Around September Canadian beer lovers and music fans alike were excited to learn of a collaboration beer being made with Ontario brewery Flying Monkeys and the iconic Canadian band the Barenaked Ladies. For those not familiar with the group, they’re basically the ultimate “local boys do good” story here where I live, the Toronto suburb of Scarborough. Everyone here has sung along to “If I Had a Million Dollars” and “One Week” at least ten times in their life, have hung out in their preferred hangout of the Scarborough Town Centre and well…let’s just say that the Barenaked Ladies are kind of a big deal here. Even ignoring their hits, my international readers will probably best know them with the song “Get in Line” from King of the Hill or even more popularly, the theme song for The Big Bang Theory. So if you’ve heard their music with it’s naturally quirky nature, it wouldn’t be a stretch to think that they would team up with a brewery called Flying Monkeys.
What makes this fun is that BNL Imperial Chocolate Stout, due to hit stores across the country to coincide with the “Symphony Barenaked” Canada tour starting November 30th, isn’t just a matter of the boys sticking their names on the beer and leaving it be. They kept well connected with the folks at Flying Monkeys, working out what they wanted the beer to represent, supplied box and label art by band member Kevin Hearn and even showed up for the first day of brewing. “The guys got a crash course in the brewhouse. Honestly, we’ve never collaborated with a better bunch of guys!” says Flying Monkeys founder and brewer Peter Chiodo.
The Ladies themselves had an amazing time. “It was incredible there,” says drummer Tyler Stewart. “The folks at Flying Monkeys, they love what they make and they’re so in to it and have a great time. And we love them because they are what they are, making high quality stuff that people love and isn’t crappy. That really matches the BNL philosophy.”
Let’s talk about the beer a bit. BNL Strong Beer is an Imperial Chocolate Stout made with organic Ecuadorian Cocoa Nibs. “And it’s at 10% (ABV), so this isn’t a beer you can quaff, but instead sip and really appreciate.” says Stewart.
Now. On to the review. To enhance the experience I’ve asked Tyler what Barenaked Ladies songs he’d pair this beer with and he suggests two. The first being “Ordinary” from their 2010 album All In Good Time “I think ordinary matches because the song has this really upbeat tone, but very intense lyrics, so the song isn’t what it seems to be. Just like this beer, while on the surface is an ordinary drink, it is anything but ordinary.” He also suggests the hit “Pinch Me” from 2000’s Maroon album. “It’s time to wake up and try some beer!” he says with a laugh. (I’ve put the songs up below this post, so feel free to listen and read)
COLOUR: A beautiful black with a decent mocha head that sticks around for the party.
AROMA: Chocolate fudge cake all the way and it hits you when you first open the bottle. You can smell the chocolate two feet away. Slightly fruity. I would have no problem letting this sit so the smell could take over my room.
TASTE: As expected, there’s a HUGE bitter and delicious cocoa presence at the front with a sweetness that makes this taste almost like chocolate milk but more like a good and dense chocolate cake. After that comes a hint of molasses with a slight fruity taste hitting the back with the gentle burn of the alcohol. Or maybe this warmth is from the cocoa. Hm. Mouthfeel is very creamy with little carbonation. Tyler was right in saying this is not a drink to be quaffed. I couldn’t quaff this if I tried (and I did try for, uh, the sake of experimentation). The heaviness of this beer makes me almost feel like I’m sipping a cocoa liquer. I kind of wish I had some ice cream or raspberries to compliment this.
VERDICT: Love it. It’s heavy, full of delicious cocoa and creates a comfortable warmth that matches the season, and the music of the Barenaked Ladies, perfectly. This is obviously a dessert beer for me, but can be enjoyed any time. I’ll be looking forward to getting more of this, one bottle for aging and another for an especially cold winter night.
And now I’m going to have “One Week” in my head for…well, maybe about a week.
photos courtesy of Flying Monkeys Brewery, except the one of the box which is mine.