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A Deeper Look At Big Hugs

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Dec 21, 2009 9:40PM

2009_12_21_bighugs.jpg Last Friday we wrote about Half Acre's limited release Imperial stout, Big Hugs and that, according to Half Acre's Gabriel Magliaro, the beer is "a 9.5% thug of a stout that boasts a ton of raw flavors that you can experience for yourself." Magliaro was not kidding.

Big Hugs's thuggishness is rooted in how much it doesn't taste like a high gravity stout. Typically, Imperial stouts tend to favor rich flavors, like strong coffee, that threaten to overpower the roasted malts. Some, like Three Floyds's Dark Lord or Surly Darkness, nearly overwhelm the palate with coffee flavor. Big Hugs is brewed with a coffee extraction specifically roasted by Jesse Diaz of Star Lounge Café (read Jacy Wojcik's review of Star Lounge here). Diaz was also cognizant of the harsher flavors in some imperial stouts. "I'll taste one and I can pick up the tannins right away, but none of the fruit from the actual bean," he said.

Diaz, who trained as a roaster with Bridgeport Coffee Company's Mike Pilkington before landing at Star Lounge, brewed over 7 different blends of Ethiopian coffees, roasted in house on the café's fluid bed roaster, to find the right extraction for Big Hugs. "I wanted folks to taste the floral aspects and sweetness of the coffee bean, while using a large amount of beans for every liter of beer brewed," Diaz said. Each liter of Big Hugs is brewed with a pound of beans in the mix. The result is a beer that is still a high gravity Imperial stout, but is deceptively smooth. "The best and worst thing about this beer is that you're drinking multiple servings before you know it," Magliaro told us.