Proud to celebrate Virginia Brew Review’s first anniversary, but even more proud to continue writing about some most excellent craft beer from the Old Dominion. I’ve had a few limited run bombers hanging out in my fridge for this occasion, and for our big day I’m focusing on big flavor. First up is a spicy specialty from one of my favorite Estate Series…
Mango Habanero Brown Ale, Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery (Goochland, VA) – @LCCB_FarmBrews
Spiced English Brown Ale, ABV 8.5%, IBU 38
Presentation: Bomber pour into a tulip glass.
Appearance: Deep brown with garnet inflections wherever some light filters through. The head collects like a nitro-infused stout and lingers with a finger-thick lattice.
Taste: Where to begin here? A very complex nose gives you elements which are eerily reminiscent of a White Russian – chocolate liqueur approaching a coffee-infused Kahlua as well as some milky/dairy notes. To complete the analogy, you’ll also find some citrus aroma – perhaps mango, perhaps otherwise – as if you’d used a flavored vodka. The body of the beer brings the mild citrus acidity of the mango on the sides of your tongue, while the finish is where you catch the lingering pepper zests from the habanero at the back of the tongue. The earthy elements of a Brown Ale stick around for quite some time even after the zip to your tongue subsides. If you’re looking for a beer that leaves you gasping for milk, this isn’t it. Rather, the main flavors in the body and finish remind me of a roasted (or perhaps grilled) habanero, where a semblance of smokiness (and a complete absence of the fiery seeds) balances out that whole dragon-like fire breathing property.
Image via Cat in the Kitchen
ABV/IBU: The ABV falls like a hammer, but only after the first glass. In other words, pace yourself so that you can pick apart all the flavors but also so that you don’t consume the entire bomber as if it were solely a 5.0% lager.
Overall: We went back and forth over whether one could truly call this a “Mango Habanero” Brown Ale. After nearly a full glass, I can support that claim. If you think closer to the liqueur analogy as you put this beer through the test, you’ll get every bit of its namesake. If you want a spicy mango smoothie…well, just opt for the smoothie. What’s here is both subtle and complex, a beer that wants everything yet still gets most of it. The body of the beer is very close to a typical Brown Ale, so if you’re rampaging through your glass you’ll miss how delicate things really are from the infusion standpoint. As with the high ABV, take your time with this one as you would a heavy Bordeaux wine, and appreciate how the flavors practically dance across your tongue. If anything, a little too much reliance on some of the mango acidity took this down from a top pick. If you want something different but not overwhelming, though, this is a good place to start.