Candy Bar Baba Yaga | Ethereal Brewing
When traveling to a state (or city) I’ve never been to before, I try to gather as much knowledge and information about the local beer scene as possible. That will definitely lead to some damn good upcoming shows (Louisville and Atrium Brewing in the near term) but that also led me to Ethereal Brewing. I loved the branding and aesthetic and the beer seemed top notch. And the top of the top? The “best beer in the state” (according to Beer Advocate) Baba Yaga barrel-aged imperial stout. When I saw that Baba Yaga recently (January 2022) got released, I knew I stood a good chance of trading for some. I had to take care of my Banana Boy back at home on the podcast and Bananas Foster Baba Yaga delivered in spades. Somehow, another variant ranked higher than that one (at least on Untappd) – Candy Bar Baba Yaga.
Candy Bar Baba Yaga features the same base as everything else – Ethereal’s Baba Yaga imperial stout aged in Four Roses bourbon barrels. For the Candy Bar variant, it looks like Ethereal went for mimicking a Snickers bar. To meet that, they added Ghanaian cacao nibs, caramel, a little sea salt and roasted peanuts to Baba Yaga (what, no nougat?). Losing very little of its potency, it still clocks in at 14% ABV.
Candy Bar Baba Yaga pours pitch black with one finger of brown head. I’m amazed that it had any head at all, but it slowly dissipates in a soda-like layer fashion; eventually it all goes away. Crimson red highlights appear when you tilt the glass in some light. The alcohol stains the glass but there’s really no drastic color-changing thing going on here. Don’t be surprised to find some particulates in the beer, as mine had little specs of what I would assume to be peanuts in it.
Sometimes a beer comes along that you can smell when it’s not even remotely close to your nose. Candy Bar Baba Yaga does that, blasting you (and the room) with an obscene amount of roasted peanuts. I’ve never smelled this before on a beer. It actually smells like roasted peanuts rather than something I’m more familiar with, like peanut butter. It lacks the creamy nose and gains a bit of saltiness, thereby distinguishing it as roasted peanuts. Behind that absolute wall of nuttiness lies some chocolate and caramel in support, followed by a nice tingling bourbon burn. Peanuts are the aromatic star here, with everything else getting a supporting nod.
Things switch up on the palate. Candy Bar Baba Yaga exhibits more caramel and chocolate on the tongue with the peanuts supporting. Somehow all of these flavors come in moderation, never taking over the entirety of the beer. They actually let the base beer and barrel shine a bit, with some nice chocolate and oak character coming through. Similar to the Bananas Foster Baba Yaga, everything shows up and melds together perfectly, making this beer actually taste like a Snickers candy bar. That’s insane.
The mouthfeel might be my only slight gripe with Candy Bar Baba Yaga. And ever so slight a gripe it is. It definitely sits in the medium range, moving things along but still allowing all the candy bar parts to hang out on your tongue. It also helps in making Candy Bar Baba Yaga drink a lot lower than 14% ABV, as I quickly finished the bottle and really wanted more of it (watch out for those 16oz pours though). The gripe? I would have liked the carbonation to be a little lower, allowing the beer to coat the tongue a bit more, really letting those candy bar adjuncts hang out a bit more. But that really doesn’t detract from this amazing beer.
I pride myself on finding the best another state or area has to offer when I travel there. My trip originally had me staying just in Louisville. Due to my research and finding Ethereal, I made the 1.5 hour journey almost specifically to visit (and honestly for my Four Roses tasting). It would’ve have paid off even had I not brought back any Baba Yagas. But the two Baba Yagas I have had are something else. The use of the adjuncts on both the nose and palate surpass most things that I regularly get my hands on. The barrel expertly supports the beer and adjuncts, adding depth and some flavor to everything.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, get yourself some Baba Yagas. The Bananas Foster was stupid good and the Candy Bar version is right up there. While I’d like a slightly thicker mouthfeel, what’s here is absolutely astounding. I’ve never had a beer exhibit that amount of non-peanut butter peanuts. While it takes a back seat to the chocolate and the caramel on the flavor, it still shows up enough to give off those Snickers vibes. An absolutely delicious beer and one that you should be looking to trade for. (And that goes for any of the Baba Yagas it seems.) An excellent job by Ethereal.