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Brooklyn Brewery Black Ops: To Each Their Own

I have a confession to make.  I’ve never had a beer from the Brooklyn Brewery that made me go “wow.”  Actually, the other night at my company holiday party I had a Brooklyn Pilsner and a Brooklyn IPA, and both made me go “meh.”  I respect the heck out of Brooklyn brew master Garret Oliver and all he has done for the craft beer world, but I still haven’t had a beer from Brooklyn Brewery that has made me want to go back for more.

If any beer’s going to do that, it’s Brooklyn Black Ops, a stout aged in bourbon barrels, perhaps my favorite style of beer.  It’s nice and boozy, too, with an ABV of that tops 11%, which is how I like ’em.  But being very good won’t be good enough.  This beer has to be magical, as it set me back $20 for the bottle.  That’s a tall mission for any beer. 

Things started off well enough. The room filled with the scent of chocolate the moment I popped the cork off the sleek black bottle.

Black Ops filled my favorite Belgian Tulip glass with an inky blackness and a three inch tan head.  This is a good looking brew.

The smell was like chocolate covered dates soaked in bourbon, with dried fruits, cocoa and a strong hint of booze filling my nose.

The first sip was a gush of roasted malt, chocolate, oakiness and more than a hint of sweet booze.  On the back end, I was treated to a dry and slightly bitter cocoa taste, which lingered nicely on my palate before cleanly fading away.  Overall, there’s a lot of interesting stuff happening in this beer.

But all was not perfect.  Mid-palate (somewhere between the chocolate oakiness and cocoa finish) was a hint of sourness that I didn’t prefer.  I was also a bit disappointed with the mouthfeel of this beer, as it seemed very delicate, almost watery for an otherwise intense beer.  I was alone here though, as my wife thought it danced on her tongue with a pleasing effervescence.  To each their own, I guess.

And I think that’s the whole deal with me and Brooklyn Brewery – to each their own.  They brew beer that many folks love, but I’m just not one of them.  I think brew master Garret Oliver and I have different preferences and priorities when it comes to beer, and I his expressions of the craft are wasted on me.  Boy that last sentence was fancy!

Bottom line?  MISSION FAILED.  Kind of.  While I still haven’t found a go-to beer from Brooklyn, my wife loved Black Ops and thought it was worth every penny of the $20 I spent on it.  She happily finished the bottle and would be pleased to find another in the beer fridge at some future date.

I think the takeaway here is don’t let my experience with Black Ops turn you off to it or to Brooklyn Brewery.  This is a brew that many beer geeks revere and look forward to every year.  I thought it was a good beer, too, but not one I’d seek out again.

As the Ten Commandments of Craft Beer says, your opinion matters most, so drink what you like.  For me, sadly, that doesn’t include Black Ops.

To each their own, right?

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Categories: Beer, review

Author:Jim

Craft beer nerd, frequent beer blogger and occasional home brewer.

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36 Comments on “Brooklyn Brewery Black Ops: To Each Their Own”

  1. Rob Crozier
    December 17, 2010 at 12:06 pm #

    Try the Chocolate Stout – one of my favorite beers ever.

    • December 17, 2010 at 12:12 pm #

      I recall having it after hearing folks say good things and remember not being impressed. It’s was kind of like what happened with Black Ops – pretty good, but not great.

      I don’t know what it is with me and Brooklyn. I want to love them, but I can’t find a way!

    • Don
      December 17, 2010 at 12:24 pm #

      A lot of people really like the chocolate stout Rob. I’d love to get the opportunity to try it again, but that probably won’t happen for a while. I thought it was just ok, but I would have loved it with some actual chocolate in it. But, it wasn’t bad, and I’d like to try it again with the knowledge I now have about it to see if I appreciate it better.

      • Rob Crozier
        December 17, 2010 at 2:24 pm #

        Its probably more of what you guys have touched upon in the past – that a beer has a certain appeal to some because of its reminder of a special time and place when you drank it. Brooklyn is one of my “go to” beers, especially when introducing someone into the craft beer world.

