Oskar Blues Ten Fidy Imperial Stout
If the hip and high hopped, ultra bitter IPA is the post modernism of the beer drinker’s world, then I have just tasted of its nihilism. Dark, with all of the malty finality and existential crisis absolving richness that a beer can possibly offer, the Ten Fidy Imperial Stout from Oskar Blues is an impossibly opaque beer, with a labored foam head that is almost the color of turn-of-the-century bricks and a thickness to rival that of the barefoot callouses of stone age humanity.
Within each sip of this brute of a stout, the thorough roasting of grains to the point of utter darkness is apparent, yet complemented well by the equally rich overall profile, which drinks in a fashion that – while not directly possessing any distinct notes of outright chocolate – comes with the palate presence of a four-layer fudge cake made almost entirely of frosting.
It doesn’t matter when you were born, because when you drink this, it’s your birthday, but not a childhood birthday in which you revel in sugar and look forward to tearing through the brightly colored paper which wraps the Nerf gun you were coveting. No, this is your birthday somewhere in your mid-30s where you’re obligated through the joy of a special occasion, which seems out of place in the midst of your day to day life, to reflect upon the choices you’ve made and wonder what could have been.
This beer is not a light sipper by any stretch of the imagination. It is a beast of a beverage. Malty, as mentioned, flavorful and rich, to where one lingers on the sensation of its crafting and presence. Yet, it’s also smooth and dynamic enough to where – while pondering it’s malty, almost smoky after tones – one cannot help but look forward to their next pull.
This is not a beer you drink from its can. I repeat, this is not a beer you drink from its can.
Continuing the growing trend amongst brewers to smash and bury the myth that one cannot get good beer from a can, it never the less needs to be poured. There would be, absent the pour and observation of the beer’s aesthetic imposition into what was a clear pint glass, something lost in the process.
This is because part of the central nature of a true stout, let alone a heavier imperial stout, is in seeing what you’re drinking. The surprise which could come from a straight-from-the-can (or in the context of other offerings, bottle) pull, while perhaps notable, is nothing compared to the central pre-awareness that what you have gotten yourself into is a heavy bit of business.
Having enjoyed numerous imperial and barrel-aged stouts in the past, including during sampling dinners, I am inclined (though somewhat hesitant) to offer a pairing suggestion.
That suggestion is steak. Big, heavy, blood-rich steak with a side of nothing but itself and this beer.
That is it. With such rich complexity and body, suggestions for pairing, if any all, need to be simple and of the type which match and complement such, without getting in their way. In this, let the meal or snack be an afterthought, as you concentrate on the heart of darkness that sits within your glass.
I have had stouts, imperial stouts and bourbon barrel-aged offerings that I can claim provided a more intense or intricate experience, but not many – and of them, none from a can. Oskar Blues has offered up an impressive fermentation with this inky black wonder and it is one which, if you have the chance to partake in, I fully recommend you to do so.
Nicholas Goroff is a beer lover, writer, actor, ex-political professional and devoted anti-ideologue. Follow him on Twitter @wizardofcause.
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