Brewery: Allagash Brewing Company. (Portland, ME)
Style: Stout – Imperial/Double
9.5% ABV / 0 IBU
Allagash is not exactly known for its stouts, but America’s finest Belgian brewery has been dabbling in the dark arts for a while now, with some pretty excellent results. Of particular note is North Sky, the core dark beer, a dry English style stout with a strong malt profile and abundant roast flavor. Allagash Black is similarly unassuming, but offers an inspired riff on Belgian brewing techniques, particularly with the inclusion of candi sugar, which offers notes of raisins, caramel and pipe tobacco. Basically, it’s a stout with a touch of sweetness, rather than a sweet stout.
Noctura takes that sense of comfort to a whole ‘nother level. It’s basically Allagash Black, aged on vanilla beans in bourbon barrels, and the aging is really done to perfection. The vanilla flavor is faint but pairs exceptionally well with the sweetness of the candi sugar. On the malt side, Nocturna (and its base Allagash Black) are pretty similar to North Sky, with a blend of barley, chocolate malt and oats (just no wheat). With stouts, there’s no reason to get cute; when you find a blend of malts and the right hops, the magic is in how you age or condition the beers.
That’s perhaps Nocturna’s calling card—for a beer aged in bourbon barrels, it doesn’t taste like it at all. It’s a beer that has undeniably benefited greatly from aging but tastes like a more “mature” version of its base, rather than a stout completely beholden to the barrel. Nocturna offers a clean-drinking experience and boasts a remarkably smooth finish for a beer of its gravity. It’s rare to find a stout—especially an imperial—that isn’t overwhelmed by coffee or chocolate flavors, but Nocturna offers an incredible balance of sweetness, dryness and bitterness.
For more info on Nocturna, please head here.