Atmospheric Black Metal
Søle Artisan Ales, delivers fresh takes on nearly every variety of beer imaginable. I’ve had their barleywines, IPAs, schwarzbiers, saisons and porters, which are mostly done exceptionally well. The brewery is set in Easton, PA, next to the Free Bridge connecting Pennsylvania to New Jersey. The outside of the building has a classic architectural feel that serves as quite a stark contrast to the minimalist, European-inspired interior topped off by stained glass window above the main entrance.
A modernized diner menu board displays the twelve beers on tap right near the entrance. Names such as “Fruity Dabs” and “Naked Yoga” allude to a playfulness and sense of humor that goes into naming the beers. However, once the bartender pulls on the wooden tap handle, it’s apparent that all of the beers are taken very seriously through every stage of their development.
When I saw their announcement for Atmospheric Black Metal, a 10% imperial stout, I was excited up due to my personal music taste. During the colder months, my playlists shift almost entirely to metal to get me through the harsh temperatures and dark nights. This beer in particular was named after a niche genre of music that typically conjures up similar feelings. Much like the music, Atmospheric Black Metal hits all of the right notes.
If you are a newcomer to the music genre, artists create albums that are meant to be listened from start to finish, more so than as individual pieces. Song titles such as “Against the Northern Wind” and “Of Wrath and Forbidden Wisdom” elicit various emotions during their ten-minute-or-longer run times. The genre is extremely nuanced; filled with fast-paced screaming sections that often fall into haunting piano or ambient sounds of the forest.
The first sip is a pitch black adventure filled with subtle sweetness from the malts and perfect bitterness from the cocoa nibs.”
It’s because of this nuance that I was entering my tasting experience for the beer of the same name with such high hopes. On the nose, Atmospheric Black Metal does not hide its hefty alcohol content. This is a winter beer, after all, which traditionally aim to please and warm drinkers simultaneously. On the back-end, cocoa nibs shine through in the scent of hot chocolate. The first sip is a pitch black adventure filled with subtle sweetness from the malts and perfect bitterness from the cocoa nibs. As Søle put it, the beer was brewed “using the blackest of malts and conditioned on cocoa nibs harvested from the devil’s loins.”
As a result, the stout has an extremely delicate balance of rich and complex flavors, while still being unapologetically robust. The dark malts add a non-overpowering sweetness that compliments the chocolatey bitterness from the cocoa nibs and makes the 10% ABV surprisingly—almost dangerously—manageable. From beginning to end, the beer offers a variety of tastes as the beer moves closer to room temperature, exposing earthy elements that weren’t present within the initial pour.
This is a wonderful beer to enjoy indoors as long as the chill lingers. This stout mirrors its namesake—it moves the drinker much like an atmospheric black metal album should move its listener.