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Beer On My Shirt: Follow That Lead Feather

J.R. Shirt, March 24, 2016 -   

Is it Lead Feather, as in a heavy feather? Or is it Lead Feather, as in the first feather in a parade of marching feathers. My first instinct was lead, like the metal. It rolls off the tongue better. And the can art seems to suggest metal, what with the chained and collared bird and hammer and what not. So lead it is. 

After thinking about it, and drinking a few, I'm leaning maybe toward the idea of a parade of feathers, particularly a parade with a very boisterous feather as the leader, wearing a very large hat.

But lead feather, back to the metal pronunciation now, suggests a sort of oxymoron. The sort that one finds in the opening scene of Romeo And Juliet, along with bright smoke, cold fire, jumbo shrimp, sick health, and (my personal favorite) still-walking sleep as Romeo wails on about love under a sycamore tree. Or maybe he was muttering. I can't remember.

Wait a second. Hold on.

Is this a Shakespeare beer? Because if that's a chained-up falcon on the can (you know, referencing Juliet's desire to control Romeo like a “manned” falcon and to call him back to her, you know, like whenever she wants), then this is definitely a Shakespeare beer and Renaissance Fairs and Shakespeare Festivals across the land need to be alerted because those things just got a whole lot more palatable.

Seriously, if you told me I could watch sword fights all day while drinking this beer out of pewter mug (with a guarantee I won't get lead poisoning) and maybe I get in on some human chess? That's a Saturday I might be interested in. Throw in a dramatic reading of the Magna Carta and you simply won't be able to keep me away.

Simply put, this beer is good and I'd like to drink it with or without the sword fights. It's a black ale, so it pours black, or at least a dark, dark brown with some light only getting through near the top edges. There was a light khaki head but that quickly disappeared.

I'm not exactly sure if there is a difference between between a Black Ale and a Black IPA, but in my limited experience, which includes this beer and a few other delicious ones from Minnesota, beers labeled as Black Ales tend to have less of a hop presence then those labeled as Black IPAs. Maybe I'm splitting hairs though, because while the first catch from this aroma is a nice roasted malt and bittersweet baker's chocolate, it's followed by an underlying hint of citrus. An image of an orange slice dipped in dark chocolate at a fondu party comes to mind.

Black Ales seem to lean more towards the roasted aromas and flavors, while a Black IPA tends to offer more of even split, between the hops and the roasted malt. Black Ales also seems to bridge the gap between the roasted malt and chocolate flavors of a Porter and the more bitter, roasted barley and coffee notes of a Stout while somehow remaining effortlessly drinkable.

It could be small samples or selection bias, but I've enjoyed the Black Ales more than the Black IPAs, and Lead Feather is no exception.

The first taste is mostly the roasted chocolate that came up in the aroma and it finishes with a bitterness that is more roast than rind. It takes a few more sips before some citrus and earthy pine starts to come through and the balance of the flavors starts to take shape. But then a few more sips and things starting working themselves out even more and the chocolate and char start staking more territory.

Like the taste, the beer feels big initially, coating the mouth with roasty black blanket. But the hop bitterness seems to clean up after the roasted bitterness, folding up that blanket and putting it away until the next time guests stay over, and leaves the impression that the beer felt lighter than maybe it actually did.

Overall, I had a half a glass of beer gone before I figured out that I was really enjoying it. The balance of the flavors came together nicely with citrus, roasted malt, chocolate, and even some enjoyable hints of astringent char and anise. The glass was empty too quickly and I was left wanting more. I had another can but it wasn't enough.

Who else is making a good black ale? I'm looking for suggestions. Preferably on the East Coast.  

Follow me, JR Shirt, on Twitter and Untappd @beeronmyshirt. Listen to my podcast, please. 

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