Thursday, April 26, 2018

Beer O'Clock: Fortissimo

It's been about two-and-a-half years since I had last stepped into the Tooth and Nail Brewing Company, and that surprises me. I really liked the coziness of their tasting area, with a bar, tables, and window seating, looking out onto the corner of Irving and Wellington, in the upcoming neighbourhood of Hintonburg.

Then again, with that first visit, I did review six of the brews they had on offer, so they were well-represented at Beer O'Clock.

So, about two-and-a-half years later, I found myself sitting on one of the stools, at the long table at the front window, looking out onto Irving and Wellington, trying new beer. I sipped their strong, hoppy saison, Agraria, marvelling at the mix of fruit and bitterness. I was pleased to see that they had added a menu that offered light fare, and I enjoyed a pastrami sandwich on a pretzel bun with my brew, as I wrote a new passage for my upcoming novel.

Expect a character, named Irving Wellington, in the book.

My stay was short, but I told myself that I wouldn't wait as long to visit this brewery again. On my way out, I picked up a couple of bottles of another beer that I wanted to try, in the comfort of my home, where I could perform a proper review.

Which brings us here.
Fortissimo Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout (10.5% ABV)
Tooth and Nail Brewing Company
Ottawa, ON
Appearance: dark-roasted, coffee-black. No light can pass through it. A creamed-coffee head pours to a half-centimetre-thick head, which quickly dissipates to a lace that covers the top of the stout.

Nose: coffee and licorice, with a hint of prunes.

Palate: black licorice leads the way, with a strong roasted coffee that follows close behind. The label indicates that this was made with chocolate, but I could not discern any. The bourbon from the barrel comes through in the finish and lingers longer with each subsequent sip. You can tell right away that this is a heavy hitter, as the alcohol can be felt on the tongue and at the back of the throat. As I settled into this Imperial stout, I also picked up tones of cedar and cigar.

Overall impression: when I first started appreciating beer, beyond the giant brewers that created less-than-stellar, middle-of-the-road swill, I developed a strong affinity for stouts. Guinness, in those days, was king. But as smaller, craft brewers came out, I left that Irish staple for greater stouts, like Scotch-Irish Brewing's Black Irish Porter (aka Perry's Porter, or Pee Pee, as the folks at the Arrow and Loon Pub affectionately knew it), McAulan's St.Ambroise Oatmeal Stout, and Mill Street's Cobblestone Stout.

Stouts were my favourite brew, but over the years, I'm discovering that Imperial stouts are not. I mean, there have been exceptions—Perry's Tsarina Katerina 2005 vintage Imperial stout comes quickly to mind—but I find that I can seldom sit down and drink one. I find that the flavour of licorice to be powerful; sometimes, off-putting. The higher alcohol content can influence when I want to sit down with one.

And yet, I still buy them, still drink them, as though when I'm at the cashier, I forget how I feel about them until I pull it out of my cellar, read the label (as though, for the first time), and say, "Geez, why did I buy this?"

While an Imperial stout is not my first choice of beer, I do have an immense respect for them. I like how you can lay them down for a couple of years, like a fine wine. An Imperial stout is bold, brash, and Tooth and Nail's Fortissimo is aptly named.

Fortissimo is a bold example of Imperial stout that retains all of the qualities: coffee, prunes, black licorice, and cedar. The bourbon barrels lend a touch of warmth, and though I couldn't detect the chocolate that Tooth and Nail claim it has, you can never go wrong with chocolate.

Beer O'Clock rating: 4.5

Fortissimo is a great Imperial stout. I bought two of the 500ml bottles, and I'm laying the second one down until December of 2020 (I promise that I'll be back to the brewery before then). I'll see how the cellar treats this brew and will share my findings.

And I'll try not to say, "Geez, why did I buy this?" as I lift it from the wine rack in my cellar, where it rests, next to a 2001 vintage port.

You can find Fortissimo at the brewery only. I suggest you pay them a visit and try out all of their brews.


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