Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Black Mesa ES-ESB Beer

In the United States, there seems to be a competition over who can cram the most hops into a bottle of beer. While that’s perfect for all of my IPA loving friends, it leaves folks who enjoy more traditional brews searching for something that fits their tastes. Something I was lucky enough to have discovered for myself was Black Mesa Brewing Company. Those lads know how to brew good beer that doesn’t make your whole face pucker.

Brad Stumph the science guy and Chris Sanders the brewmaster guy started Black Mesa Brewery in Oklahoma City in 2012. As with any new business they had high hopes, a clear vision, and untapped potential. (Pun intended.) They were cranking out some great beers and sending them to local bars and package stores. Then in May of 2013, a tornado bent them over the beer barrel and demolished their facility. At the time I read the article, I hadn’t heard of the brewery, but I still shed a little tear for them. Since I am a business owner and a beer lover, I felt heartbroken for them. But after the initial shock of the event, they undauntedly started looking for a new place to brew. They looked at a few larger sized breweries in the Midwest and decided to contract brew with the really cool guys at O’Fallon Brewery that is in a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri.

Most people, who have had a terrible event happen to them like a tornado, choose to rebuild. The disruption or devastation of their lives is a battle cry to overcome it. But Brad and Chris did what I would have done. They thought about it and weighed their options. Here comes my soapbox rant about my home state. Oklahoma has some of the worst bullshit laws pertaining to alcohol in the entire country. We still have 3.2% ABV beer that is sold in grocery stores and convenience stores. It can be stored and sold cold. Liquor stores can carry regular strength beer like the rest of the country, but it has to remain room temperature. That is just one out of dozens of inane laws that people in the alcohol business have to deal with. The law that Black Mesa faced was they were not allowed to have a tasting room in their brewery if they didn’t offer 3.2% ABV versions of their beers. They weren’t about to ruin beer just to appease laws that were passed in 1959 and haven’t changed since. They decided they would not rebuild in Oklahoma until that law changes. I wholeheartedly applaud them for that. Brad said in an interview, “We are one of the remaining 3.2% states. A change in this law would give us the confidence that a physical brewery could be a viable business in our home state.” Once again, Oklahoma loses out on a wonderful business because it won’t progress. But luckily for you and me, they continue to brew and sell. They’ve even started distributing in Kansas City. Hooray for them!

I’ve tried all but one of their beers, and last night I had one that was new to me. It was their ES-ESB. That stands for Extra Special-Endless Skyway Bitter. Holy moly, it was delicious. They have said in the past that they are going for more of an Old World style of brewing beer and this one hit it right on the nose. Reminiscent of old British-Style Bitters, this beer has a lower hop content that lets the malt shine bright. The guys also decided to age this beer in used Remy Martin Cognac barrels for about seven months. This added an oaky vanilla taste to the already strong toasted grain, cream, and nut flavors. I probably could have just had this hefty beer for dinner by itself, but I was glad to add it to my meal. I was having some pork chops with sautéed onions and shrooms for dinner and this beer tasted like it was meant for it. I’m honestly putting Black Mesa ES-ESB on a short list of favorites brews. Nice work, fellas.

Black Mesa ES-ESB is 9.6% ABV and I’m not sure about the IBUs

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