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Smuttynose Zinneke

February 6, 2013

So my first reaction when I began this review was, “How is this my first Smuttynose review?” I enjoy Smuttynose a lot; I get excited for their tap takeovers at my local bar, when I’m in doubt I’ll often grab myself a six-pack of Smuttynose, and sometimes I’ll order it just because there’s is the only tap handle I recognize. Hailing from New Hampshire, the brewery was founded in 1994 by people who had founded two breweries before (the Northampton and Portsmouth breweries), and over the past nearly two decades they’ve expanded up and down the eastern seaboard and they’re probing past the Mississippi. They have great flagship beers, I personally have always found the Old Brown Dog to go great with food, but what they also do are some great one-offs. I’ve had more than a few fun bombers from Smuttynose over the year, and at a recent brewery night they had several taps worth of interesting brews. The one that caught my eye however was the Zinneke, a Belgian Stout.

The beer is pitch black, there are no brown or red hues inside of the glass and the head is but a thin ring of brown at the edge of a black sea. Your nose will be met with the strong sweetness that is the hallmark of Belgian yeast, that almost too-sweet scent that’s tinged with an overripe fruit. This classic scent is helped by a pleasing milk chocolate-like smell that really provides a hint of what’s to come. The Zinneke has a middling body, with no major mouthfeel characteristics. It wasn’t particularly smooth or rough or sticky, it was just a beer.

What struck me the most about this brew though was its flavor. The chocolate and yeast that played so heavily into the scent of the beer are actually just a light touch in its overall profile, a launching point into stronger, and richer tastes. As the chocolate and yeast flavor linger they enter the background as a bittersweet roasted malt flavor sweeps in, preparing the taste buds for the dark coffee-like ending. Truly what makes this beer so good is the fact that unlike many other Belgian stouts this one doesn’t lose itself in reminding you that it’s using Belgian yeast. The flavor is present but part of a more complex picture, which I think is not only delicious but more in line with the reality of Belgian dark ales anyway. If you see this around, definitely give it a taste. If you see the bourbon barrel-aged version, let me know.

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