Thursday, January 24, 2013

Ska Brewing Hibernal Vinifera Stout review

Ska Hibernal Vinifera StoutFour Seasons - Four Different Stouts. Ska Brewing plans to take us through a wide spectrum of flavor this year. It started out in the fall with their Autumnal Cocoa Mole Stout and now continues with their Ska Hibernal Vinifera Stout. Vinifera Stout is a foreign-style stout that was oak barrel-aged along with the juice of Malbec grapes to produce and beer-wine fusion of flavor.

According to the interwebs, Malbec grapes are primarily grown in Bordeaux region of France, but is now widely popular in Argentina, and is the third most grown grape in Chile. You can also find vineyards in NY Long Island, Washington State and California. In wine, Malbec grapes yield a plum-like flavor, and has an aroma somewhat like blackberry and cherry. In beer, however, it can create some fascinating contrasts with dark malts.

Ska's Vinifera Stout weighs in around 8.0% ABV and is described as "complex and slightly boozy, yet balanced. Deep, roasty notes and sweet finish. Pairs well with smoked or grilled meats, but is surprisingly nimble: try it with chocolate or creamy sweet desserts". Ska chose to release this series of stouts in cans to help showcase that cans do indeed keep beers like this fresh and tasty. Fermentedly Challenged was intrigued and gave it the full review.

Appearance: Similar to their other stouts, Ska's Vinifera Stout poured very dark with just a hint of brown around the edges. The beer easily built up a voluminous tan brown head that stuck around for quite a while. The was a lot of lacing along the glass, but quickly slid off the sides. There appeared to be plenty of carbonation left in this beer, even from the can.

Aroma: Here is where the grapes hit. The aroma held both a dark roasty malt character along with a distinct grape highlight. The grape aroma smelled sweet, while the dark malts gave reminders of coffee, chocolate and wood with a hint of vanilla. it was difficult to pick up on any hop aroma between all the fruit and dark malt. I was slightly reminded of the smell of the purple Welch's Grape Juice.

Taste: The bitterness of the brew hit me up front. The roasted malt character took center stage, but also had a back door trace of sweetness from the grape juice. There were some notes of cocoa here as well. The feel was a full bodied one as most stouts are. The brew coated my tongue with roasted malts and had a tinge of grape at the end. The mix of roast and grape was unique, yet satisfying and I found myself able to go quickly through this brew despite the higher ABV rating.

Overall: This beer was quite the contrast to their earlier Autumn stout which had peppers and spice blended in. It's nice to see a brewery take on a wide spectrum of experience in their stouts. Definitely not your usual stout brand here and to that I say - awesome. I can't wait to try their Spring stout which should be out near the end of March. This beer is available in 6-pack cans and on tap at select locations. Worth exploring if you are a lover of the dark brew and want something out of the ordinary.

Disclosure: I paid full retail price for this beer at my local liquor store.

Related articles:
- Ska releases 2nd in series of seasonal stouts.
- Ska Autumnal Cocoa Mole Stout review.
- Labor Day in Durango (and Ska Brewing).

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