Dad: Hey, I’m going to the liquor store. You want something for your blog thing?
Me: Yeah, just grab me a bottle of something you’ve never seen before.
Twenty minutes pass…
Dad: Okay, I found [this Espresso Stout from Temecula-based brewery Aftershock Brewing Co.].
Me: Hey, that’s perfect. Thanks, pops.
Bottle Art: There’s not too much to be said about the bottle art here.
The main eyecatcher on the label is the Aftershock logo. It looks kinda like a bullseye, but it’s actually meant to represent the shockwave pattern of a big earthquake (the name of the brewery tipped me off to this a bit).
First off, as a Californian, I’m triggered. The inevitable “Big One” is something all Californians know about. We’re born with an innate fear of it. We learn to duck and cover only shortly after we learn to walk.
In fact, the only time I’m NOT thinking about horrific seismic events is when I’m drinking beer. Now that’s been ruined. Not cool, Aftershock. Not cool.
While this bottle may lack anything exciting design-wise, it does have some text on it that’s kind of interesting. Let’s take a closer look.
Hasn’t every brewery founder set off to craft the “perfect beer”? And what does that even mean, the “perfect beer”? It seems a little too abstract, a little too idealistic to be obtainable.
The concept of the “perfect beer” reminds me of Sal and Dean’s adventures in On the Road. Y’all ever read that book? I forget what the two characters call it — “feeling it”? “getting it”? — but the goal of their journey is to find this great… something. Something that will impart to them fantastic wisdom and understanding. Something that will make the great apathy of the universe bearable. Something that will define their lives and make all the bumming around and drinking and partying worth it.
Spoiler, if you haven’t read the book, but that “something” doesn’t exist (at least not outside of the individual, Kerouac hints to us). Similarly, I think the perfect beer probably doesn’t exist. And if it does, each person has their own individual beer which they would define as “perfect.”
Also, I don’t understand the “If you don’t agree, jump back on your Clydesdale and get out of here!” line. Is that a reference to Budweiser? That’s the only thing I can think of. If that’s the case, hell yeah, I don’t like Budweiser either! Macro lagers have their place, but even then, Bud is kinda bottom of the barrel.
“Twin-tailed mermaids” is a reference to the Starbucks logo, just in case you didn’t get it.
As a coffee lover, I’m not the biggest fan of Starbucks. This isn’t a hipster thing, though; I don’t dislike them ’cause they’re uber-popular. I dislike them ’cause they don’t really make coffee — they make coffee-flavored milkshakes.
I’m a cup of joe kinda guy. Ya know, keep it simple — no sugar, no milk, just bean water. At Starbucks, this gives me two options: their cold brew, which is actually really, really good, and their regular hot brewed coffee, which I still think is partly mixed with charcoal. Everything else on their menu is borderline undrinkable unless I’m looking for dessert. It’s all cream and sugar with just a little bit of actual coffee.
This menu configuration has caused two main misconceptions that really grind my gears:
1. Lots of people think they love coffee when in reality they don’t know what actual coffee is (stop me before I gatekeep any longer);
2. That coffee is inherently unhealthy for you, a misconception that stems from the popularity of Starbucks and its obviously unhealthy beverages. Since “Starbucks” has become synonymous with “coffee” to many casual drinkers, and since Starbucks “coffee” is often cited as unhealthy, ergo a connection is made that coffee = bad for you.
Okay, back to beer.
Beer Appearance: Pitch black. Like advanced darkness. Holding this beer up to the light did nothing — nothing penetrated the inky depths. Unlike YETI, which I suspect was just a very dark brown, the Espresso Stout is literally black, like oil, like your ex’s heart. I’m a bit intimidated to put this in my body. I do this for y’all. Don’t forget.
The head was slightly brownish, a sort of cinnamon color, and very creamy.
Smell: It smelled a lot like chocolate ice cream: rich, smooth, and a bit milky. There was a hint of Bailey’s liqueur in there, too — a smell that was one part vanilla, one part chocolate, and another part smoky booze.
I let the beer sit for awhile while I went to make a snack. When I returned, the newly warmish beer gave me a strong whiff of dark roasted coffee. Like fresh out of the bag, whole bean French roast. A little smoky and a little chocolaty.
Taste and Overall Impressions
The first thing that struck me was just how smooth this beer was. Usually, stouts are akin to a thin sludge in terms of texture, but that wasn’t the case here.
This beer was a lot like those chocolate covered espresso beans from Trader Joes — burnt to hell, but in a good, chocolaty way. It tasted a lot like a very strong latte. There was the slight, burnt bitterness of espresso coffee along with some sweetness and creaminess, too. It wasn’t overly boozy or anything. In fact, I’d place it closer to concentrated cold brew than I would beer in terms of taste and texture.
The bitterness was there, as mentioned, but it wasn’t overpowering and it didn’t zap you right out of the gate. There was a slight malty taste that stuck around for just a second after each sip. It was the only thing that reminded me I was drinking beer.
The finish was actually fairly clean. It did leave my mouth with this vague, dry, smoky sort of sensation. It wasn’t wholly unpleasant, mind you, but it was there. It was pretty similar to what it’s like after you drink a strong cup of French roast and the hit the spreadsheets hard for an hour.
Of course, this beer isn’t chuggable by any means, but as far as stouts and “dark” beers go, it’s one of the least abrasive ones I’ve tried.
I like this one a lot. Smooth, smoky, and chocolaty — a real treat for sure.
I’ve never had anything else from Aftershock Brewing Co., but if this is what’s to be expected of them, then I’m gonna keep an eye out next time I’m in the beer aisle.
Suggested for: Coffee fanatics (aka Italians, the French, millennial girls), people who want to drink their dessert.