|Left Hand Fade To Black Volume 4,|
Rocky Mountain Black Ale, $2.09/12oz
By Doug Dorda
Each year, as the cold months creep in and the light of day wanes faster from the sky, Left Hand Brewing Company releases its seasonal offering under the title of Fade to Black. The style itself changes from year to year with the one caveat being that the bottle will always house a “black” beer of some sort. This year's salute to the short days of winter is touted by the website as a “Rocky Mountain Black Ale.” As with the other offerings prior to this one, my intrigue was piqued, and I now offer my perceptions.
Volume 4 pours—you guessed it—black. In fact, it pours a hearty black that only reveals itself as translucent brown when tilted at extreme angles toward a light. The quickly dissipating head is a creamy tan that consists of tightly coalesced C02 bubbles that disperse the aromas quite nicely. Intense levels of orange, tangerine, and all other members of the peel-to-eat citrus fruit family parade proudly within the nose. If the ale is allowed to warm slightly, the citrus aromas give way, though only a little, to nuances of chocolate, licorice and toast, which allows for expectation of complexity as the taste approaches.
Contrary to the hearty presence of citrus in the nose, the taste is an immediate rush of deep molasses, lightly burnt toast, chocolate, and just a hint of smoked pepper. This is not to say that these flavors are in any way overpowering, for indeed they are dutifully balanced and well dampened by a large amount of C02 that leaves what would otherwise be a large-bodied beer pleasantly dry on the palate. The finish also announces the return of citrus as well as a mild black peppercorn note that is alarmingly complimentary to the whole of the beer.
Overall, I feel that this is an ale best paired with winter food fare, or perhaps a fireside chat. As I swirled the beer in my mouth I began to unconsciously set a menu with blue cheeses for a starting dish, a main course of roasted chicken served alongside sauteed mushrooms, and a dessert of dried and candied fruits. For all intents and purposes, this beer seems as though it would be well suited to accompany any dish that might be served with a hearty red wine.
As always, I implore you to try the beer for yourself, and perhaps plan a dinner to go with it. After all, the days will not get considerably longer for some time now – perhaps it is time we created reasons to enjoy the gradient Fade to Black.