Plenty of people have already expressed surprise that a big brewer like the Woolies-linked Sail & Anchor would go and put out something crazy like a 9.5 per cent imperial stout.
Me, I’m just wondering why it took them so long. From a business perspective, I’d long thought it would have been a clever move for these sorts of brewers to go a little – or a lot – crazy. They can keep pumping out their mainstream range, the entry-level stuff that the newbies love but earns little more than scorn from from beer geeks.
But then, in an attempt to woo the geeks, they come out with something different. Something that the noob market has no need for. Something that is undeniably aimed at the geek market. Of course, the catch here is that they would have to absolutely nail it – anything less than a quality beer and there would be more scorn heaped upon them.
For my money, Sail & Anchor has absolutely nailed it with their 9.5 per cent imperial stout that goes by the name of Jack Tar. I’d go so far as to say, I like it better than some craft beer-made imperial stouts.
It’s tagged as a ‘‘limited edition’’ on the label, but I’d suggest that probably means ‘‘don’t rush, we made heaps of it. It’ll be around for ages’’. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – I reckon most things tagged ‘‘limited edition’’ have a similar meaning.
Besides, any beer that’s being stocked in Dan Murphy’s will have had heaps of it made (incidentally, would that make Jack Tar the first ever imperial stout to be stocked in Uncle Dan’s? I think so).
The big thing I like about this beer is that it doesn’t taste big. I’m buggered if I can detect much in the way of an alcohol burn here – which I think is pretty impressive for a 9.5 percenter. I did sit on my glass and take it slow, but that was because I knew it had a high alcohol count. And because its richness fairly deserves it. It’s got a big mouthfeel and comes with plenty of chocolate and coffee aroma and flavour.
The only real criticism I have is the same one 250 Beers has – it’s the bottle size. For a 9.5 per cent beer, I think a 640ml bottle is a bit much – especially when your wife actively dislikes normal-strength stouts. I poured a glass of this after dinner on Saturday night and really enjoyed it. But, by the end of the glass, I was full, a bit sleepy and really didn’t want another beer. So, I ended up pouring the remainder of the bottle down the sink on Sunday morning, because it had been sitting open in the fridge all night.
I know they’ve likely put it in a bigger bottle so it stands out a bit more, looks a bit ‘‘special’’ (and may well help justify the $11 price tag). But, a smaller bottle would have worked better. As it is, that large size is actually making me cautious about buying another bottle of Jack Tar.