This week's Beer of the Week is Brother Vesper, a "whiskey barrel blessed" Belgian Strong Dark Stout from Pour Decisions Brewing Company, which recently merged with start-up distillery Bent and will be known as Bent Brewstillery going forward.
The beer itself is a limited edition, whiskey barrel-aged product crafted by head brewer Kristen England. "Basically, anytime you see anything that has been aged in bourbon in the U.S. it's pretty much going to be an Imperial stout," England says. He wanted to mix it up, and that's how Brother Vesper was born.
The premise behind the Brother Vesper was to make something that straddled two of the most favorite beer nerdy styles, but unique enough to mean "not just another stout." The base beer style is a Belgian Dark Strong ale and I worked in the best parts of an old school Double Stout, along with a few other beer styles. The idea is that it's an amalgamation of all styles but better than each individually: the perfect beer after a long day of being a monk. Hence the name Brother Vesper (Vesper being the evening prayer).
The beer is a light black, perhaps just more translucent than a cold cup of coffee. It's a thick pour from the bottle, with little head that quickly diminishes. What remains atop is a caramel foam that's slightly sweet and gives an aromatic head to a heavy beer.
The carbonation first hits with a bitter semi-coffee impression and finishes with a soothing chocolate note. It starts strong and finishes easy and relaxing, a sharp stout that hits the senses like an Imperial stout, but without that sensory overload that follows. The strong alcohol content (12.5%) is apparent in aroma but not in taste. All in all, it's a very subtle beer with a strong name. Elements of Belgian spices and sugars are present, but subdued within the heavy body.
Available only in 750 ml bottles at present, Brother Vesper is a drink for a dinner party on a cold evening. Pull it from the fridge, let the temperature rise a bit, and pour a chalice or two for each guest to complement dessert after a heavy meal.
It's also a candidate for aging, as the "Vintage 2013: 204/600" sticker on the bottle suggests. Brother Vesper is currently available only at Haskell's liquor stores in limited supply.