Friday, February 24, 2012

Nectar Ales Black Xantus Imperial Stout

I've been blogging about beer off and on for about 7 years now. My father, bless his heart, occasionally likes to pick me up random 22oz bottles if he sees something he thinks I'd be interested in. The reality is, he only drinks Corona Light and doesn't have a clue as to what I really enjoy. Instead, his strategy is to pick up bottles with cool labels that hold beer darker than Corona Light.

This strategy usually results in some decent beer. Rarely am I intrigued enough by what he picks up to actually write about it, but solid beers none the less. This time is different. This time, just this once, he found something magical completely by chance.

When I review a beer, I usually do some background on it first and will write about the brewery, its philosophy, and anything else I find interesting. In this case, I decided to just pop open the beer and drink it with zero research. I never planned on reviewing it with the assumption that it'd be a generic imperial stout, so I'm going to do my review a bit backwards. You're going to experience my journey the same way I did; with my review first and information later.

Brewery: Nectar Ales
Style: Russian Imperial Stout Rating: 90 Rating: 99 overall
Serving: 22oz Bottle

Appearance: Jet black with no light coming through. Only a sliver of a tan head on the pour that quickly dissipates.

Smell: Lots of alcohol, chocolate, coffee, and malt. For comparison, this smells almost identical to Deschutes' The Abyss (one of my all-time favorite beers).

Taste: Oh! This...this is really special. It tastes very similar The Abyss at first, but with more coffee! An initial booze rush is slowly flushed out by tastes of bitter coffee and malt that soothes to dark chocolate as it escapes your palate. The coffee and chocolate notes especially multiply as you sip through a glass and the alcohol becomes much less apparent. The mouthfeel is also notable as it feels rather heavy, quite like a milk stout. While not nearly as chocolatey as a chocolate stout, this would be a phenomenal beer to pair with a dessert (cheesecake, perhaps?) or have as a dessert itself. As you continue to drink towards the end of the glass, the pleasant aromas and tastes never degrade and the last sip is just as enjoyable as the first.

With that out of the way, let's learn about what I just drank and which masterminds created it.

Before I go any further, let me first disclose that I have a bias in favor of Oregon and Washington beers. Don't get me wrong, I love me some California beer, but statistically-speaking and based off of the availability at hand, I am more likely to pick up a random Oregon or Washington beer I find intriguing more often than a California one. This is reason number one why I didn't initially think to research this ahead of time. The old man has bought me a ton of random California beers with cute labels, but none have been interesting enough to write about.

Next, I have to admit I hadn't even heard of Nectar Ales. I have another bias against animals on labels, so I very well might have completely blocked them out of my mind if I've actually seen their ales on a shelf. For more info, let's consult with Nectar themselves:

Nectar Ales was founded in 1987 in Humboldt County as one of California's - and the nation's - pioneering microbreweries. Leading with its unique Red Nectar ale, Nectar Ales helped blaze the microbrew trail and is today regarded as a true California classic.

Under the founding slogan “All Natural Ales,” the beers of Nectar Ales are brewed with all-natural ingredients, including the finest hops and malted barley. At all points in the brewing process, careful attention is paid to craft ales of extraordinary flavor, character and pure naturalness —the achievement of great taste.

Sounds like I've been oblivious to 25 years of great beer making. But what's this Black Xantus all about? Turns out it is a super limited special release:

Black Xantus (pronounced Zantis) is truly a unique bird. An Imperial Stout aged in American oak barrels, infused with fresh organic/ fair-trade coffee from our local coffee roaster, Jobella Coffee Roasters. This special, limited release beer bursts with bourbon and espresso aromas leading into chocolate and black cherry flavor. It’s 11% ABV is softened by time in barrels which also contributes to the beer’s appeal. We are very proud of this new addition to the Nectar Ales family.

Suddenly, my entire tasting experience all makes sense. Many of the same methods used to make this ale are the same that are used to make The Abyss. The biggest difference with this gem is the introduction of Jobella Coffee. This slight modification has completely rocked my world and has immediately skyrocketed Black Xantus towards the top of my list of all time favorite brews.

If you can still find a bottle of this (and only 400 cases were ever released starting in September), get your hands on it and take it home with you. This is an incredibly special beer that is unlike all else. Don't let the hummingbird fool you either, this is no gimmick. In fact, I dropped what I was doing to write this post and am breaking my general rule of posting on weekend nights. Go to your local beer store. Now!


  1. After reading your review, I hustled to the store to pick some up. I was not disappointed. Robust, complex, delicious.

  2. Sounds delicious, will have to find my local spot to pick some up.

  3. Something you may not know about this's made in Paso Robles CA and there is only one brewery in that town...check it out, you may understand the origins of this amazing beer a little better!