I posted a fairly glowing review a few weeks ago about Smuttynose Imperial Stout. I was impressed with it’s rich, smoky flavor and its in-your-face hop profile. But then something happened last night that totally changed my thoughts on this beer – I had another one.
It was the same beer at the same location, probably even poured into the same glass. But my take on it was totally different. The aggressive hop profile that I appreciated before now seemed to dominate the beer from nose to finish, and the roasted flavor I had enjoyed seemed a little thin and wooden this time around.
I know it’s not the beer – it’s me. And it reminds me just how much my expectations and appetite affect what I taste.
I wasn’t expecting much the first time I had this beer, with its modest label and sub $6.00 price, and so it over-delivered. But my expectations were higher last night, because I remembered being impressed with it. It had gained a spot in the “Good Stout” section of the beer shelf in my brain.
And I was in the mood for a “Good Stout” last night, as I like to have a bomber of good sipping beer as I watch Mad Men in the man cave on Sunday nights. This is when beers like Southern Tier’s Mokah and New Holland’s barrel-aged Dragons Milk ale really shine, with their rich, sweet flavors that continue to deepen as they slowly warm.
The Smuttynose Imperial Stout didn’t fare well in these conditions, as its hoppiness took over as it warmed, throwing the beer out of balance and pushing it out of my “sipping” territory altogether. Not to say that it’s a bad beer (not even close), but it turns out that it’s a beer I have to be in the mood for or else I’m not going to enjoy it.
And that’s what I learned last night. There are some beers like Founder’s Cerise, the afore mentioned Dragon’s Milk, Trappistes Rochefort 8, and a handful of others that I know I will enjoy regardless of the circumstances under which I drink them.
But those beers that can transcend mood (or even create a mood) are rare, and most beers are dependent on what my tastes buds are looking for at that given moment. If I’m in the mood for it, I’ll love it, if not, I won’t.
Apparently I need to move Smuttynose Imperial Stout from the “Good Stout” section of my brain to the “Good Stout When You’re In The Mood For A Hop Blast” section, where it’ll sit alongside my wife’s beloved Victory’s Storm King.
Both are great choices when you’ve got a taste for them, but I wouldn’t invite either of them to curl up with me while I watch Don Draper’s life slowly unravel.
So is it just me? Have you ever had a Jekyll and Hyde experience with a beer you loved or hated the first time you had it, and then had a completely different take on it the second time?
Or am I just precious?