Grisly Reaper | Old Irving Brewing
Stout season is here. The weather agrees with the coming of this season (recent past notwithstanding), bringing with it wind chills and, at the very least, jackets. I typically say stout season starts with Revolution’s Deep Wood series and usually ends in March when KBS tends to be released. But stout season is also a state of mind, one that starts with contemplative Fall Craig and winds into hunkered down Winter Craig. Old Irving helps this transition with their imperial chocolate stout Grisly Reaper.
Immediately eye-catching with some excellent air-brush-like art, Grisly Reaper comes in at 10% ABV. It contains both cacao nibs and Dutch cocoa powder along with milk sugar. It’s a collaboration with 8-bit Chocolate as well. It pours dark black with some dark brown head that methodically vanishes to nothing. Little to no highlights definitely make this beer look more like an imperial stout and it stains the glass a light brown to boot.
While it definitely smells sweet, the chocolate itself veers bitter, more akin to a baker’s chocolate. A slight coffee roast comes through as well, leading me to think the malt bill is exerting some influence here. Some vanilla comes through as well along with some cherries and other dark fruits. Honestly much more complexity on the nose that I thought.
And that baker’s chocolate leads in the flavor. While some sweet chocolate and vanilla notes are there, the bitterness dominates it. In addition to the bitterness, the medium to high carbonation throws you for a loop as well. I’m more used to those thick, oily stouts that slowly move across the tongue and leave a ton of flavor lingering in its wake. That flavor does stick around on the front of the tongue, but it quickly evaporates over the rest, leaving me wanting more.
But that mouthfeel does help out with the alcohol. You can taste most of that 10%, but the carbonation makes it much easier to handle, take down and enjoy. A bit of that roast comes out and plays on the tongue as well, but it definitely plays third fiddle to the bitterness and the carb.
Grisly Reaper kind of shocked me. When a beer is branded as an imperial chocolate stout, I have some conceptions about how it’s going to go down. Thick, big mouthfeel, big chocolate aroma and flavor, and the strong possibility of being sweet or too sweet. Grisly Reaper did the exact opposite, acting more like a ye olde tyme imperial stout with a fair amount of bitterness and fairly high carbonation.
Despite that initial shock, I slowly warmed to the beer. The chocolate, while not sticking around as long as I was expecting, did stick around a bit over time. That off-putting mouthfeel wound up helping Grisly Reaper by cutting the amount of perceived alcohol and thereby allowing me to finish the 16 oz. can off fairly quickly. Much like stout on the kitchen counter, I warmed to this beer. Yes, I would’ve liked a bit of a thicker mouthfeel, but everything else about this stout makes it unique in the market today. Just don’t go in expecting a sweet-ass chocolate pastry stout.