.3% alcohol content.

The aroma is strongly chocolatey, with a hint of coffee behind it.

The flavor starts surprisingly bitter and hoppy for a chocolate beer.  It's so bitter, in fact, that it took my by surprise.  I couldn't taste anything but hops and blackened malt for the first sip.  Chocolate only showed up in the aftertaste.  On subsequent sips, I found that the roasted grain and hops continued to dominate the flavor.  It lives up to that "Imperial" moniker.  The typical porter falls somewhere in the IBU range of 18 to 50.  At 54, this beer's hopped well beyond the typical porter.

The official Long Trail web page for Culmination says that "a malty sweetness is balanced with bitterness and a slight dryness from the alcoholic strength.  Look for notes of coffee, liquorice, mild chocolate and more subtle hints of fruit and spice."  As I continued to drink it, I did manage to get hints of chocolate and coffee, with instantaneous hints of that "malty sweetness".  There's a fair amount of burn to it as well.

Ultimately, I'm really disappointed with this one.  The label (which mentions cacao nibs) and the aroma (very chocolatey) gave me the expectation of a smooth, chocolatey, slightly-sweet beer.  The reality is that it's mostly dry, bitter, and barely chocolatey at all.  I'm giving it a 6 out of 10, which rates it above the macro brews, but only barely.

But that's just me, I guess.  Beer Advocate and Rate Beer loved it.  Then again, they often disagree with me on the more hoppy brews.  I don't care for them, but the reviewers there do.  Your mileage may vary depending on your taste.

I purchased this from Weiland's Gourmet Market.  It may also be available at The Hills Market (either location) according to Long Trail's web site.

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