Beer Beer Beer

Southern Tier Brewery's Imperial Choklat Stout is Beer of the Week

You know that feeling you get when you want something -- really, really want something -- but know you can't have it? 

It sucks, right? 

That's sort of how I felt when I got to the Coffee District in Delray Beach earlier this week looking for a pint of their fresh-tapped and highly coveted Bell's Hopslam Ale, which had popped up on my Twitter a few days earlier. 

Apparently, I gravely mistook the warning "won't last long" as nothing more than an attempt to enact the age-old marketing gimmick of creating a sense of frenzied panic to entice buyers. 

It had sold out, the bartender tells me, in less than 24-hours.

And, judging by the growing "limited" and "in-low-supply" list propped on the bar in front of me, listing bottles of less than three remaining in house, I begin to see it's not just a hoax. When this coffee and beer bar -- with over 140 bottled beers on its list and several rotating on tap -- says things will go fast, they really mean it. 

With a plethora of limited-run and special edition beers dispatched by breweries nationwide throughout the fall and early winter, it's a problem you'll run into more and more these days. 

And so I do what any deflated drinker may do in such a situation -- I ask the bartender what special edition selections they still DO have in stock. One that, preferably, has enough to hold over a few dozen thirsty revelers.

She promptly produces a 22-ounce bottle of Southern Tier Choklat Stout, nothing like the hop-whollop ale I had come in to sample. But seeing as I've already eaten, and it's uncomfortably chilly out, a hearty, dessert-worthy stout seems an appropriate choice. I'm in.

A little research into Southern Tier's seasonal stout and you'll find an interesting backstory surrounding the Popol Vuh, the sacred book of the Maya, the brewery's Website reads. In these ancient texts the mystery of a sacred beverage known as xocoatl depicts hieroglyphs of the ancient Maya pouring liquid chocolate for rulers and gods. 

Such religious devotion is mirrored in Southern Tier's marrying of dark, bitter-sweet chocolate with its American double imperial stout in this Blackwater Series beer. 

It's brewed with two kinds of hops -- chinook and willamette -- atop caramel and chocolate malts, barley flakes, and bittersweet Belgian chocolate. You'd expect it to be as complex and sharp as the dark chocolate used in the recipe -- but it's nothing close. 

Emptying the bottle into my glass I see it indeed pours like liquid chocolate, a molasses-like brown with a faint lingering halo of caramel-cream head that swirls into a beautiful pattern as I wait, per my bartender's suggestion, for it to warm. 

When I can't wait any longer, I take my first sip -- and I'm hooked. It's incredibly rich, much like a Mexican hot chocolate, all sultry and smooth. Especially for someone who isn't a stout-lover first. And although it has an 
11% ABV, the alcohol is nearly undetectable beneath the sweet chocolate tang. 

I've since sampled a few other chocolate stouts, and found them wanting when compared to Southern Tier's. It's like fudge cake in a glass, with a small hop aftertaste to remind you that --- yes -- you are drinking beer. 

Like any good dessert, it's gone way too fast. The guilt (no, not about the calories, but for not savoring it enough) -- and the buzz -- are quick to set in.

If you don't like them strong and sweet, this isn't the stout for you. 
But it may very well be the one that compels me to cross over from IPA-loving-land.

Just remember to get to Delray soon -- before you fall into the same predicament, lamenting your laziness when the bartender tells you they're "all out."

325 NE 2nd Ave., Suite 104
Delray Beach, FL 33444
(561) 455-0541

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Nicole Danna is a Palm Beach County-based reporter who began covering the South Florida food scene for New Times in 2011. She also loves drinking beer and writing about the area's growing craft beer community.
Contact: Nicole Danna