The husband of a woman that used to work in my office was employed by a company in North Carolina. He works remotely from his house here in Upstate New York and makes periodic trips to the Research Triangle for staff meetings.
As a homebrewer and craft beer imbiber, he would forego flying in lieu of a 10-hour drive so that, at the end of his trip, he could stockpile his favorite beers to bring home. And, because he was a nice guy, he would often carve out some space in his haul for me. More often than not, it meant a reload of New Belgium beers, but every so often he would bring me back something he thought I would like.
He was/is (I haven’t talked to him in a few years) a big fan of Big Boss Brewing in Raleigh and hogged bottles from that brewery to himself. Usually, he would snag me something from Foothills Brewing or the Duck Rabbit Brewery. Foothills was always a hit or miss prospect, but those six packs of Duck Rabbit beer were the best.
My staff member moved on to another gig and, with her, so did my Duck Rabbit hookup. That was okay since there are only 2,800 (give or take a few) other breweries in the country to try. I quickly forgot about the optical illusion that adorns each bottle.
Until a year or two ago.
I was wandering around a bottle shop in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania with a friend of mine, when my eyes locked on to the familiar black and white drawing of the Duck Rabbit. It turns out that the Farmville, N.C. brewery had broken out of the Southeastern U.S. and signed distribution deals bringing it to the Keystone State. It was close enough to keep my interests.
There’s something psychological about a hard to get beer. I used to hoard New Belgium beers on vacations to Delaware and North Carolina. The shine has worn off now that I trip over stacks of Fat Tire 12 packs at my local supermarket. My wishes for a brewery to make it to my state are usually countered by my indifference towards it once it arrives. It’s a vicious cycle.
The flavor is what sets this beer apart from the field.”
Digressing. Duck Rabbit specializes in dark beer. It is one of the few domestic breweries not to produce an IPA. Its core beers include black, brown and amber ales, as well as its milk stout.
Longmont, Coloroado’s Left Hand Brewing makes the most popular milk stouts (its regular and nitro versions) in bottles and it has served as a gateway to the style for most beer drinkers, myself included. Duck Rabbit’s interpretation varies from the norm. The magic marker black beer pours thick from the bottle with aromas of roast and chocolate. An intentionally hard pour towards the end yields a thick, mocha brown head, but without a lot of carbonation.
The flavor is what sets this beer apart from the field. Roast and chocolate are prevalent, as peaty smoke and burnt sugar. Hops provide a backbone throughout, offering a bitter finish and contrast to the roasted malt that lingers at the end. The lactose adds a layer of sweetness and modicum of stickiness to the mouthfeel. It’s a full-bodied beer but not particularly creamy.
If we’re going to measure this against the Left Hand version, what Duck Rabbit misses is the silky smooth feel and finish. Left Hand is also more mellow in its flavors. That’s not always a bad thing, as you can taste the rough around the edges approach that the North Carolina brewery takes to its beer. It’s an above average version that should be consumed with great joy, but not one that will topple the king from Colorado.