One of the greatest taste combinations ever created is the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. The union of chocolate and peanut butter will forever stand the test of time and leaves in its wake a plethora of other successful combinations – peanut butter and jelly, chocolate covered cherries, apples and cinnamon…bacon and everything on the planet that fits in your mouth.
And that's why I think there was so much anticipation built up for Terrapin's "Liquid Bliss", volume 18 in their "Side Project" series. This is a beer that was announced back in August for a November release, leaving beer lovers to dream of drinking Reese's cups by the pint glass. A perfect marriage between a timeless candy and their favorite beverage.
Once it was released I wasn't able to get my hands on it until I visited Terrapin Beer Co. about a week later. By then most of what I heard was disappointment, bordering on outrage. Okay, well outrage might be too strong. But suffice it to say that most agreed that it was a good porter, but lacked the peanutty taste they were expecting. And after getting a glass of it myself I agreed.
But I wasn't about to give up. I saw that Jesse had it on tap at one of my favorite local places, Exhibit Ale, so I grabbed a growler of it and allowed myself to really indulge in it. Now that I'm at the bottom end of that growler I'm ready to give my own official judgment. Here goes…
Terrapin's Side Project 18 – Liquid Bliss
This porter pours very dark. Actually a better way to describe it would be epic porter dark; you couldn't see through it with a flashlight. And that contrasts so well with the neutral, one finger tan head that gathers before dissolving quickly. I'm easily reminded how much I like porters.
On the nose I get hints of peanuts and a lot of maltiness, also plenty of chocolate. There's no alcohol smell which I've come to expect from good porters and the chocolate aromas linger longer than the other smells. Given the critiques I have both read and heard I spend some more time discerning which smell I get more of from each whiff. I never get a noseful of peanut butter, but scents of peanut shells pop through the malt and the chocolate steadily. It's enough to leave your mouthy very intrigued.
So I take a generous gulp and let the beer linger around the tongue a good bit before swallowing. It's very crisp at first while the beer is still cold in the glass. But as it sits it becomes quite smooth and creamy. And the flavors gather in richness as the glass warms towards room temperature. At first I get little if any taste of peanuts. It's very elusive actually. Towards the bottom of the glass I still find myself searching some for it, but it becomes much easier to pick out the nut flavors between the dominant tastes of chocolate and sweet malt.
In fact, there are sips when the sweetness is very reminiscent of a milk stout, very lactosey and sticky. But overall it is the milky chocolate that steals the show while the peanut butter dances along in the background for the most part.
The consistency of this one continues to intrigue me. It's not uncommon for a dark beer to shift from crisp to creamy as the beer warms up a little. But I found this surprisingly dry at first. Perhaps my fridge made it too cold. Then after forcing myself to let it sit, I was just as surprised at how creamy smooth it was. Very enjoyable and a delicious porter.
Overall, Liquid Bliss is never fully balanced between chocolate and peanut butter, which I think is where a lot of people lose their fascination with it. But it is still a deep and worthwhile experience from pour to last sip. It just makes you work a little bit for the enjoyment of it. And I don't mind that at all. Pour me another!