When I started getting into this crazy writing gig, there were a few beers I was saving for a rainy day, or when I wanted to write on an exceptionally good beer. The first brew that jumped into my mind was Labyrinth Black Ale by Uinta Brewing Company, out of Salt Lake City. I discovered this beer when I was still somewhat of a good beer “greenhorn”. In fact, it is among the few experiences with good beer that I credit with truly sowing the seeds that turned me into the beer lover I am today. I’ve enjoyed it quite a few times since then, and it has never become boring or commonplace.
Uinta Brewing Company has a very celebrated line of beers, the more popular of which are total hop-bombs. Labyrinth is an Imperial Black Ale, so its flavor is riding on a big ol’ sea of malty goodness. Priced at a lucky $13, and with a 13.2 percent alcohol per volume and a very bold flavor, splitting a bottle is recommended.
After the near-ceremonial task of shedding the foil, removing the bailing wire, and freeing the cork, I poured just a scant few fingers of Labyrinth into a tulip glass. The first thing I was met with was its thickness. Not quite as thick as maple syrup, but the pour is noticeably dense and very black. Despite this, a good sized tan head rose to the top, leaving the lace behind. Its scent is surprisingly permeating. Anise and strong roasted malt radiated from the dissolving head.
Now, black licorice isn’t exactly the most popular candy outside the nursing home, and black licorice liquors are “bombed” into energy drinks for a reason. Even I have a love/hate relationship with the bizarre sweet herbal characteristics, but somehow Labyrinth does it amazingly well. Something about the black licorice used in the brewing process brings out this delightfully complex bouquet, playing right up there with the toasted oak and bittersweet chocolate notes.
There is a bit of a boozy characteristic, like a bourbon, but it doesn’t really affect the drinkability. A very creamy mouth-feel, especially after the small bit of carbonation has died down. Around that time is when you get the bittersweet chocolate and vanilla.
Labyrinth is almost like a dessert beer, and pairs well with creamy items like gelato or tiramisu. High ABV beers like this are offset well by things with higher oil and fat contents, so anything sweet and creamy will compliment the ale splendidly. Personally, I like enjoying this beer by itself, unfettered by other influences. There’s nothing like getting lost in the labyrinthine catacombs of a good beer, and this is one worth getting familiar with.