Winds in this part of the country increase intensity as the waning autumn gives way to Mother Nature. She hides in the hollows, an evil maiden angered by her own inability to stop the destructive snows that slaughter her prolific fields of lupines. Tips of great evergreens freeze in bent anguish as the constancy of the northern jet stream pushes toward the earth. The sandy loam of the forest floor is drenched in gritty salt, released from the sea-driven humidity that permeates the air. If the moon should choose to peer through her darkness, it may form a vision in the hoary mist of clouds. Otherwise, the land is locked in darkness, like the moonless hills that stirred witch-hunts during the seventeenth century.
In dreamscapes, you might see the shadow of Black Albert on one hill, marching forth to face Dark Lord…his cap, dripping with the blood red wax that sealed his fate. You wonder how these rivals would do battle on your tongue…would they destroy all feeling at 13% alcohol, or would the intensity of their battle stations lift you from the fiery clutches of hell? Thirteen percent. Thirteen...a risky number. A taste-test might well be in order. You surrender your soul, daring to risk-it-all in the face of brackish terror.
Black Albert has split his personality, emerging from both De Struise in Belgium and Ebenezer’s in the United States. From De Panne, this Royal Belgian Stout trickles into the glass like the blackest silk, topped with a burly head of taupe. Mocha covers the tongue, painted like ink in a finish of oily slickness, merging with a fist of rum within your olfactory passages. It caresses your jaw, alerting the hairs on the back of your neck, spreading like lava toward your brain.
De Struise browers Carlo Grootaert and Urbain Coutteau created a special edition of Black Albert for Jennifer and Chris Lively at Ebenezer’s Pub in Lovell, Maine, in 2008. Your palate salivates at the prospect of tasting them side-by-side. What secret might the Ebenezer Royal Stout display to the unsuspecting? Your eyes dance in the darkness, reflecting the opacity of his black body. It glistens with blood…red along the edges, capped with the signature head of thick, tight tawny brown. You want to undress each flavor, in layers. A nose of South American coffee beans and bittersweet chocolate rivets your attention. Curiosity grips your mind, and you plunge into the elixir, drenched in espresso heat. Roasted smokiness seizes your brain, while the euphoric effects dance with the character of a fine liqueur. The intensity is even greater than its Belgian twin, and you surrender to the warmth that overtakes your mind.
Dark Lord enters as the opposition against the mighty Black Albert. Crafted by Three Floyds of Munster, Indiana, this assertive Russian Imperial Stout might well have the ability to seduce the Russian queen from her royal stables. The black body stands like a black hole, sucking light from the atmosphere, leaving his dense head as a sign of his virility. Thick and viscous, the intoxicating body threads aromas of Ecuadorian cocoa with Brazilian coffee, releasing them into the air. On the tongue, these flavors are echoed, embroiled in a mass of molasses, caramel and menacing heat.
Among the three giants, you slide into a vortex of delirium, captivated, and wrapped in satin-esque fire. No need to choose your master. The masters have conquered.