Product description: 12.5% Imperial Stout treated with Tahitian vanilla beans, locally roasted cacao nibs from Cru Chocolate, and exclusive coffee made for this beer roasted by Modern Times.
Moksa Brewing Co. – Moksa / Modern Times Grasp of Darkness Imperial Stout with coffee, vanilla & cacao nibs – 500mL bottle served in snifter/tulip hybrid – 12.5% ABV
Top 3 Descriptors: Chocolate Cream Pie, Toasted Marshmallow, Muscovado Sugar
Sampled from a 500mL bottle, I did my best to get you a photo of the label, which is matte black with glossy black artwork. It’s essentially unreadable unless you tilt the label around to get a reflection off the glossy parts. It looks pretty cool once you know what you’re doing. But this wouldn’t do well on store shelves.
Moksa’s Grasp of Darkness is a clear, sepia-colored liquid coming out of the bottle but predictably ink black once inside the glass. Substantial, micro-bubbled, khaki foam rises up in the glass and sticks around for several minutes. There’s an immediate, powerful aroma of toasted marshmallow, sweet milk chocolate, touches of black licorice, and amaretto.
A few sips in, I’m immediately impressed with the aerated, whipped texture of the beer. It’s a soft, inviting experience with flavors that stray far away from coffee and closer to chocolate cream pie, dark chocolate mousse, and muscovado sugar (unrefined dark sugar with molasses). I was expecting the Modern Times coffee addition to bolster overall bitterness, but this beer is hardly bitter at all sitting at a 4/10 overall. Sweetness, on the other hand, is high at 8/10. For me, the clear standout is the ultra silky mouthfeel. Aesthetics-wise, this is outstanding.
And like I found with another big Moksa stout, the vanilla addition isn’t immediately noticeable. I think it does some magic in the background adding depth and complexity. It doesn’t, thankfully, add a cloying character I find in most other vanilla stouts. Bitter cacao nibs are also hidden away. Sometimes this addition adds a chalky, rough mouthfeel and sharp bitterness. There’s no trace of any of that here. Though I still wish overall bitterness was higher. And after getting through about half of the snifter, the monster ABV finally catches up to me. This is better suited as a special beer to share at a tasting than it is a single-serving sipper.
For those expecting this one to really pop with massive coffee flavors, Grasp of Darkness will be a disappointment. If you love big, sweeter dessert stouts, then this is one to seek out. Of the three Moksa stouts I’ve reviewed this year, Grasp of Darkness comes across as the sweetest by far and could really use a more robust coffee addition for balance. In terms of mouthfeel, it is astoundingly good and should provide a solid base for more imperial stout experiments in the future.
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