I don’t particularly like Black Friday. You wake up most likely still a little full and bloated from the pure gluttony of the previous day (or in some cases, don’t even bother going to sleep any longer). You stand miserably in line along with dozens (if not hundreds) of other similarly disgruntled souls, sometimes freezing, all for supposedly good deals on knockoff TVs, year old brands, and movies/games/purses or whatever else that you most likely wouldn’t have bought if not for the lemming-like fervor that is the holiday consumer season. If that all sounds fairly Scrooge-like, then you weren’t stuck at the Leesburg outlets this morning like I was. That veritable war zone included ransacked stores, tourists there to gawk at the occasion, and conversations with Calvin Klein and Bose employees who admitted just how much their companies screw them over this time of year (does it feel like there aren’t enough sales associates or cashiers? that was apparently a conscious decision by a few stores). Luckily, once we were done raiding the trenches, I’d already secured tickets to Old Ox’s Parade of Porters, aka Black Ox Friday.
On this particular occasion, Old Ox put together five variations on their Black Ox Porter as well as three other limited run beers with similar roasted qualities (including a Stout and Black IPA). The original is fairly high quality, and the early start time of 11am provided a great excuse to ditch the lines, crowds, and fisticuffs for food trucks, football, and of course, BEER.
Beer #1: Coconut Vanilla Black Ox
Tasting Notes: Still smoky, with a bit of vanilla on both the nose and in the finish. I didn’t really get any coconut flavor but the toasted portion of that ingredient did come across. It works overall and I’d definitely have it again.
Beer #2: Nitro Coffee Black Ox
Tasting Notes: Coffee is not typically my thing in beer, but this one impressed me. The reason why this one works is due to most of the coffee being relegated to aromas, with cacao being the dominant flavor in the body. This was crucial to balancing the beer out as if you’d heated this up I would’ve sworn I was about to sip the actual House Blend used here. The nitro didn’t really add much, and it even seemed more carbonated than one would expect but this didn’t detract in any way.
Beer #3: Smoked Hop Black Ox
Tasting Notes: If there’s a theme so far, it’s cacao having an assertive presence, here up front in the nose and then as the last flavor you get in the finish. The smokiness is most present on the tongue, with a residual hoppy bitterness which feels out of place and takes a bit away from what would otherwise have been some robust mesquite flavors.
Beer #4: Bourbon Barrel Black Ox
Tasting Notes: Another pleasant surprise which starts with an oaky, almost silky nose. Of all the variants, here is the only place where rye made itself known. The flavor profile in the finish is really quite powerful as a result and I wouldn’t be surprised to see an IBU rating quite a bit more elevated than its peers on this list.
Beer #5: Kristin’s Passion + Black Ox = Mexican Hot Chocolate Porter
Tasting Notes: Still the Queen. This is the third different take on this beer that I’ve had from Old Ox (originally as the One Off Wednesday’s Mexican Hot Chocolate, and later bottled as Kristin’s Passion), and what stood out most here is that it’s not nearly as zesty, with the chiles being relegated to a nose which reminds one of a spiced chocolate bar (I’m thinking Lindt in particular). As a result, the cinnamon and vanilla which plays second fiddle in the earlier batches shines a bit brighter.
We arrived near the start of the Parade of Porters so munched on some food from Bacon N’ Ed’s food truck. Apparently this guy got himself on Food Network and yeah, that was a pretty righteous bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich. I was in no way embarrassed of all the grease splattered across my tasting sheet.
Overall, this was a pretty decent event, and certainly well-attended event for Old Ox. For the price of two beers, you got to try four tasters plus a full pint, and the glass goes home with you. Unlike the retail stores which were attempting to steal our souls, the staff wasn’t nearly as harried and the crowd was friendly and laid back. Focusing on flights was the right approach in my mind, as it really helped to have the tasters close together to be able to compare and that would have been lost had it been a free for all for pints.
It’s hard for me to tell you to get out and try any of this beers as they were exclusive to this event, but if you can get out there tonight or this weekend you may be in luck – it’s worth it!