19 October 2006

KOTBR Review #5: Brugge's The Black

Jim, Kelly, and I met up at Brugge Brasserie, located in Broad Ripple, for the most recent beer review. That night, we decided to try The Black. Below you will find our reviews:

Jim: This week’s meeting of the Knights of the Beer Roundtable took place at Brugge Brasserie, the Broad Ripple brewery and gastro-pub with a Belgian twist. The pub, which opened in April 2005, is owned by brewmaster Ted Miller and actor Abraham Benrubi of “ER” fame (the two were Broad Ripple High School classmates). Brugge offers handcrafted Belgian beers and Belgian style food, including crepes, steamed mussels, and Belgian sub sandwiches called mitraillettes. And then there are the fries, or “frites” as they are properly known in Belgium. Oh, the frites! The Belgians invented French fries, and the frites offered at Brugge are of the highest caliber. They are served in a paper cone along with your choice of sauces, which range from the traditional European side, mayonnaise, to roasted garlic aioli to homemade ketchup.

While the food at Brugge is excellent, we were at the pub for the beer, of course. I arrived first and had a seat in the bar. Normally, Brugge has football of the round variety (i.e., soccer) on the bar television. But on this Thursday evening, pointyball was the type of football in demand, specifically college football. So while I waited for Chris and Kelly to arrive, I went ahead and ordered my warm-up beer and settled in to watch a little of the game. I chose Brugge’s Abbey Ale on the suggestion of the bartender. The Abbey, which I have never seen on Brugge’s beer menu before, was a pleasant amber ale that was on the malty and dry side. It was an appropriately mellow prelude to the feature beer, which was pretty powerful stuff as I’ll explain here shortly.

I had drained almost half of my Abbey Ale when Chris arrived. Not much later, Kelly joined us and we got a round of the feature beer, the ominously named “The Black.” The Black is dark brown in color and has a nose with primarily chocolate, coffee, and nutty notes. The head is light brown and dense. At first sip, The Black nicely grabs a hold of your tongue with an almost perfect balance of hops and malt. There is a good hoppy bite to the ale, but it’s not overwhelming. As might be expected of a dark ale, The Black follows its coffee-like nose with a slightly coffeeish taste. It also has a bit of a sweet taste, too. The Black doesn’t approach barley wine sweetness, but it’s not too far off from what one might expect from a barley wine style ale such as Young’s Old Nick.

Brugge’s beer menu doesn’t disclose The Black’s ABV percentage, but it must be at least seven percent if not more because the ale will sneak up on you if you’re not careful. I had a fairly intense buzz going after finishing off three quarters of the glass. So if you order it, drink with care!

So to the rating – This is a four mug beer for me. I can’t give it a five mug rating because I’ve had only one perfect beer in my life (North Coast Brewery’s Old Rasputin Imperial Stout, Millenium Release) that nothing else has ever been able to measure up to. But The Black is a high quality, very drinkable ale that most beer geeks will enjoy.

Kelly: Fall is by far my favorite time of year for many reasons—not the least of which is that I typically start preferring darker, more substantial beers. (it's just hard for me to really enjoy a double black stout in the middle of a heat wave, or to relax on a balmy summer evening with a dunkelweisen!) So it's appropriate that my second meeting of the Knights of the Beer Roundtable took place on one of the first windswept, blustery, leaves-starting-to-change days of fall.

I met up with Jim and Christopher at Brugge Brasserie, a Broad Ripple stalwart that I had never visited before (okay, not true—I had frequented the place quite a bit when the bottom floor was Net Heads, but I refuse to acknowledge that geek that dwells deep within.) The décor is pretty eclectic—I was expecting it to be more upscale, but they've got big, rustic wooden tables, interesting wall art, and plenty of TVs turned to the sports of the moment (apparently, this is THE place to be if you're a soccer fan!) There was a table of extremely, uh, vibrant imbibers across the room, and ever so often, they'd break into a rousing rendition of "Ein Prosit" which made us wonder if they knew the difference between Belgium and… well… Germany.

I started off the evening with an American Wit, which was a little lighter and fruitier than I was expecting, but it was excellent—much reminiscent of a Blue Moon. The beer up for review, however, was The Black – Jim's favorite. And I can see why! At first taste, the earthy chocolate taste was a little bitter, but I took Jim's advice and let the beer sit to just colder than room temperature. What a difference! The malt and hops had a good balance, and it was actually very light on the palate (deceptively so, even.) The ABV percentage wasn't listed on the chalkboard, but I'd venture to guess this one is pretty high, as it knocked me for quite the loop. Good thing I was walking over to the Rouge for a show afterward. All in all, The Black gets the maximum amount of mugs from me, plus one extra for the fun fact below:

According to Brugge's website, The Black is brewed with a bit of poplar syrup, one of my dad's favorite fall treats. See? Even my beer gets into the fall spirit!

Chris: From the instant The Black touched my lips, I knew I had found my next 5 Mug beer. This is absolutely a perfect beer (if you like dark beers). The Black is approriately named, fore it is truly black. Completely opaque in color.

I kept getting a hickory and chocolate nose off this beer. I think I may be totally off on the hickory, but I swear I smelled it, and it smelled good.

The beer is thick, not quite chunky, but it is very full-bodied and hardy. I found it crisp to the tastebuds, particularly those in the middle of the tongue. That may be from the good carbonation in the beer.

I kept comparing this in my mind with Spaten's Optimator (see KOTBR #2). It's a very similar beer. Obviously from my review of Optimator, and now of The Black, I love dark and brooding beers. As Jim & Kelly both mentioned, the ABV wasn't listed, but I promise you it is high. I'm a beer drinker. And I'm a drinker of beers with high ABVs. And I had a pretty damn good buzz started by the time I finished my beer. This is, similar to the Optimator, one of those beers that gets better the warmer it gets. I'm guessing it isn't meant to be consumed while chilly.

Again, another perfect beer. Pure and simple - 5 mugs!

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