What to Drink This Weekend: Cigar City Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout at Barcade

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When I mentioned last week that we’d be spending a lot of time writing about stouts in the coming months, I didn’t mean to imply that it’d be every week, and I certainly didn’t intend to go back to that particular well quite so soon. But then I found out yesterday that Barcade was hosting a night dedicated to Tampa’s Cigar City Brewing and that they’d be tapping a keg of Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout, an elusive beer that’s brewed once each year in extremely limited quantities and is basically impossible to get up here. If you’re into this sort of thing, it’s not really the kind of opportunity you pass up.

Hunahpu is an American Imperial Stout that’s brewed with cacao nibs, Madagascar vanilla beans, cinnamon and two types of chile peppers—ancho and pasilla. Factor in the espresso-like qualities inherent to the style, and you know you’re dealing with a beer that’s going to be full of flavor, to say the least. Factor in the 11.5% ABV and you also know it’ll knock you on your ass if you’re not careful.

The beer is absolutely pitch black with a small head of foam that’s darker than almost any I’ve seen. It fades quickly, but it takes lacing (a term used to describe foam that sticks to the side of the glass) to a new level—it actually stains the glass, imparting a cloudy brown tint to whatever it touches. The aroma is a nice, surprisingly subtle blend of dark roasted malts, vanilla, and the fruity qualities of the peppers rather than just their heat. In the taste, you get a lot more of the chocolate, especially right up front, along with a ton of espresso. Then there’s a burst of sweet vanilla that’s immediately balanced out by the peppers, which provide a really pleasant burn that actually seems at first like the warming sensation of the alcohol itself. They’re incorporated perfectly, in a way that’s not over-powering. It’s an experience similar to drinking a “wicked” hot chocolate from Jacques Torres, where the heat winds up brightening up a drink that could otherwise be considered too rich.

Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout is among the fairly small group of beers that are worth going out of your way for, and judging by the number of people who were sitting around drinking it at 5pm on a Thursday, it seems a lot of people already realize this. It won’t last long, so get yourself over there as soon as you can. The bar opens at 2pm today.

Barcade is, of course, located at 388 Union Avenue. If they happen to be out of the Hunahpu by the time you get there, try the Cigar City Tocobaga Red Ale, which is either the best or the second best interpretation of the style I’ve ever had (Nugget Nectar looms large).