By Hop Nation USA's Steve
The naming conventions of the craft beer world are rife with puns, allusions, and pop culture references. So I think it’s only fair, anytime a brewer decides to name their latest libation in honor of their favorite movie or television show it should be paired and compared. These beers need to be put to the test of their namesake.
With that in mind, Søle Artisan Ales doesn’t even play around for their imperial cocoa stout. It’s simply titled Atmospheric Black Metal. Pretty bold for the Easton, PA brewery to call their shot like that, invoking ideas of devil worship and Scandinavians. The 10% stout is visually as black as the T-shirts in my closet, but can it really compare to the screaming buzzsaw, nightmare Satan summons of black metal?
For this experiment, I needed to pick a pure example atmospheric black metal to pair with Atmospheric Black Metal. It doesn’t get purer than one of the originators of the genre, Burzum. Burzum is a one man band helmed by convicted murderer, church burner, and table top gaming enthusiast Varg Vikernes. Originating in the early ‘90s from Norway, Burzum is everything you expect: howling vocals, shredding guitars, and crashing drums all wrapped in sentiments of anti-god and government.
I sat down specifically with Burzum’s self-titled first album and a crowler of ABM to start my journey. On first sip, I can tell things aren’t going to line up quite right. The 1992 album is far too Lo-Fi. Meanwhile, this beer is in 2018. It drinks way too smoothly and is too well-made. I almost wanted something like an extra bitter backend or boozy nose, and the flavor profile is actually really tame. However, The beer is pretty stripped down and ungimmicky, like the music, when compared to the bourbon barrel mint candy stouts out there. I wanted some signal of a no fucks given attitude, though. Even at 10%, there’s hardly any heat or burn in an entire crowler, which again is points deducted considering we’re listening to literal church burning music here.
While the high-ABV isn’t prevalent on the palate, it is the one thing outside the visuals keeping this pairing together. 10% isn’t anything to sneeze at, and I can assure you, dear reader, I was “feeling it” before the end of this 49 minute album. Not just “feeling it” but the beer lends itself to the tamer, atmospheric parts of the album. A number of times Varg slows it down and almost establishes a groove(at least a drone) on tracks like Black Spell of Destruction or A Lost Forgotten Sad Spirit. It’s during this parts where the beer and album pair nicely. Neither are overly harsh but still retain their darkness setting them apart from your normal Top 40.
In the end though, the Søle Artisan Ales Atmospheric Black Metal simply does not live up to its namesake. The ABM can count its curses Burzum isn’t as unrelenting as death metal acts like Cannibal Corpse. It atleast fits in with the ambient, mood setting theatrics of the genre. Otherwise, It’s far too much of an easy drinking experience. I would suggest only drinking this while listening to post 2003 Cradle of Filth lest you risk your trve kvlt status among your peers.
Does it pair? Like Hot Topic selling shirts of that one Mayhem album