Black Raven Brewing
September 27th, 2019
Limited (Brewed Once)
While I’ve enjoyed No-Li’s brews many times before, I hadn’t noticed this one at all until fellow reviewer Derek Mesford showed up at my door with a bottle. I’ve only had one barrel-aged imperial IPA before, and that was Founders Brewing’s incredible Doom, so this beer has some stiff competition to live up to.
Damon Scott, Brewery Operations Manager for No-Li, describes Defacto as “essentially a blend of Dry Fly Wheat Whiskey and Triticale Whiskey barrel-aged Wrecking Ball Imperial Stout and Jet Star Imperial IPA.” That statement contains quite a few words that make my mouth water, so let’s get into the review!
The initial pour of this beer is simply gorgeous. I’m seeing a beautiful caramel / mocha-colored head, very frothy, with a light swirl at the top reminiscent of a good cappuccino.
The head dissipates quickly as I’m noticing deep copper highlights around the edges of the glass when I hold it up directly behind light, but otherwise the beer is pitch black. Beautiful strands of carbonation pearls are dancing up the sides of the glass.
Initially, I get what seems like is going to be a barrage of roasty notes, but they’re very quickly shoved aside by the big malty Imperial IPA smell. While not very hop-forward, the hops that show up are dank and resinous, pleasant, and very smooth.
I’m getting lots of barrel and roastiness as the maltiness passes through, sort of enveloping the IPA flavor in a nice bed, reminding me quite a lot of Founders Doom. I only wish it were a touch more hop-forward, but other than that, this is simply a gorgeous smelling beer that I can’t wait to get into a sip of.
Oh… oh my. This one is quite a ride all throughout the first sip. Right up front, I’m getting a nice punch of sweet, malty Imperial IPA notes, amped up with a touch of hoppiness in the middle of the mouth.
After just enough time to let the IPA-ness settle in, the roast starts climbing up the back of the tongue, coating the inside of your mouth as you swallow. The roast and oak are most noticeable on an exhale through the nose after taking a sip. Outstanding.
This beer just feels like craftsmanship. It’s a ride, going in all sorts of different directions through the experience of taking a drink, while all meshing together beautifully. There’s a nice alcohol warming quality, but no harsh bite you might expect from a high ABV beer.
One thing surprising I’m noticing is that as long as this beer has clearly sat in barrels aging, it still tastes incredibly fresh. There’s absolutely no oxidation or off-flavor you might get from an extended aging process.
I simply can’t think of anything that could make this beer taste better, and it has blown my expectations out of the water. Perfect score for me on flavor.
There’s nice lively carbonation balancing out the full body of this beer, which helps it skirt this really nice line between the fullness you might find in a big stout without the overwhelming heavy meal-like mouthfeel.
The dry finish fits the IPA style perfectly and is just astringent enough to make me want to dive in for another sip.
This is just about as perfect a beer as I’ve enjoyed, both in personal flavor preferences and just flat-out solid execution of the style.
I would absolutely drink this beer again and plan to grab a few for the cellar very soon. Well done, No-Li, keep it up!