The Bruery | Black Tuesday Imperial Stout
With what seems like a never-ending supply of new exciting beers coming out these days, it’s not uncommon to see a beer that was a whale just six or seven years ago now sitting on the shelf collecting dust. So when you come across a beer that has been able to generate the same high level of enthusiasm from ever-fickle craft beer fans AND sells out immediately year after year, you know you have discovered something truly exceptional. The Bruery’s Black Tuesday Imperial Stout is such a beer.
First released over a decade ago, in 2009, Black Tuesday continues to enjoy a near cult-like following in many craft beer circles. It is currently ranked 17th on Beer Advocate’s list of best American Imperial Stouts and 62nd for all around best beer.
Despite its lofty reputation, this highly regarded beer comes from humble beginnings. Black Tuesday was first conceived of as a way for Bruery founder, Patrick Rue, to use up some of the extra grain they had on hand. Rue decided to cram the entirety of this “kitchen sink” mix of grain into the mash tun in an attempt to create a beer with the highest possible ABV.
That particular brew day turned out to be maddeningly frustrating, so much so that Rue posted a blog in which he vented about what a disaster it had been. After reading the blog, an anonymous reader suggested they name the beer Black Tuesday. The name stuck, not just because it was a fitting way to describe his rough brew day, but because of the historical parallels between the Great Depression, which began on a day now known as Black Tuesday in 1929, and the Great Recession, which they were right in the midst of in 2009. (In later years this naming convention would give rise to the Bruery’s delicious days of the week beer series.)
In the early days it was far from clear that the newly christened Black Tuesday would go on to be considered one of the best early examples of a bourbon barrel aged Imperial Stout. Straight out of the fermenter it was undrinkable firewater. To mellow this beast of a beer, Rue decided to give it an extended rest in bourbon barrels. After 10 months of barrel aging, his patience paid off, and the once jet fuel-like substance had evolved into a remarkably delicious beer of immense complexity.
If anyone at the brewery had questions about the quality of the beer, they disappeared as soon as it was tapped. Customers greedily lapped up the new beer and heaped it with praise. After seeing his patrons’ enthusiastic response to Black Tuesday, Rue knew he had something special on this hands and decided to capitalize on the beers’ initial popularity.
“We had run out of money at that point,” recalls Rue, “so we offered to sell futures of the beer. […] For those first customers this was one of the most amazing beers they’d ever tried, and they told their friends and their friends told their friends and come [the next] release day we had 700 people wrapped around the building.”
While Black Tuesday now spends a minimum of 12 months in bourbon barrels, and sometimes goes as long as 16 months, it is still very much the same beer that it was ten years ago, clocking in at 19 percent ABV.
It pours a deep dark brown color with little head to speak of. On the nose you pick-up intense barrel notes of bourbon, oak, and toffee. The first sip feels like a flavor bomb went off in your mouth. Yet, after your palate has time to adjust, you begin to detect a nicely layered and complex beer, with barrel notes dominating the initial flavor, then transitioning to roast, anise and raisins. This is followed by a sweet molasses taste that fades away leaving a ever so slight bitter aftertaste. Make no mistake about it, this is a big beer with intense flavors, but if you like those types of beers then this is one of the best you’ll find.
One of the reasons this beer has been able to retain its status as one of the most coveted Stouts on the market is that production levels are low enough to make it a challenge to track down. While the staff at the Bruery are sworn to secrecy about production levels and/or whether there are any plans to begin releasing more, the company has stated that if you join their beer club, the Preservation Society, you get guaranteed access to Black Tuesday every year. If you prefer to try your luck with the wait list, you can also sign up to be first in line when it goes on sale to the public October 27.
Black Tuesday is a delicious beer. It’s an ideal beer for a special occasion, or maybe just paired with a good dessert (affogato would be a match made in heaven). If you love big barrel aged Imperial Stouts, then do yourself a favor and seek this one out. You will not be disappointed.
Feature image credit: The Beer Truck