It’s Masters Sunday, and after an exhausting weekend that featured a lot of physiology studying, it was time to watch some golf and have a drink. A few hours earlier I had picked up some beer from my local bottle shop, and I now have a pretty eclectic assortment of options open to me. Tonight’s offering was by far the most absurd: Wild Black Kiss by Browar Widawa. I got this because the label was a hilarious hodge-podge of buzzwords. “Tennessee Whiskey Barrel Aged Sour Extra Stout” just sounds awful from the start. Since I’ve moved here, I’ve found that a lot of Polish breweries are super-infatuated with the concept of American-style beers, but when producing them, they rarely commit to the American process. This is probably a larger post waiting to happen, but they’ll (they being Polish brewers, not Browar Widawa in particular) advertise hops like Citra and Simcoe in their APA, and I’ll get really excited to try it, but those hops don’t come through, or are hidden behind too dark of malt, or are poorly paired with other hops. So seeing a whiskey barrel aged sour, I had to find out what the Polish take on this would be. I should also mention that label has a best by: 31 March 2016 date, which I’m just outside of, meaning this beer should be six months old.
Off the pour, I’m actually impressed. This beer looks quite beautiful. Pitch black, absolutely no head and looks quite viscous. Kinda what I’m expecting from my barrel aged brews. A little relieved, I stick my nose in the glass. Vinegar. Intense Oud Bruin acetic acid sourness. Unrelenting. The whiskey? If it’s in there, it doesn’t come through against that extreme sourness. I smell some grass, but honestly, most of my nose receptors have been burned off by the sourness so I can’t tell anything anymore.
I spent the last 10 minutes writing that all up before having a taste. I’m honestly trying to postpone the experience as long as possible. If it tastes like it smells, well, this 12oz bottle might last me a little while. Taking a hesitant sip, I’m relieved that this beer isn’t nearly as abrasively sour as I expected. It’s still sour, of course, but not the vinegary mess that this could have easily devolved to. It’s like a cherry or white plum tartness. But at the same time that’s going on, this other, dirty, angry taste is simultaneously coming through. The whiskey actually ends up being the bigger disaster in here. It’s whiskey barrel for the sake of using a whiskey barrel. It tastes dirty, black, ashen and the word ‘mulch’ won’t exit my mind. It has a similar characteristic to beers that use very roasted coffee, but in this beer there isn’t any coffee, and the roast just torments you as it lingers on your tongue.
Fortunately for the brewers, the sour half of this beer is more prevalent than the whiskey half. The sour isn’t incredible, but anything to hide that whiskey has to be a success. It’s clear that the brewers have a creative vision, but the pieces did not come together. I think they have to question what they want out of their barrel program. They can invest some money and education mastering barrel aging and create some impressive beer, or they can slap ‘barrel aged’ on their labels and have a bunch of gimmicky beers that disappoint. I’m being a little tough on these guys – I don’t want to give the impression that this beer was undrinkable. In fact, I know some people would probably enjoy this beer quite a bit. But I think technically it was lacking, and nowhere close to their X West Brett IPA Barrel Aged beer. I do want these guys to succeed because they clearly have good ideas. But for now, I have to give Wild Black Kiss a 6.4.