The Black Swan: An Imperial Stout by Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing
The history of the Imperial Stout has been well chronicled by self-professed beer geeks. Originating in England (http://allaboutbeer.com/article/imperial-stout-4/), it derived from the popular Porter style ale during the height of the British Empire. Significantly stronger in alcohol content, the Imperial Stout was a popular export around the world and found particular favor in Russia. The global market for beer played the biggest role in the development of many beer styles, as noted by Jim Vorel (https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2017/01/lets-talk-beer-styles-russian-imperial-stout.html) in his article for Paste Magazine.
The character of an Imperial Stout is that of a regular stout (dark opaque color, malt-forward flavor, creamy character) but with a more complex body and higher ABV. It is similar to the difference between an IPA and a DIPA. As beer drinkers have become more adventurous (according to Vorel), brewers have responded with stronger batches and boundary-expanding recipes. The Black Swan is just such an American Imperial Stout (https://www.craftbeer.com/styles/american-imperial-stout). With a name intended to scare off the timid and to warn the brave, it is a powerful pint to experience.
Here in Santa Cruz, as elsewhere in the northern hemisphere, March is a transitional month, leaving behind the coldest part of the year as we head towards the longer days of summer. The Black Swan is a celebration of having made it through the slow season, and it is a mouth warming beer that can be enjoyed in the mornings as easily as in the evenings, in moderation.
Having brewed an Imperial Stout for 9 years, now, this beer has undergone a number of minor modifications. Each year we taste the stout and dream about what could be better, adding some rye to give more body complexity, tinkering with the ratios of barley and oats for head retention and creaminess. The process of brewing beer gets richer with experience; the more times you have tried a certain recipe the more clearly you can discern which elements are contributing to different aspects of its character.
This year, we are releasing our Black Swan limited batch of Imperial Stout on St. Patty's Day in honor of the tradition of stout brewing from the UK, and especially from Ireland. This beer won't be around for long, and it will only be available in our tap room, so make sure to find your best green outfit and join us this Friday to experience a dive into the dark depths of beer decadence.