Oklahoma isn’t usually the first place on a drinker’s lips when they’re asked to name a hotbed of beer innovation, is it? Well, if the lads behind Prairie Artisan Ales keep going the way they are, this might be set to change…although I wouldn’t be booking that booze cruise to Tulsa just yet.
I was lucky to get hold of a couple of bottles of Prairie’s much sought-after Bomb! during my recent trip to San Francisco.
This little number certainly has a lot of hype to live up to, having been much lauded by the beer community over recent months. Even without any hype, if you commit to brewing a 14% ABV Imperial Stout aged on artisan-roasted coffee, cacao nibs, vanilla beans, and chili peppers (and include an exclamation mark in its name), you’d sure as hell better make sure it’s not muck.
Bomb! is a majestic looking piece of work – pitch black with one of those massive mocha heads. As soon as your nose gets anywhere near the glass, you realise that this is a bit special. There’s a huge and incredibly deep hit of aromas of all kinds: rich dark chocolate, dark roast espresso, black pepper, and sweet creamy vanilla. Upon tasting, it’s just as deep, brooding, and complex. Huge roasted malt and dark roast coffee hit you first, followed by more of that luscious dark chocolate. Creamy vanilla notes and a bit of dark fruit emerge from time to time, adding yet more depth to proceedings. While the chili peppers didn’t show themselves fully in the aroma, by Jesus they do in the taste: there’s a rising and almost smokey heat that makes itself heard at the end of each sip, not in an obtrusive burning way, but enough to keep Bomb! exciting from start to finish. It’s full bodied and silky smooth – this should be dessert after every meal you have for the rest of your lives.
Most impressively of all, perhaps, is the fact that this is 14% ABV. There’s no way in hell you’d expect that. The alcohol is so well integrated it’s untrue – I’ve never had a beer of this strength that hides its booze power so well. Take a bow Prairie Artisan Ales, you’ve brewed an absolute cracker.