Time travel is a practice that’s usually reserved for the mind’s inner workings. Dreams of the past, thoughts of the future and musings on improbable alternate histories. Of course, the senses can play a role as well. Songs that remind of us old friends and scents that bring us back to our grandparent’s kitchens.
Yes, time travel is possible. Time machines, not so much. Not to be discouraged, 4 Pines recently gifted humanity with a Keller Door release called The Black Box of Dark Ales. An artefact promising its owner a temporal escapade, complemented by beautiful visuals to drive our imaginations to four important time-spaces of beer history.
A beautiful piece of design in its own right, the Black Box holds four bottles, each with labels that feature black-on-black printing contrasted by a stunning white and gold illustration. Inside each bottle is a different type of beer, and inside each beer a promise of time twisted insight.
Schwarzbier – 4.3% ABV
An image of a raised candlestick inspires one to raise their glass. This is the furthest back the black box takes us, all the way to the 16th century. Monks crafted this black beer because you can only hand-copy the Bible so many times before you turn to the bottle. They quickly learned that brewing and drinking was far superior to other aspects of monastic life, plus it made chanting real fun. This brew was light by my standards but I enjoyed its timeless character. Roasted sweetness and highly drinkable, this would be fantastic in large tankards during a banquet.
Imperial Stout – 8.5% ABV
An image of a chandelier sways as we dance in the Russian court below. We are taken to the 18th century to experience the transition from porter to stout. A drink brewed in London, bolstered in strength for the trip to Russia (or, as some say, simply because it made it better) and beloved by Empress Catherine II. A roasted scent with hints of coffee and chocolate. A smooth taste that belies it’s 8.5% strength, this is where the line in history is drawn. As a stout lover I would not time-travel beyond this point as the pre-stout world is simply second rate.
Coffee Porter – 4.5% ABV
An image of a lamp lights our way through bluster and cobbled roads. We slip through time to the 1720s, though we’re still in London. Let us better understand that Imperial Stout by sampling it’s frailer – yet still delicious – relative: the porter. This particular example of the style was brewed with Single Origin Roasters. Coffee beans in the brewing process feels modern but we must do our best to dismiss this notion, for the Black Box is a delicate device. This beer carries a heavy coffee punch with fruited sweetness and a creamy finish.
Black IPA – 6.3% ABV
A lantern swings in the darkness, guiding us forward to a new frontier. Our final stop is the 1900s, America. At first an IPA – black though it is – feels out of place on this journey. But time travel is a scholarly undertaking and it’s easy to appreciate this choice as the glass is tilted. Black IPAs were created by those who love IPAs and stouts, and I’m told the black malts are the same as those found in Schwarzbiers. Is 4 Pines trying tell us that time is a flat circle? I’ve certainly felt the tragic limitations of my human lifespan in relation to beer. I keep trying to try what I cannot try (all the beers). Putting Nietzschean thoughts aside, this brew is quite good. Hops and malts in harmony, fruit-tinged pine delivered with a biscuity kick.
We return to the present after this somewhat jarring experience. The bottles are empty, the box is charred. With a newfound appreciation for rebellious monks I look towards the future. We are nestled at the seat of the world, with our Oceanic upstarts charting new courses for the senses. How would the monastery receive Imperial Praline or Ramjet? I’d like to think that if this box was re-released a few centuries down the line our own brewers would have a place somewhere within it.