        • December 17, 2010 at 2:34 pm #

          Brooklyn is great gateway for people in these parts. It’s decent beer, not too pricey and is EVERYWHERE out here. Plus there’s lots of styles to explore within the brand. Makes a lot of sense.

    • Ryan M.
      December 30, 2010 at 4:38 pm #

      The Black Chocolate Stout is outstanding, methinks. On sale for 6.99-4 pack around Louisville fairly often.

      • December 30, 2010 at 4:40 pm #

        I think I had it last year and remember it not being “chocolately” enough for my tastes, but it warrants another try. I love Southern Tier Choklat, which is like drink Hersey’s syrup that makes you dizzy, so consider the source, Ryan. 🙂

  2. December 17, 2010 at 12:12 pm #

    Jim- Would you say there are more beers you don’t like than beers you do?

    • December 17, 2010 at 12:31 pm #

      No, I’m actually pretty easy. Most beers are drinkable (that counts as “liking” in my book), but only a handful of beers or breweries really make my toes curl in happiness. Troegs and Avery can do little wrong in my book, but Brooklyn and Flying Dog can’t seem to make me get excited about their beers.

      • Mark S.
        December 17, 2010 at 10:27 pm #

        I gotta say I trend along the same lines. Although I like Brooklyn, I’ve never found them to be spectacular. Dropping $20 on one of their bombers would not ever show up on my radar. And some of the Flying Dog brews I actually dislike. Unfortunately I don’t keep a beer journal, so I don’t remember which ones and therefore don’t buy any of their stuff anymore.

        😦

        I’ll be trying my first Avery tonight (their Christmas beer – Old Jubilation?), and I’ve liked everything by Troegs I’ve tried so far (although I think their Christmas beer is overrated by some).

        😉

  3. Paulette
    December 17, 2010 at 12:16 pm #

    I finally got to try this in August when we went back in Brooklyn. I really liked it although not a big fan of stouts, my husband on the other hand was not impressed and I too was happy to finish off the bottle. For me it was not love but I’d love another bottle, but at $20/bottle and the fact that I can’t get it here in CA, I guess I’m not devistated by that.

    • December 17, 2010 at 12:33 pm #

      That’s how I feel, too. It was okay, but I don’t think I’d spend another $20 on it given the chance. Maybe for my wife, but she’s happier (as am I) with an $8.00 bottle of New Holland Dragon’s Milk.

  4. Greg K.
    December 17, 2010 at 12:17 pm #

    Like many breweries, I feel like Brooklyn makes solid beers but nothing amazing. I think the standard Brooklyn Lager is probably their best beer. Local 1, Local 2, Blast, Detonation…they’re all good, but nothing blew me away. Although I never got a chance to try Cookie Jar Porter or Dark Matter which I heard great things about.

    • December 17, 2010 at 12:35 pm #

      Of them all, Local 1 probably did the most for me. I bought it a few times and enjoyed it, but then I grew weary of Belgian funk and stepped away from the whole style for the most part.

      I’d love to try CJ Porter and Dark Matter, but at this point I wonder if I’ll ever be blown away by Brooklyn.

      • Don
        December 17, 2010 at 12:38 pm #

        Dude, you tried Dark Matter! You had it when I was out there in April. Unfortunately I couldn’t because the Alien Babies had attacked my inner beer geek and I had to shut down the whole operation for several days after that!

        • December 17, 2010 at 12:50 pm #

          Nope. You’re misremembering. We didn’t have Brooklyn’s Dark Matter, we had a Norwegian beer.

        • Don
          December 17, 2010 at 12:54 pm #

          The beer you had was called Dark Matter. Not sure it was from Brooklyn, but I’m sure its name was Dark Matter.

        • December 17, 2010 at 12:55 pm #

          Yeah, it was from that Norwegian brewery that isn’t Nogne O. And it’s good!!

      • December 17, 2010 at 12:57 pm #

        I think you both had…too much to drink to remember!

        • December 17, 2010 at 1:05 pm #

          That could very well be the case, Scooter.

          😉

        • Don
          December 17, 2010 at 1:22 pm #

          I remember the label was one of the coolest I’ve ever seen for a beer! You should send me some.

