- Style: Imperial Porter brewed with Pomegranate juice and Cayenne Pepper
- ABV: 13.10% Beacuse the cayenne pepper note simply didn't make it a bold enough beer on it's own. Go big or go home, right Ten Ninety?
- Ease to locate: Although they are still a rather new brewery, most craft stores in the Chicagoland area carry Ten Ninety bottles. And while their website leaves A LOT to be desired, they do have a beer search section.
- Color: Dark brown chocolate color with red highlights on the edges
- Head: A half a finger or so light tan head that disappears almost immediately. No real lace, just a thick ring around the surface
- Aroma: Very sweet. Lots of rich milk chocolate with a tart sharpness from the pomegranate juice. No real spice on the nose
- Mouthfeel:Medium body that almost verges on full. Very little carbonation presence
- Finish: Long and red hot from the cayenne pepper. Ay caramba!
- Food friendly?: Simply put? No. The heavy spice of this beer would over power almost any dish I could think of. A very mild and creamy cheese, such as a full fat Swiss would help underscore the heat from the beer. This is the sort of drink that you want to experience on it's own.
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If you have noticed, I never use any sort of point or rating system here on this blog. You wil never see me give a beer 4 out of 5 stars, thumbs up or whatever arbitrary symbol that you want to use to convey enjoyment of a beer. If I did, it would be bow ties. Because bow ties are cool. My reasoning for this is because we all have different pallets. What might be an amazing beer for me, could very well be a lackluster one for you. You would be wrong, of course, but that goes without saying. When I started this blog, I made the conscious decision to describe a craft beer in terms that allow you, the reader, to make an informed decision whether to try the beer for yourself or not. Since this is the case, I some times find myself cracking open a bottle from a style that I know that I'm not fond of. The things that I do for you.... So I want to temper this piece with a disclaimer that I don't generally enjoy heavily spiced stouts/porters. I've tried a handful in the past and have come to the conclusion that they simply aren't my cup of tea (I also do not enjoy hot peppers in my nightly mug of Bewleys Tea, for the record.) But since Ten Ninety Brewing is a new local brewery, I did want to give one of their bombers a try. OK. Full disclosure. I really went in the store to buy their Tripel, but all that was on the shelf was this Imperial Porter. And God knows that I certainly was not going to leave that bottle shop with a full wallet.
My Ten Ninety Imperial Porter poured a dark brown beer with very pretty scarlet highlights on the edges. It looked just as a Porter brewed with Pomegranate juice should look. A tight, half a finger head of light tan foam fell almost immediately after the pour. I was a bit disappointed in this, as well as in the lack of almost any sort of lacing. But since I've experienced more than one Imperial Porter with similar heads, it didn't greatly surprise me. The aroma was amazing. Heavy notes of rich, milk chocolate were laced with the distinct tartness of the Pomegranate juice. The sharpness of the fruit juice helped to temper the sweetness of the chocolate malts, creating an intriguing sort of nose. I didn't detect any spice from the pepper on the nose at all, not even after the beer reached room temperature (it took me a long, long time to finish my snifter.). I did love the nose and if the taste had fully reflected that aroma, I might have fallen in love with this beer. Of course, that would mean that they wouldn't have brewed with with the cayenne pepper element and label changes can be very expensive just to please one little old blogger. At first, the taste was that of the nose, rich milk chocolate (very similar to a milk stout flavor wise) with the tart Pomegranate juice layered just under the sweetness. But that's where the similarities to the nose ended. A fiery, eye watering hit of cayenne pepper lit up my mouth on the swallow. I like spicy food. I love mouth burning salsa. I'm the type to add extra hot sauce in my bowl of chili just to give the already spicy food a bit of a kick. But for some reason, I just don't appreciate this note in my stouts or porters. To me, this cayenne pepper note was over powering and distracting. The body was a little thinner than I expected for an Imperial Porter. It was firmly medium mouthfeel that seemed to long to be full bodied, but unfortunately just didn't have the extra oomph needed. A long finish that ended with the hot hit from the peppers left my mouth on fire. It was just too much for me.
Pairing food with this bad boy is not an easy task. Any time that you have a heavily spiced beer, it can be a challenge to find a match that enhances the brew rather than competes for attention. Add on the characteristics of an Imperial Porter and you have yourself a conundrum. I recommend drinking this beer on its own. Maybe on a cool, dreary night when you need a bit of internal warmth. Ten Ninety's Imperial Porter is obviously not the brew that is going to convert me to the dark side of spiced porters. Maybe there just isn't a beer out there that will. Of course, as it is with most things in life, the search is half the fun. If Ten Ninety should happen to one day brew their Imperial Porter with just the assistance of Pomegranate juice, I'd be more than willing though to pony up some extra cash for the new labels.