I first met the ladies of Throwback brewing this summer while writing up a very short piece on NH’s newest brewery. Throwback Brewing has the unique focus of being a “throw back” to the times when brewers used whatever ingredients the could find around them, and made their beer with care. This modern North Hampton, NH brewery aims to have all of its ingredients eventually locally sourced – a bit of a feat in New England. Their debut beers were a hit, but when I first went out to meet them I got a taste of something really special -a chocolate peanut butter beer – and it blew me away.
Since then, I patiently waited for this beer to be released, and in late fall I got my chance. I traveled to NH to pick up the very first bottled batch of “Fat Alberta” Imperial Stout. With an adorable label of an elephant balancing on a peanut, it reminded me (probably intentionally) of the movie Dumbo.
It is a thick black color, with a dark tan head. I put my nose up to the glass and inhaled. Peanuts. Not peanut butter, not chocolate, really, but peanuts. And almost like the bowl full of husked shells and paper and dust. Raw, unadulterated peanuts are the msot of the aroma, and if I were blindfolded I’d probably be fooled into thinking you have a handful of peanuts in your hand.
The taste is different, though. Bracing for a peanut bomb, I was a little surprised by the flavor. Not very sweet, but very peanut-driven and slightly tart. It does have a great peanut-butter smoothness to it, but the bitterness of tons of peanuts is there a little, too. The coca nubs that give it is rich body are there, providing a roasty background, but I almost think they could have been a little more forward. But the important part is this – the fact that you can take a flavor like chocolate peanut butter and stuff it into a beer without it tasting artificial is amazing. It leaves a taste in your mouth that is just perfect – like you’ve just eaten a spoon full of peanut butter. The best part is that it is not sweet. This would be sensory overload if they had really pushed more towards a sweet peanut butter cup instead of a rich chocolate peanut butter cheesecake type flavor.
As I drank a bit more of it, I also noticed that as it warms, the undertones of the beer’s strength come through. At 9.5% ABV, it’s not a subtle brew, but will sneak up on you if you are not careful.
For those wary of overly-sweet beer or even those who don’t like peanut butter cups, I will tell you this will not upset your palates. This is a beer for the curious, the open minded, and the silly. Drink up, close your eyes and imagine you’re a child at the circus. It’s a fun trip.
Overall, I am impressed by what Throwback has offered – and I think that they are on their way to making a strong name for themselves in the New Hampshire (and New England) craft beer scene. I am also excited that they plan to release several additional dark beers as small batch releases in 2012, so I can’t wait to see what they can bring.