I will be the first to admit that when buying beer, I tend to steer away from breweries that I have never heard of. My experience with new breweries is that the beers can be a bit dissapointing at first and so I will mostly stay away for at least a year or two. However, last week, I thought I would take a chance with the Black Saddle PBA (Port Barrel-Aged) Stout from Crystal Springs Brewing Company located in Boulder, Colorado. If you live outside of the Front Range, you most likely have never heard of this brewery. And that is rightly so as it is most likely the smallest brewery in the country (if not the world?). I think Crystal Springs Brewing Company should be called a “nanobrewery” since they are so much smaller than most microbreweries. But anyway, I took a chance on the bottle, a big chance nonetheless since it was $9 at the local beer store. However, after that first sip, I would have been more than happy paying quadruple that. Black Saddle PBA Stout from Crystal Springs Brewing Company is, in my opinion, in the top three of imperial stouts in the country. It is up there with the likes of World Wide Stout from Dogfish Head and Black Tuesday from The Bruery.
Black Saddle PBA Stout is quite the sipping beer. In fact, I think it took me the better part of 90 minutes to finish my glass. The quality of the beer is on par with 100+ dollar pinots from California (I have tasted them and I would rather drink the Black Saddle PBA Stout over them any day). What makes this beer so special is the time and care that went into producing it. Crystal Springs Brewing Company starts off with they Black Saddle Imperial Stout but takes it to a new level by aging it in port wine barrels for 13 months. Yes, 13 months. The bottles are conditioned for 13 weeks as well to allow the beer to fully mature before releasing it to the public. Conveniently, the Black Saddle PBA Stout comes in at a whopping 13% alcohol so it might be a good idea to share this one with friends. However, I would advise only sharing it with friends that know beer.
With every sip of the Black Saddle PBA Stout, the beer will punch you in the face with a brilliant port wine taste that lingers for quite a long time on the tongue as the rich, intense malt characteristics begin to come through and mellow the beer out quite a bit. The barrel-aging process creates a beer that is quite dry, like a fine red wine, that really makes this a sipping beer. Moreover, vanilla and caramel notes come out in the beer, also as a result of aging the beer for so long in port wine barrels. The lingering richness of the beer makes your mouth water and your taste buds will just beg you to take another sip. I really mean it when I say that this beer should be ranked in the top three in the country for imperial stouts without a doubt. It did take home a gold medal at the Colorado State Fair recently, but, it should be taking home a gold medal in the World Beer Cup to be honest.
The unique flavors of the Black Saddle PBA Stout work well with only a few foods. We paired it with a wonderful Focaccia Panini with Turkey, Brie, and Fig Spread. We like to think of this pairing as analogous to pairing good red wine with cheese and dried fruits. However, we took the cheese and fruits and made a panini out of them and instead of using a fine red wine we use the Black Saddle PBA Stout. The combination is stunning and your taste buds will be jumping around like a five year old on Christmas morning.
Long story short, if you live in the Front Range, you really should be running to your favorite beer shop to snag a bottle or two of the Black Saddle PBA Stout before it sells out.