I made this ridiculously complicated chili once for a neighborhood chili cook-off—the sort of vicious competition that, if you win, you get to spend the year gloating and tweeting pictures of yourself drinking beer from the coveted Chili Cup. In a desperate attempt to please the judges, I threw everything I loved into the pot—dark chocolate, chipotle peppers, bacon. It was disastrous. You couldn’t tell if you were eating a breakfast or dessert. It definitely wasn’t chili.
When I read the label for the Siren Noire, the limited release Imperial Stout from Heavy Seas, I feared it would also be a disastrous example of over-complication. Imperial Stouts are typically more robust versions of the standard stout, but the Siren Noire takes “robust” to a new level. Heavy Seas throws all sorts of tasty malts into the mix (2-Row, Crystal, Chocolate, Roasted Barley), as well as three pounds of Belgian coco nibs before aging the beer in used bourbon barrels for five weeks. Oh, and they also add vanilla beans. I like chocolate, bourbon, and vanilla, but is it too much when you throw it into a single bottle?
Siren Noire pours dark black, like most stouts, and smells like a chocolate bar, and not that foodie dark chocolate crap either. This smells like a damned Milky Way—good old fashioned milk chocolate. I don’t pick up any bourbon on the nose. It might be there, but for me, the chocolate dominates the aroma.
Just as I suspected, there’s a lot going on in the beer. Chocolate, coffee, bourbon, a bit of mellow vanilla, but my fears are put to rest after the first sip. The beer has a rich, creamy mouthfeel, and you’re hit with a heavy dose of chocolate up front. The combination of coco and the thick texture is reminiscent of a milkshake. I like milkshakes. But I don’t want to mislead you—this isn’t an overwhelmingly sweet beer. It’s creamy and chocolaty, but there’s also a heavy layer of roasted coffee, and an incredible balancing act that’s accomplished by the bourbon-barrel aging, which becomes apparent toward the finish. It’s complex, but not complicated.
Chocolate, vanilla, coffee, bourbon—it’s all good. My only question: where’s the bacon, Heavy Seas? Where’s the bacon?
Brewery: Heavy Seas
Style: Imperial Stout
Availability: Limited, in 22 ounce bombers