Foreign Exchange | Aliena
Foreign Exchange is Ricky Cervantes. Starting out in 2016 in his 18th floor Aurora apartment, Cervantes currently brews Foreign Exchange beers out of Church Street Brewing in Itasca, IL (but that will change at some point in the near future). Foreign Exchange generally brews hazy IPAs, stouts, and pastry-whatever (and an occasional pilsner), so there’s been some considerable hype around the brewery for some time. We had the Foreign Chemistry DIPA on our Curbside Haze show and it was a bit on the boozy side. Their vanilla imperial stout Aliena, however, is a different ballgame.
Aliena (pronounced alien-ah) will not cost you $300 dollars (that’s Alinea, bro). Foriegn Exchange knows what they have here, as Eventbrite handled the pre-sales and some limited distribution occurred afterwards. Of course it sold out pretty quickly at any shop that received it.
I can’t remember the last time a stout poured this thick. It moves so slow out of the bottle and just kind of globs itself into the glass (get a grip!) that I’m surprised it’s still a liquid. Little to no head at all on this – even while being poured – says you’re in the Low Carbonation Zone. Red and brown highlights accentuates the otherwise pitch black color. Your glass won’t leave unscathed either, as Aliena just stains the glass wherever it may roam. A big and thick stout for sure. Get your head out of the gutter.
The aroma surprised me. Stout with only vanilla added? Get ready for Lion King-style wildebeest stampede of vanilla with stouts notes hiding in fear. Aliena goes a different route – balance. While this surely makes the vanilla cabal mad, the chocolate and roasty notes of the stout balance with the vanilla added exquisitely. As opposed to getting vanilla extract, a lovely addition of marshmallow and cream presents itself. Some alcohol burn comes through and tickles the nose, but at 12% ABV that is expected.
Drinking it once again surprised me. Roast and chocolate are at the vanguard while the vanilla subtly announces itself through a touch of marshmallow sweetness. Definitely not as sweet as I expected. Some slight bitterness from the malts is also present. As I kept drinking and drinking, it finally hit me- liquid vanilla pancake breakfast. When drinkers usually hear that, they think coffee and maple syrup. That usually makes the beer too sweet (USUALLY), so it was nice to have a breakfast-style imperial stout that featured non-coffee-adjuncted roasty notes.
How did I get to thinking vanilla pancake breakfast? The mouthfeel. We’ve all at one point or another licked/chugged/drank some pancake batter. Thick and kind of grainy, it goes down slow and coats the tongue. Aliena has similar properties. It’s thick, syrupy, and there’s a certain graininess to the beer. It moves slow, coating everything in its path. If you pucker your lips, they stick. This is a big beer.
So the mouthfeel might be my only complaint about Aliena. The vanilla is not over done, the roast and chocolate character present in the stout shine and the alcohol is well hidden. Again, a non-sweet breakfast-style stout beer that had me drinking the entire 500 mL bottle to the detriment of my own sobriety. It’s a rarity to see a beer like this not go the overly sweet route and I’m hoping it’s something that continues. I’m looking forward to the inevitable barrel-aged version of it.