Thursday, October 29, 2009
My first experience with Tommyknockers was Stephen King'snovel of the same name. Not a fan, really.
My second experience with Tommyknockers came 21 years later. This one come in a brown bottle from Idaho Springs, CO. The back of the bottle tells me that Tommyknockers are "mischievous elves who slipped into mining camps with the Cornish miners in the 1800s." This website spells out the legend.
I'll take the gnome legend; gnomes and beer just seem to fit together. And for this beer selection, the beer gnomes of Tommyknocker Brewery have created Tommyknocker Imperial Nut Brown Ale, brewed with pure maple syrup. Given that my own Michigan Maple Syrup Porter was a ridiculously-popular brew, I'll try anything with an ingredient native to my own home state.
Tommyknocker's Imperial Nut Brown poured a deep dark brown, like the deep brown of a Ghirardi dark chocolate. Lovely caramel brown highlights near the top gave way to a thin cappuccino-foam head. As the head dissipated, it left a thin swirl that remained throughout the beer. I always love how a beer looks; nothing makes me want to dive into a pint more than a beer that just looks enticing. Tommyknocker's beer gnomes, like little American leprechauns, really know how to lure me into their trap.
Big huge aromas played games with my nose, drawing me further into their little game. Chocolate blended with caramel, all on top of a nice cup of mild coffee. A gently roasted nut aroma gave the beer a chocolate mocha feel. Malty sweetness gave way to a slight alcohol burn, which wasn't enough to spoil the rest of the brew. And right at the end, like a reminder, was a slight hint of sugary maple syrup.
With the taste, I fell completely under the spell of the Tommyknockers; whether a trick or a trap, it no longer mattered. Maple syrup met chocolate and bready malt and made enough room for coffee to join in. All of the basic nut brown flavors were there to enjoy, including plums and a malty sweetness. The addition of the maple syrup added a sugary touch, and made the beer "imperial" in nature, complete with dangerous boosts to the normal style's flavors and a solventy alcohol burn. Big flavors to compete with the aromas.
The beer had a much lighter body than I expected from an Imperial brown. It was a little thin and watery, but not unsatisfying. The medium-high carbonation lifted the intense amount of sugars off the tongue to keep Tommyknocker Imperial Nut Brown from being cloyingly sweet.
This is a big beer for malt lovers. Sugary sweet, malty sweet, Tommyknocker gave me a delicious, challenging take on a basic Brit classic. As "Imperial"-style ales go, this is not the typical over-hopped, over-boozed, over-sugared "extreme beer" knock off. A gentle hand created this Imperial ale and allowed me to enjoy the robust flavors without having to fight through it or wear it as a badge of honor.
But at 9% abv, the Tommyknocker mischief certainly sneaks up on you!