Southern Tier Brewing Company Iniquity Black Imperial Ale

December 8, 2010

Ezekiel 25:17. “The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men.” Sam Jackson’s Jules Winfield character delivers that line to Frank Whaley’s Brett in Pulp Fiction just before doing away with the doomed double-crosser of their boss, Marcellus Wallace. Great movie, great scene, great line delivery. One problem… that is not Ezekiel 25:17.

It’s obviously intended that Jules is a flawed, albeit extremely cool, character. A man who believes in God and quotes his own versions of Bible verse yet comes from a background of crime and violence and, ultimately, puts himself in the employ of one of Los Angeles’ biggest gangsters. Does being flawed excuse his hubris? Perhaps that is his own iniquity.

The word itself means gross injustice, a wicked act and the violation of right or duty. It is an ancient word synonymous with darkness and sin. Apropos to Southern Tier’s Black Imperial Ale.

Southern Tier hit the scene in 2002 and a short 5 years later were named in Beer Advocate’s top 50 American breweries. According to them, the name Iniquity was chosen as this particular brew is in opposition of what people expect from an IPA… that some do consider it a sin to blacken ale. In my opinion, the “darkness” is its color, the “violation of right” is the rejection of traditional brewing methods and the “gross injustice” is that we only recently acquired this beverage locally. It’d be a sin not to drink it.

This one is like a porter that the brewmaster accidentally dumped way too much hops into. Almost pitch black with subtle highlights of ruby and mahogany showing. It pours up a big frothy mocha-color head that dissipates rather quickly yet leaves nice sticky lacing down the sides of the glass. As with most all black ales, the roasted malts aren’t really expressed in the nose. Rather, it’s all about the hops. Loads of grapefruit, dried Kaffir lime leaves and flowers give way to a touch of dark chocolate and caramel. The flavors do exhibit the roasted grain better with some coffee, earth and malt sweetness. Then comes the oily, spicy bite from the hops with pine and citrus rounding out the experience.

Never mind the Sprite, Jules. Next time, wash down your Big Kahuna burger with one of these bad boys.