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And the Valley Drinks: Ska Hibernal Vinifera Stout

Tasty stout from Ska Brewing great for a blustery day but easy to drink in sessions.

I've patiently delayed writing a Drinks post, mostly because I feel woefully unequipped to intelligently discuss beer beyond, "this is a Stout" and "this is an IPA" or "this is good" and "this is not good." But I figured I'd give it a shot, since I consume enough for two people, and I'm not pregnant.

I can also offer a unique perspective, being Chicago-based, with an array of amazing breweries at finger's reach. So I figure my niche can be covering beers you aren't likely to find in the Boot. Or, as I describe most of my work: of noparticular use to most of you.

Ska Brewing is a Durango, Colorado based operation with a handful of regular offerings, including the Modus Hoperandi, a lovely, floral, hoppy IPA, if you are into that sort of thing, as well as the light, tasty, Tru Blonde Ale. There's a spin on Mexican-styled beer too, the Mexican Logger, great for session drinking. Modus Hoperandi regularly finds its way into my rotation, though I enjoy the others as well.

Ska stands out to me because they almost exclusively offer in cans and their can art is unique and interesting:







Perhaps I'm just partial to pulp literary art.

Beyond their staple offerings, Ska features a handful of seasonals and "reincarnations." The Hibernal Vinifera Stout is the first of their irregular offerings I've had opportunity to try. Here's their description:

Some grapes never have a chance to become anything but wine. But these grapes told us that when they grew up, they wanted to complement the deep, roasty notes and sweet finish of this oak-aged, 8% stout.

Once we translated their Castilian, we realized we had to support their dream. We knew you wouldn’t let us down, grapes. An oak-aged stout fermented with Malbec grapes. Complex and slightly boozy, yet balanced.

It's called a "Foreign/Export Stout" and I have no earthly idea what that means.

At 8% ABV, it packs a nice punch. The unique aspect to this brew is absolutely that it's fermented with wine grapes. It's not something that struck me as I first drank, but it's definitely something you pick up as it goes down. To be clear, this isn't mead, or a wine-tasting brew, but the mouth feel has that sort of grainy finish you get from a good red.

It's got the stout characteristics you come to expect: chocolate and coffee-esque. It finishes bitter, but goes down smooth still. It's a nice looking pour, with a mocha-colored head that fades out fairly quickly. Nice aroma, though, even without the lingering head.

It seems like aging it in oak brings it together. I'd say it's a fairly adventurous undertaking, what with brewing it with wine grapes and all, but it works in the weirdest way. You can taste the wood. You can taste that nice, toasted flavor, undoubtedly from the oak aging. The carbonation is on the lighter side.

It looks and smells bigger than it is. On appearance and scent alone, I suspect you'd anticipate something overpowering and rich, but it's superbly smooth and easy to drink, without being terribly filling. The body of the beer is lighter than meets the eye.

More knowledgeable folks reviewed it here.

Overall, I'd give a 4.5/5.0 because I think it's adventurous, compelling and tasty. And to think, it's not even the best Stout I had all weekend...