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Permanent Midnight Tasting 2021: Still My Best

Permanent Midnight - Barrel-Aged Stout with Coconut and Vanilla
Permanent Midnight –BBA Stout w/ Coconut & Vanilla – 13.3% ABV – 60 IBU

After taking a year off last Christmas due to, uh—*waves hands*—everything, I’m back on my regular shit and continuing my tradition of posting annual tasting notes for my Permanent Midnight bourbon-barrel-aged stout with coconut and vanilla, which I brewed way back in January of 2019.

In case you haven’t read that initial post, here’s the deal with this beer:

1. I brewed it as a polygyle mash, meaning I split the grain in half and mashed the second half in the wort from the first half. This is also known as reiterative mashing. Worked great and I hit my desired 1.121 OG on the nose.

2. I fermented it out with a couple packets of US-05 in my guest bathroom with the window open in the middle of January to regulate temps. (Getting a fermentation fridge is really the best upgrade I’ve made to my brewing setup in the interim.)

3. The beer finished at 1.037 for a final ABV of around 13.3%, which is likely a conservative estimate given evaporation in the barrel and residual spirits.

4. Once the FG had stabilized, I transferred it to a freshly emptied 5-gallon bourbon barrel and let it rest for 5 months.

5. After 5 months, I transferred it into a keg on top of 2 pounds of toasted coconut flakes and 3 Madagascar vanilla beans, where it rested for another week before being transferred to a serving keg and force-carbonated.

6. Six months later, I bottled the remaining couple gallons and have been slowly rationing them out, with 6 bottles reserved for 6 years of annual Christmas tastings. These have been stored in the back of my garage fridge ever since.

The point of these tastings is to see how the beer changes over time, and to periodically remind me why I ought to do more barrel projects. (Sure, I already have three barrels but more can’t hurt, right?)

So… how’s it tasting?

Honestly? It tastes remarkably like it did when I first bottled it. Storing your beer cold works wonders, kids. Do it!

This remains the best beer I’ve brewed, and it’s not just a case of big stout flavors covering up flaws. This beer, to me, is flawless. I hope to recreate it one day. But for now, I’ll just enjoy my yearly ration.

Appearance: Pours jet black with a khaki head that cascades up when you pour but quickly diminishes to a thin cap. Big, oily looking legs hug the sides of the glass, reflecting the sky-high ABV. When you tilt the glass to take a sip, the carbonation trails along the sides, almost like it’s yearning to escape the beer but can’t quite do it. Overall, it’s a pretty classical barrel-aged stout look.

Aroma: The first thing that hit me this year was oak, slightly musty in the way that old barrel-aged beers can be but not off-putting. My wife got strong milk chocolate and especially vanilla, which follows naturally from the oak but isn’t just wood-derived vanillin—it’s bolstered by the real vanilla beans it sat on. The bourbon is there too, but very much in the background and melded thoroughly with the dark, sweet malt. Good news is that there’s no sign of any kind of underlying lactic infection, as can sometimes come out after extended aging. This one is clean.

Taste: Despite not really being there on the nose, coconut is holding on surprisingly well in the flavor. There’s a slight reminder of coconut butter, but no suntan lotion, which can often put people off of coconut beers. Beyond the coconut there’s a deep sweetness, reinforced by the thicc body, but with enough bitterness to balance it. The Mounds bar comparison I harped on in early 2020 still holds for sure. Dark cocoa flavor is there in spades, and there are no obvious signs of age yet. Frankly, it still tastes a lot like what I recall right out of the barrel.

Mouthfeel: The body is quite thick and not really thinning at all with age, but it’s not overwhelmingly syrupy like some of the most extreme versions of pastry stout I’ve tried. In other words, this is more Fremont than Bottle Logic. My notes tell me the carb was a standard 2.5 volumes, but it feels low, probably due to the high FG. Nevertheless, it’s enough to produce a small head with an aggressive pour, and while that foam goes away quickly it provides a pleasant sensation on the tongue.

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