Finding the Holy Grail

We are predators. This impulse, embedded deep in the most primitive reaches of our lizard brains, is ancient and mostly unused. We do not have to rely on this hardwiring when we stop by the meat counter at the grocery store (or tofu aisle). And yet it's there, waiting to guide us.

Avid fans of anything (WWII memorabilia, cars, beanie babies) know the experience of the hunt. Not for wildebeest, but for the elusive ephemera needed to round out a collection. Beer geeks are no less avid, and we can occasionally stoke our predator lizard brain with a hunt for the obscure. Last night, much by chance, I happened to discover, finally, long after I thought all hope was lost, a tap with Collaborator CXI, that pumpernickel-bread beer I have been seeking.

With a spare hour of free time, I stopped into Belmont Station last night and there it was. Belmont is currently hosting its Bigger, Badder, Blacker beer week, and there are a lot of great pours to be had: the Abyss, Chocolate Oak-Aged Yeti (the night's buzz beer), Life and Limb, Velvet Merkin, etc. But it was the Collaborator, along with that rush of excitement at a found object, for me.

In a case like this, it hardly matters how good the beer is. And yet, as an added bonus, the beer was exceptional. It was served, in the Belmont fashion, in a tulip glass--perfect to capture the complex aroma coming off the beer. Pumpernickel bread loaves were added to the mash, and the aroma is oven-fresh, yet not so much of bread. Cake, perhaps, and chocolate and a touch of evergreen. The sensuous body is creamy and frothy--retaining a nice skiff of head to the last drop. The flavors are like the aroma, a quarter turn left of expectations. It's a dark, earthy beer, with spicy, herbal notes. The rye comes through as peppery-minty, but is subtle enough that it hangs behind the more expected nutty, chocolatey first notes. A big beer at 8.5%, with the requisite warming but no sharp edges.

One of the best beers I've had in recent memory, and I wish it was easier to make and likely to be seen again. But, since it's not, I have at least the consolation of knowing that at least my lizard brain will keep its memory close, waiting for a chance to strike again.