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Brooklyn Brewery Black Ops

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The marketing spin on Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Ops is worth the review in itself. The annual release, a favorite for many for the better part of a decade, comes with the warning that the beer simply doesn’t exist.

“However, if it did exist, it would be a strong stout concocted by the Brooklyn brewing team under cover of secrecy and hidden from everyone else at the brewery,” goes the spin by Brooklyn. You get the idea: It’s traditionally very difficult to find, so it’s ripe for some fun.

But this year, Black Ops came to Louisville, at least to Hilltop Tavern in Clifton, and I got lucky enough to score a pint of this big, barrel-aged imperial stout. Legend has it, the beer stays in the barrel six months, and is re-fermented with Champagne yeast.

However the brewers create this beer, they keep doing it for a reason. From the very first sniff, I was hit with bourbon-charged vanilla and notes of the roasted malts that help make this beer so midnight black. On the palate, it opens up even more, as robust chocolate comes front and center, with notes of dark fruits.

A slightly astringent finish blended with a boozy body (10.6 percent alcohol) makes this one a classic winter warmer, and yet the finish remained smooth throughout my entire 10-ounce pour (the tavern only had a sixth-barrel, so the pours were at a premium). Not sure I’ll get lucky enough to stumble upon this one again, but at least I was able to, just once, crack the mystery. If you find this one, don’t hesitate to pay the price.