King Misanthrope (Henniker Brewing Company)
Style: Russian Imperial Stout aged on toasted Maple Wood cured with American whiskey
From: Henniker, NH
Part of the Off The Grid Series
Brewery’s Note: “Misanthrope: A person who dislikes humankind and avoids human society./ Bold, dark, strong, and unapologetic. King Misanthrope is a Russian Imperial Stout aged on house-toasted maple wood cured with American whiskey from Flag Hill Distillery in Lee, NH and is the 4th release in our Off the Grid Series. The king doesn’t care about your opinion or Untappd score, just let him drink his beer and get out of his face.”
The beer pours out as thick and syrupy midnight, but appears svelter, and more attenuated than others in the style. It pours with a thin cap of pale tan bubbles that wither to a scrim. When splashed against the glass the beer leaves a very thin wall of straight bubble bars, which slide quickly away but leave thin strands of lacing surrounded with polka-dots and a thick, shimmering mirage of alcoholic legs. The beer is opaque and I should stop mentioning this fact for reviews such as these. It looks regal, dark, and brooding in its glass, yet composed and in shape. On the nose, the beer smells of wet, dark roast coffee grounds littered over the forest floor after a rain storm. There is a hint of moss, some wet leaves, and as you shove your nose into it, there’s booze, some cocoa powder, and a staler can of Maxwell House regular coffee. It’s a subtler, more compact nose for a RIS, but it packs a lot into the scent it carries. I think I get hints of toasted woodiness right at the start of the sniff, and there are definite nuances of mallow and nougat, but other than that the wood is definitely a ghost-player in the nose. On the tongue, the beer tastes a little boozy on the first sip, slowly working out into rich dark chocolate sweetness that mingles with slight caramel bread and rich dark fruit coffee notes. The coffee slowly works a bitter roast into the taste, taking it’s time before establishing a lasting, slightly harsh bitterness that takes on herbal hop bitters and bit of tea-like tannin that must be coming from the wood. The front of the sip develops nuances of dark fruit coffee acidity as I sip it, and some of that blends with the coffee roast and dark chocolate on the finish. The aftertaste is where the harsh, nearly flavorless bitters congeal, forcing you to take another sip and relieve yourself in the rich complexities of beginning of the sip. The start of the sip is decidedly English malts in its bent, developing rich nuttiness alongside roasted bread crusts, and other delicacies that are reminiscent of a good English brown or porter, while the booze on the very start and backend, alongside the bitters lend the beer a more American bent. In the mouth, the beer feels on the fullest side of medium, traveling into a heavier body. It is decidedly svelte and attenuated for its weight class, but it definitely carries some girth. It offers a mild carbonation, but the booze and roast give the tongue a gentle scrub and leave it shiny clean, while the back feels a little sticky and burnt. The beer is easy to drink, and quite a pleasure to drink, too. In very broad strokes, this tastes like something Samuel Smith would put out of their lineup. Something about the overall flavor profile just screams Samuel Smith at me, and just in case you are wondering, that is not a bad thing at all. The bitterness of the taste loses its bite as the beer warms, and even with the bitters it is lovely to slowly sip. King Misanthrope is complex, but not something that demands to be drank in quiet contemplation. This is a superb beer for fireside chats, or after dinner discussions. My gripe is that the toasted maple wood soaked in whiskey seems to be conspicuously absent from the taste. Perhaps it is just a subtle flavoring that is masterfully integrated in with the rest, but to me this just tastes like a killer RIS without any additions. I think this is a perfect beer to sit on, as the bitters are still fresh and the booze is a touch hot, but all in all this is a delicious, ‘simple’ (as far as one can be) RIS. Henniker is excelling at wonderful renditions of classic styles thus far, and I’m excited to watch as their portfolio expands. If I wanted to complain, I would say I wanted more wood or whiskey character, but as is the beer is really a delight to drink, so I think they are okay with leaving this as is. Great beer.