MacTarnahan's Goose Bump

By this time, if you have been a faithful reader here - all two of you - it's probably been made pretty clear I'm a big coffee fan and I'm also a beer fan, albeit probably bigger for the bean than the brew. As different as those two tastes are, though, they can sometimes be complementary - and I've found a few beers over the course of tasting that bring these two together very well. Usually they seem to use chocolate as a flavor that does a good job bridging the two, but not always.

So in my daily wanderings amongst the internets when I came across this little review on Beervana about a brew from MacTarnahan's called Goose Bump, which was all about coffee, you knew I had to try it out.

Here is how MacTarnahan's describes the beer:

Goose Bump is a deliciously dark Imperial Stout brewed with roasted and chocolate malt, coffee beans, and bold hop flavor which percolate into a complex blend of fearsome intensity.

Wow...if you like coffee, if you like chocolate, if you like beer...that gets your mouth watering a bit, doesn't it? Mac's apparently used a large quantity of Stumptown coffee beans (of what blend or origin I have no idea) mixed into this beer to give it a java-like quality.

Still, it's easy to be a little skeptical, isn't it? I mean, how many times do you buy a beer (or a wine or a coffee or whatever) that bills itself as having _____ flavor and then not have it deliver? Yeah, quite a few times - me too.

I looked for this one for a couple weeks after reading the Beervana blog post, but it seemed like none of my regular haunts (that is, Whole Foods and New Seasons) had it in stock. Yes, I do need to find a nice bottle shop, but unfortunately there are none (that I know of) near my house - I have to head into NW in the downtown area or across the river to find one of those.

Still, with that blue pair of fists offering up daps on the bottle, it was easy to look for. Wifey actually spotted it at New Seasons about the third or fourth time we were there after my read, and I was so excited it jumped to the first spot in line in my cupboard.

As soon as you pop off the top of the bottle the coffee is quite evident. A deep sniff from the fresh bottle smells like a cup of fresh coffee, albeit cold with a beery background. Predictably it pours thick and dark, with a golden colored creamy head on the glass. It's thick on your tongue, like an Abyss, but it's not nearly as good.

See, while they decided to amp up the caffeine by chocking it full of coffee beans, MacTarnahan's went a little overboard. The beer has a bit of a bitter taste - not a bitter beer taste, but the bitter taste of coffee that has sat in the carafe too long, or coffee that had a way too high ratio of beans to water when it was brewed. It's also not like I could pick out any other flavor - the bitter coffee taste dominated the whole beer.

By the time I poured my second glass from the 22-ounce bottle, though, the bitterness seemed to go away. At the time I thought perhaps I was developing a taste for Goose Bump, but in retrospect I really think that was all the coffee (and the 9% alcohol) making my tongue and tastebuds go numb.

Would I recommend Goose Bump? No, probably not. Instead of being a brew you may want to stock up a few bottles of - since it is a limited release - it's more of something you try once just so you can see what happens when someone goes overboard with a flavor, more of a novelty beer. You have to be in the mood for it and you damn well better be a coffee drinker, otherwise this glass will really just make you angry.

And perhaps that is what MacTarnahan's was going for, something completely over the top in response to recent trend of putting all sorts of unique flavors in beers. Maybe their thought was: "You want coffee in your beer? Oh, we'll GIVE you coffee in your beer!" And hey, if that was the whole goal, they definitely succeeded.

I've been a fan of MacTarnahan's for a long time, since it was still just a part of Portland Brewing before they sold to Pyramid Brewing back in 2004. When I was in college MacTarnahan's was my go-to beer when I had the money (or the will to spend the money) on something a little more expensive. Over the years it's still one I go back to every once in a while.

But Goose Bump? Sorry, it's just not something I can get into. That's sad, because I had high hopes...it turns out all MacTarnahan's wanted to do was see how much coffee they could stuff into a beer, instead of concentrating on putting together something with flavors that blend well and complement each other.

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