Four Hops for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Four Hops for the dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Four Hops for Mortal Men doomed to die,
Four Hops for the Dark Lord on his dark throne,
In the Land of Munster where the Shadows lie.
One Beer to rule them all, One Beer to find them,
One Beer to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Munster where the Shadows lie.
-Baron Sudsy von Tolkien
In honor of Magnus, who was a huge fan of fantasy fiction, I’m writing a Tasting Note of the mythical 3 Floyd’s Dark Lord Imperial Stout in the style of Tolkien. I will save our readers the suspense and simply note that it is a 4 Hop beer. It’s a nearly impossible beer to write about subjectively since its scarcity and legend warp your opinions of the brew before you can even wrestle off its thick, wax-sealed top. Did it live up to the hype? I think so. It’s not my favorite beer on Earth…or even my favorite Imperial Stout. But it is an utterly delicious, incredibly complex, and overwhelming brew. It is indeed worthy of all the accolades it has received. Every Alehead should try to sample it at least once in their lives if the possibility ever presents itself.
And now, let’s venture to Middle-Earth to do battle with the Dark Lord. Here are the final words of the Cleric McHops:
In the gray, low city of Birmingham, in the hill lands of Alabama, a convocation was held. A Fellowship of the Stouts. This Fellowship consisted of all the races of man. Professionals. Bartenders. Scholars. Writers. Hipsters. Bloggers. And Gingers.
The Fellowship met in a Great Hall, under the cold, clear night of Mid-Winter. They each brought prizes they had assembled across time and from all corners of this sprawling continent. The prizes were laid out before them on a rough-hewn table top and the races of man beamed proudly at their collective haul. It was to be a night of epic sensory delights. A night to honor the three noble gods: Grain, Yeast, and Hops.
The feast was memorable…with warm, convivial camaraderie and much discussion of past battles and glorious victories. But there was a shadow cast over the evening. There was a palpable anxiety in the eyes of all present. For they knew that, despite their veneer of cheer, the Dark Lord was watching. And waiting.
The Fellowship sampled wares from the Allagashians of Maine…a Northern people, rightly famous for their worship of the Yeast god. They stared into the inky-black Abyss sent forth from the Deschutes dwarves who dwell in the far West. And from the Midwest of Middle Earth, the elven Founders delivered to the Fellowship an epic Breakfast created in the style of the Kentuckians. All was well. Until…
The Dark Lord approacheth. The eye of Sauron had found us. His light burned down and blinded us with its intensity. The Fellowship scattered throughout the Great Hall…then we remembered our training. We pulled together as one, lifted our vessels to the sky, and prepared to take on the Dark Lord himself. The battle seemed impossible. How could the Fellowship defeat such a behemoth?
The Dark Lord arrived as black as sin. As black as the muck and mire in the farthest recesses of the dead marshes. As black as midnight in the deepest caves of Moria. His head was visible only momentarily…a dark, alizarin thing that rose quickly, then faded into myth. He left no traces behind his slithering form. No lacing or trail…other than the lingering scent of fear in those who witnessed his passing.
Then…he was upon us! His essence invaded the very minds and souls of the Fellowship. His spirit form rose up from his inky depths and assaulted our olfactory bulbs. It was paralyzing and glorious all at once. The Dark Lord’s aroma was palpable…redolent…overwhelming. Dark, ripened fruits from the lush fields of Rohan. Bitter, sweet, and rich chocolates and toffees from the candyshops of the Shire. Strong, pungent rum and bourbon from the distilleries of the White City. Savory, dark soy sauce from the mysterious tribes of Khand. All of these aromas blended together as the Dark Lord attempted to suffocate us with his presence. The Fellowship was nearly defeated by the scent of the rough beast alone!
Our proud party stood tall and withstood the first assault. But then the Dark Lord unleashed his full fury. He shattered our tastebuds and coated every inch of our innards with his dark spirit. The Dark Lord was impossibly heavy…impossibly viscous and warming…like the flowing lava in the heart of Mt. Doom. He insinuated himself into our souls with a sweetness that belied his malevolent nature. All we could taste was a cavalcade of rich chocolate, dark caramel, heavily roasted coffee, raisins, prunes, vanilla, bourbon, tobacco, licorice, soy sauce, molasses…it never ended. Just when we thought we had battled back one flavor, another came crashing through like a cave troll. We could not defeat the Dark Lord. We all understood that. The Ginger fell first, of course. She bravely (or foolishly) marched headlong into the fray and was struck down. The Hipsters and Scholars fought valiantly, but were defeated too. The Professionals, Writers, and Bartenders held their own for a seemingly unending length of time, but they too fell to the Dark Lord’s wrath. Only I, the Cleric McHops, survived…by escaping to a back chamber where I can hear the final screams of the Fellowship echoing off the stone walls. I have just enough time to scribble these words on a scroll. I hope that future generations will heed my warnings…
The Dark Lord can not be defeated! All you can do is welcome him and allow him to destroy you. I would say more, but there is no time. I cannot get out. The end comes soon. I hear drums. Drums in the deep…