Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Black Xantus Hums Into Town

By Jay Brooks
Friday, October 9th, 2009 at 1:06 pm in On Beer.

I stopped by City Beer Store last night on my way home from another event to try the latest release by Nectar Ales (the label is owned by Firestone Walker), an imperial stout called Black Xantus. The beer is very limited. Only 500 cases of 22 oz. bottles were produced.

This is the first special release they’ve done under the Nectar Ales label. Playing on the hummingbird theme of their other labels, the name, Black Xantus, comes from a rare species of hummingbird native to Mexico.

According to the press release:

Black Xantus, a bourbon barrel aged Imperial Stout infused with coffee. Black Xantus will definitely be an “odd bird” with chocolate, espresso, bourbon aromas and flavors and over 10% alcohol by volume, a slight departure from the session beers that Nectar has been known for. Local Paso Robles area coffee roaster, Jobella, was sourced to provide the organic, fair-trade coffee infused into this special brew.

“Holy hummingbirds, this beer is amazing,” said Brewmaster Matt “Batman” Brynildson. “We are so excited to be able to brew a beer of this caliber and with so much character,” he added.

Black Xantus will be available beginning October 1 in 22 ounce bottles in select markets where Nectar Ales are currently sold. Only 500 cases of this unique brew will be produced. Bottles are expected to retail for around $15 each.

I picked up a couple bottles for myself and had an opportunity to try the beer on draft. What immediately impressed me was how smooth and chocolately the beer is. The smoothness is no doubt in part because the malt build included 15% oats. Though it’s billed as being 50 IBUs (which is on the low end for this style), wusing 100% American Fuggles, very little hop character comes through and the coffee bitterness doesn’t overpower the beer, either. It’s complex flavor profile never hits you over the head, but the coffee and vanilla notes just tantalize, creating Instead an impression of great balance, subtlety and restraint, which is especially surprising because it’s such a strong beer. It’s already been aged for a time in bourbon barrels, which most likely took some of the edge off of it and I can only imagine, at 13% a.b.v., that it will soften and improve even more with aging. Brewer Matt Brynildson already has a reputation for creating some of the best beers in California. This beer will only serve to further his legend. This is a sublimely terrific beer. Pick up some before it’s all gone.


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