When I say the words Left Hand to my friends, the immediate response is Milk Stout. Left Hand’s subtle perfection of the Sweet Stout category is sublime. The complex milky notes melds seamlessly with roasted chocolate notes. The delicate head of the beer has subtle play with the body of the beer; developing a texture like a perfect whipped chocolate milk. This beer became such an obsession, I had to stop drinking it least all others be compared. However, I was intrigued by the development of the Fade to Black.
The fade to black is an incredible attempt at reforming the idea of a chocolatey concoction. While the spiced chocolate beer has been here for a while with the Dogfish Head Theobroma, I like to give credit for such things to Alton Brown, a personal hero of mine. In his eponymous show, Good Eats, Alton Brown has an episode called Art of Darkness II in which he makes hot cocoa powder with cayenne; an idea which has beguiled me ever since. In another review coming, I talk about the foibles of spiced ideas from Terrapin and Schmaltz, but they were poorly executed. Left Hand’s subtle spice brings out the complexity of all the flavors. In cooking to do so you must add salt, even in desserts. In beer, there is no such magic bullet. So to do so, you must have a complete understanding of the process. However, Left Hand has perfected this with the Fade to Black.
Fade to Black, at its Heart, is the dark joy that is the sweet stout I dreamed about. However, perhaps by a burst of additional chocolatiness or merely the spice, the beer seems less like the reassuring glass of chocolate milk and more mature, like a refined cocktail. Sure the chocolate is there, like your favorite cooking as a child; where only you knew the exact amount of Hershey’s syrup and milk (in the exact glass so the proportion was right). Yet there is more to it in this beer. There is the complex refined flavor of a master; there is the subtle play of spice and roast, sweet and heat, pretension and welcome. This beer is leaving with the season, so please try it if you can. There is expertise and love in something so simple.