Indiana-based Sun King dropped a heap of beers on us just before Christmas, and it’s taken us a while to get through them all. Why? Almost all are well over 10% abv, the kind of winter-themed brews that pair best with ski slopes and fireplaces. Clearly, some moderation has been in order.
Below please find our coverage of 8 new Sun King brews, including a mixed four-pack of flavored, barrel-aged Shadow Proof imperial stouts, each more crazily flavored than the last. Alert your liver, then let’s dive in.
Sun King Electric Reindeer – Brown ale brewed with ginger and molasses. This beer is four years old and is as holiday as they come, a Christmas cake of a beer that pops with baking spices, lots of gingerbread, and a brown sugar sweetness. There’s plenty of malt and a mild hoppiness that keeps the sweeter elements in check, and since this isn’t the overblown barrel-aged monster like those beers that you’re about to get to know in this roundup, you’ll find ample, cleansing effervescence to keep things lively, too. The spicier notes fade into the background fairly well against all the fizziness; after half a pint with this sense-attacking beer, that’s a good thing. 5.5% abv. B+ / $14 per four-pack of 16 oz cans
Sun King Brewery Muckin’ Around the Xmas Tree – A barrel-aged Scottish-style wee heavy, brewed with candied fruit and pecans. The beer’s inspiration of fruitcake is clear from the get-go, notes of figs, dates, roasted walnuts (more so than pecans), and black cherries melding surprisingly well with its undercarriage of bready, rolling malt. Chewy and rich, with its sweetness heading into unctuous molasses territory, the beer becomes laced with vanilla and chocolate malt as the finish arrives. This is another outrageously decadent beer from Sun King that is best served in small portions, preferably fireside. 12.7% abv. A- / $NA (16 oz cans)
Sun King Brewery 1869 American Lager – Brewed to commemorate the year of the first collegiate football game. Hey, they were drinking pretty good back then, it seems. This classic lager offers a tenacious, foamy head with ample sweetness from the malt giving the creamy, chewy body plenty to grab on to. No real hops to speak of, though there’s a generalized bitterness that’s pleasant. Notes of lemon curd and nougat give the late palate and finish an almost candied character, though I can understand if pilsner fans don’t gravitate to the sweeter stylings present in this brew. As a happy hour — or game day — draft, it’s a great starter offering that primes the pump for a lengthy session in front of the TV — or a few hours of sitting in the stands. 5.7% abv. A- / $NA (16 oz cans)
Sun King Brewery Chocolate Caliente Mexicano – A barrel-aged imperial stout aged in bourbon, hot sauce, and cinnamon whiskey barrels. You read all that right, and Sun King CCM is indeed as crazy as you’d expect, sweet Mexican chocolate notes moving headlong into heady cayenne pepper notes. That overtly syrupy character common to many ultra-boozy barrel-aged stouts comes into play soon after, though it all works better than expected given the lip-scorching hot pepper in the mix, its finish all molasses and crushed dates. The whole affair is definitely too much to take for a full pint, but when served 5 ounces at a time, it has some charm to it. 13.9% abv. B / $NA (16 oz cans)
Sun King Brewery Shadow Proof Imperial Stout Mint Chocolate Chip – Less weird than I thought it would be, the Andes-class mint chocolate is immediately evident, and not in a bad way, offering a surprisingly cleansing introduction to a very bold experience — which, perhaps, is exactly the point of putting mint in the mix. The fizzy buzz of a rich stout keeps things lively on the palate, notes of dense mocha and roasted nuts giving way to a winey, slightly oxidized character. Extremely boozy, but not in a bad way. 14.7% abv. B+ / $NA (16 oz cans)
Sun King Brewery Shadow Proof Imperial Stout Horchata – This also grew on me, though the combination of cinnamon and dark roast coffee doesn’t really scream horchata but rather more of a Mexican chocolate. That’s no problem, since that works just as well, probably better, both elements pairing well with a caramel-scented character that perseveres well into the lengthy finish. It’s sweeter than the Mint Chocolate Chip version, but it works nicely to temper, again, an extremely alcohol-laden body — and to give it instant dessert cred. 14.7% abv. A- / $NA (16 oz cans)
Sun King Brewery Shadow Proof Imperial Stout Tiramisu – I assumed this would be an instant fave — who doesn’t like tiramisu? — but I found it to have less going on than some of the other Shadow Proof expressions, with a more straightforward dark chocolate character, backed by hazelnut and roasted coffee beans — pushing into notes of syrupy molasses on the finish. It’s more Nutella than tiramisu, and while that’s perfectly enjoyable experience in its own right, it’s short on complexity. 14.7% abv. B+ / $NA (16 oz cans)
Sun King Brewery Shadow Proof Imperial Stout Mocha Banana – The abv champion in the mix at over 15% alcohol, this is a big, boozy, bruising brew that pours on notes of malt, coffee bean, and dark chocolate, though the banana influence is a bit elusive, tending more toward roasted nuts and Hershey’s syrup — so, at least most of the components of a banana split here, at least. A bit much for casual consumption, and pretty well in a world of its own creation, for better or for worse. 15.8% abv. B / $NA (16 oz cans)