I haven’t reviewed a Victory beer since I published my thoughts on their Golden Monkey tripel over a year ago. Shame on me! Victory Brewing out of Downingtown, Pennsylvania, is in my prestigious list of top ten brewers not only because their beer is superbly crafted, but because Victory does an excellent job of distinguishing their selections without being wacky for wackiness’s sake. They tweak the nuances like a pair of cold, erect nipples, and they leave their affectionate marks on the taste buds. Victory’s imperial stout, “Storm King”, is among their more unique selections. It isn’t my favorite imperial stout, but when it comes to fluffing my beer boner it is a repeat offender.
Storm King is midnight black. Its head is big, thick, mocha colored, and has a life of its own like a beehive. The tiny bubbles fizz, hiss, conjoin; form larger, soapier ones, and then settle down calmly into the brew. Its aroma is a striking, poignant, energizing display of chocolate, blackberries, and bitter, grassy hops. The presentation (especially the aroma) is exceptional for any ale style, but the flavor is what really sets it apart from the average stout.
Up front the flavor is that of a typical, high quality imperial: malt, smoke, a touch of caramel, coffee, and cocoa. Strong and stellar. But the cocoa is noticeably bitter. That’s the indication that light from the full moon on a clear, cold night has struck this brew. From the start of the back end it produces a very bitter grapefruit rind taste with a dab of cocoa still on the tongue. Jesus Christ! What happened? I was drinking a thick and creamy stout, and then a cold slap to my face and an unorthodox yank on my beer boner revealed a black IPA.
Storm King offers no lacing in the glass. The texture is fairly thick and it is easy to drink, yet the carbonation is surprisingly low for its overall texture profile. The aftertaste continues to grind the bitterness into your tongue, and unfortunately here is where it loses points. Instead of the fresh pine, grass, citrus, flower, or sweet melon flavor of the many hop flowers commonly found in an ale, it is simply bitter. Thankfully the cocoa profile remains and gives it a crutch so that it doesn’t stumble into a territory of unpleasantness.
If your taste buds love bitterness, then you will love this. If not, it may not make it to your shortlist of repeat drinking. For me, it’s worth repeat consumption but it would be better if the hops were more flavorful. This beer is a must try, but just be warned: for a stout it is bitterer than Gloria Allred as a captive audience member at a wet t-shirt contest during the harshest peak of her menstrual cycle.
Storm King is one example of the unique drinking experiences Victory brings to the table. A lot of brewers today tend to go a little overboard with producing unique profiles. Victory has proven that a brewer can make a distinguished style without pouring in wild shit such as carrot sorbet, spaghetti with meat sauce, boysenberry cream cheese, baby food, Twinkie cream, mace, venus fly trap teeth, pureed kitten skulls, or barbecued platypus placentas into their beer.
IBU: 80 (my best guess)