While in New York a couple of weeks ago I had about 20 minutes to kill while visiting some friends in Brooklyn – and as luck would have it I was a mere four blocks from the famed SPUYTEN DUYVIL bar in Williamsburg, a place HBJ visited last year and wrote about here. I knew where it was, and I knew their reputation as being a bit on the know-it-all, brusque & dismissive side. Not a-holes like the douchy tattooed warriors at THE TORONADO, but the sort that throw off a we-know-best attitude when it comes to beer, and who let it show as often as possible. So I guess it was no surprise when I ordered the highly-touted NECTAR ALES “BLACK XANTUS” from the hirsute fella behind the bar and got some immediate ‘tude. I pronounced it “Black ZAN-TUHSS”. He gave me a quizzical, jeez-I-never-heard-of-it look, and told me that nope, they didn’t serve a beer called that here. I’m serious. I pointed at the tap handle to help sharpen his thinking a bit, and he gave me a big, “Ohhhh, ohhhh, you mean Black Zan-TOOS”. Zantoos. Not Zantuhss. WTF.
Here’s a terrible picture of the beer in question. It goes for double figures in bottles out in San Francisco, and I’m sure everywhere else - $16.99 is a typical price. It’s made by FIRESTONE WALKER, under their confusing NECTAR ALES brand – the same folks who make that hemp beer that I actually like. It’s a super-dark, very strong black ale. BLACK XANTUS is a succulent Russian Imperial stout, with light carbonation. The dominant flavors are vanilla and bourbon – whoa, lots of bourbon. Truly, it’s almost cocktail-like, and it lacks a lot of the richness and “meaty” quality I like in beers of this ilk. I’d call it a true beer lover’s beer, but as a beer lover I found it just a tiny disappointing. In conversation with others, reactions are all over the map – some think it’s the second coming, others think it’s a whole lot of nothing. Me, I call it a 7/10.