        • December 17, 2010 at 1:39 pm #

          Sure, Don. I’ll put it in the box with the Schlafly’s Reserve, the three variations of Saion duBUFF, the 2009 9and now 2010) Nemesis and all the other beers I’ve promised you over the past year.

        • Don
          December 17, 2010 at 1:44 pm #

          Dude…I am just waiting for the box so i can send you a whole lot of good things back!

        • December 17, 2010 at 1:59 pm #

          Well go stand outside. It should be there any minute. No, you don’t need a coat. Just go wait by the mailbox…

          😉

      • Greg K.
        December 17, 2010 at 1:40 pm #

        Oh 09 Nemesis, how I miss thee. Why didn’t I buy more of you when I had the chance? WHY?

        • December 17, 2010 at 1:44 pm #

          I still have Don’s. 🙂

  5. December 17, 2010 at 2:51 pm #

    I almost tried this beer last year, but I sent it out to THFB Michael in California! (Don’t know if he reviewed it yet or not.)

    Anyway, I’m with you on Brooklyn. I think most of their stuff is good, but not incredible. I walk by their stuff almost every time I’m shopping for beer although I really should try that chocolate stout.

    • December 17, 2010 at 3:03 pm #

      Yeah, I didn’t really realize this until I had the lager and IPA at the company party. I was really underwhelmed. Then I got to thinking about Brooklyn beers I’ve really enjoyed, and beyond Local 1, I couldn’t come up with any. When I saw Black Ops, I know it was a chance to change that, but it didn’t happen.

      Point is, this wasn’t meant to be a “Brooklyn in mediocre” post, but it kind of turned out that way!

  6. Michael Wisinski
    December 17, 2010 at 8:28 pm #

    I am going to bet that Brooklyn makes their beers to compliment the foods (too much “flavor” in the beer would kill the taste of the meal). I was told that pairing fish with their East IPA is incredible, but I was not impressed with the IPA alone, so I will have to try that. I do think their Pennant Ale is the best out of the mix pack. The chocolate stout is a great pairing beer (especially during this time of year). But if you want to just drink a chocolate stout without pairing with food, Southern Tier’s Choklat (2010) is the way to go.

    • December 17, 2010 at 9:02 pm #

      I think you might be on to something, Michael. Garret Oliver is known as a foodie, and he (literally) wrote the book on food and beer pairings. It wouldn’t surprise me if he brews to leave room in the flavor spectrum for food. But I usually pair beer with Top Gear or Boardwalk Empire, and so
      I tend to prefer beers that are the appetizer, main course and dessert.

    • December 17, 2010 at 9:25 pm #

      They should make their meals to compliment their beers instead… 🙂

  7. December 17, 2010 at 8:48 pm #

    I wonder if the sour flavor comes a wild yeast or bacteria that may have gotten into this beer being that it is aged in bourbon barrels?…

    That is a pretty good looking brew though…

    I’ve never had anything from Brooklyn and usually when trying out a new brewery I like to start with their IPA or Pale Ale and that sets the tone for me…

    • December 17, 2010 at 9:06 pm #

      Hey Jorge. I had their lager and IPA the other night, and that’s when it struck me that I’m not crazy about their everyday offerings. They both paled in comparison from what you might get from Victory or Avery or even Oskar Blues. Being a “big” beer guy, I figured Black Ops might do it for me. Sadly it didn’t.

      I’m not sure about the sourness. My wife said she didn’t taste it, but my palate is fussier than hers, so perhaps it was there or it was just me. I dunno.

      • December 17, 2010 at 9:20 pm #

        Hmmm… I seem to pick up more flavors out of beers myself, but then again I’m ‘looking’ for them since I brew and know the taste of ingredients fairly well… (nothing like chewing on different malts… ha)…

        Guess I’d have to try it…

  8. Frothingslosh
    December 20, 2010 at 11:17 pm #

    The Brooklyner-Schneider Hopfen Weisse was amazing. The Detonation was exceptional as well. The Black Ops had me right up until the body which was far too thin to support the other elements going on.

    • December 21, 2010 at 11:50 am #

      It figures the only one of the three I’ve had is the clunker!

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