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Brew Blog: Prairie Double Dunk

Photo by Nicholas L. Hall
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FO(A)MO. Fear Of (Alcoholic) Missing Out. It's a predictable part of the beer distribution cycle, and it's always at its most formidable when we've just gotten a new, coveted product in the market. There's always something we can't get, and we want it. Then, it arrives. Reports from the field pop up on social media: someone spotted a case at Spec's in Midtown; a few random bottles at a few random Krogers. Tips are followed, photos of successful hunts haunting the unlucky.

I distinctly recall this happening with Prairie Artisan Ales, probably four or five years ago. First, it was Bomb!, their imperial stout aged on coffee, chocolate, vanilla beans, and ancho chili peppers. Everyone wanted it, few people had it. It was discussed in near-mythological terms. One dude posted a vine of himself rolling out of a far-flung Spec's outlet, Indiana Jones style, just as the gate was coming down, a lone bottle of Bomb! clutched in his hand like a golden idol.

OK, that last part didn't happen. As far as I know. But you get the point. After a while, of course, Bomb! became ubiquitous, and the next part of the cycle kicked in. The only thing cooler than getting something others can't is making fun of folks for getting something once it's widely available. Once Bomb! became a regular contender, it wasn't cool any more. If you posted on your local neighborhood beer group that you'd found a bottle at the Randalls up the street, you'd get booed like you wore last year's sweater in front of the Plastics. Not fetch, Gretchen.

We are now, thankfully, in the phase where we regularly get both regular and special release Prairie, and it's not really a big deal either way. Hardcore Prairie Stans can buy it without being teased, those who haven't bought in don't buy it, and everyone goes on their merry way. It's the best place to be, beer-wise, and it means there's probably still a stack of Prairie Double Dunk sitting on an end-cap near you.

Me, I'd gotten a little bit burned out on Prairie over time. It's not that their beers weren't good, I just got a little tired of the constant extra-ness of it all. The extensive barrel-aging programs, the endless adjuncts, the novelty and kitsch of it. Even when the beers were good, it got a bit exhausting. Especially when the extra-ness involves simply chucking a commodity good into the tank and coming up with a semi-clever name. Which in no way explains why I went for this one after all. I don't even really like Oreos that much. Novelty is still novel, I guess.

Double Dunk pours completely black and opaque. An espresso crema head forms as you pour, but is immediately swallowed into the inky depths as the pour settles.

Not gonna lie. It smells like Oreos. There’s a very particular kind of chocolate aroma, tempered by just a bit of manufactured vanilla, that recalls the cookies with uncanny accuracy. There’s definitely the routine stuff in there. Roasted coffee. A little boozy. Pretty straightforward, for the most part.

Holy shit it tastes like Oreos. Like, a lot. It’s unabashedly sweet. It’s dessert in a glass. The mouthfeel is thick and somehow glossy seeming. It's almost slippery. I'm tempted to say "greasy," but that's not quite it. Luxurious, maybe. The taste leads with sweet cream and vanilla, then that particular, mildly bitter and moderately dark Oreo chocolate comes in to clean it out and pull back on the sweetness just a bit.

As it warms a bit, the sweetness is more pronounced. The vanilla rides shotgun with the chocolate taking the lead. In particular, the Oreo element comes through in the finish. As you inhale after swallowing, it’s essentially 1:1. Typical imperial stout notes anchor all of this.

Oddly enough, this makes me crave some other Prairie expressions. I think these notes would play really well with just a bit of the background spice and heat of Bomb! for example.

One thing I find with beers like this is that they warrant sharing. It's not just the booziness (though this one's pretty big), it's the flavor saturation. It's big enough and sweet enough that I found my palate getting fatigued just a bit, mostly from the sweetness. I dried mine out with a shot of rye whiskey toward the end. While my morning might regret it (it’s a damn big beer already), I think the spicy notes dried it out a little bit, in good ways. And boozing beers up with whiskey feels like something the prairie guys like anyway. And being a bit extra is exactly like the prairie guys anyway. And it’s kind of a double dunk double down. I’m gonna copyright that and sell it back to them. I'll tell you all when Double Dunk Double Down hits shelves, and we can start the cycle all over again. 

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