While it may not seem obvious from the list of brews I’ve sampled in recent months, I still love beer made right here in North Carolina. Among my favorite local breweries is Big Boss, which just never seems to make a bad beer.
Which is why I was happy to find a new one to try recently – their Big Operator Belgian black brewed with raspberries and cocoa. Just like IPAs, apparently it’s fun to see how other styles turn out when you supplement traditional grain bills with more experimental options. In all honesty, it works for this beer. It’s got a 88 on Beer Advocate.
The fun of this beer is in addition to it’s competing flavors of roasted grain and Belgian esters, it’s made with raspberries. The pour of the beer was naturally jet black, but I swear that the head initially appeared almost pink. I couldn’t be absolutely certain because it disappeared rather quickly to leave what simply looked like a heavy(ish) stout. That itself was odd because this beer was punctuated by an incredible amount of carbonation – a case of the the Belgian yeast doing their thing. It still felt odd watching it happen, considering the appearance (dark, dark black). I found this competition of traditional beer styles really cool.
Hit the jump to see just how good this beer tasted.
Big Operator is 8 percent ABV, but booze is the first smell I got from a deep whiff. That runs away fast, however, as my nostrils were filled with coffee and chocolate. Boy, were the fruit esters from the Belgian yeast trying hard to get out. I could most definitely smell sweetness, but no real discernible fruit aroma. I imagine it’s just a case of the grain bill working against the yeast profile. If this were a traditional Belgian, I’m sure I’d find hints of spice and citrus found in another of their brews, Hell’s Belle. Not to be outdone, the beer still had something left with more sweetness from the malt and even vanilla stopping by.
… And of course the flavor was just as complicated. The raspberries hid from the aroma of the beer, but it was forefront for the first rush of taste. It became much more pronounced as the beer warmed. Even better, the berries blended right in with a dry chocolate finish that left a kind of chalky, chocolate flavor on my tongue – think of a chocolate bar high on cocoa content. Like a carbonated dry stout (Belgian yeast again), there was good heft to the mouthfeel, but the carbonation washed my taste buds clean while leaving just enough flavor for me to want more.
If anything, this beer upped my curiosity for combining beer styles. I love what this breaks down to for me – essentially a Belgian stout. It may sound funny, but it really goes to show just how important yeast can be to creating the soul of a beer. Most may only think about hops when imbibing, but a beer like this really gets you to think about all the ingredients and why it’s so good.
If you’re curious, check out my Rate That Beer sheet: