High Water Brewing Company - Aphotic (with Cacao Nibs)
- ABV: 10.5%
- Serving Temperature: 52–59° F
- Suggested Glassware: Tulip, Snifter or Pinot Glass
We’ve long been appreciating Steve and Barri’s work from High Water, and we’re especially pleased to be able to feature an exclusive release from these folks: a special bottling of their Aphotic imperial porter, with cacao nibs sourced from Ghana. This sublime bottling of the cacao-bolstered Aphotic will be offered exclusively through The Rare Beer Club (with a small amount being left for the brewery). We love getting to do special labelings with breweries, so definitely check out the details on this. Aphotic is one of High Water’s most award-winning releases, taking home a bronze medal from the 2014 Great American Beer Festival as well as multiple accolades from the Good Food Awards. That core beer, typically coming in around 9.2%, is a textbook demonstration of dark malts: rich, roasted, deep in chocolate, and full of dried fruit and licorice. Our Rare Beer Club exclusive smooths out the edges and amps up its ABV a bit, with engaging chocolate notes from the Ghanaian nibs adding a lux smoothness.
This Aphotic pours a deep, dark cola-brown color, a touch of a mahogany hue at the edges. Its foam, despite a 10%+ ABV, manages to stay around for surprisingly long, capping things with a hot-chocolate-like mousse. There’s just a touch of added viscosity. A robust chocolaty and savory core fills the aromatics from the start, which expand quite widely as things warm. We found nougat and leather, sweet caramel and coffee. Any elements hinting at the alcohol stay tucked away, as this keeps effortlessly smooth: dense and generous with a cocoa-powder dryness. The aromatics also hint at the seamlessness between the core porter and cacao nibs.
For being a slightly amplified version of Aphotic, this release manages to stay so smooth. At the first sip, dense central maltiness of milk and dark chocolate lands alongside a subtle edge of roast and mineral bitterness, with a reliable perimeter of pine-inclined hops adding a hint of juiciness to this one, while young. (We definitely encourage our Rare Beer Club members to sample a bottle of the Aphotic early, as it’s drinking beautifully as is.) That pine quality is a bit more elevated in the aroma after this has some time in the glass. This glides on a plane of soft roast, dark chocolate and deft hopping (drinking very smoothly through a wide range of temperatures). Fine-bubbled carbonation provides some lift, a spritziness that seems to help bring out its complexity. We kept going back to how streamlined this seems: Even at 10.5%, it always stayed a pleasure to sip, and there’s a dense tapestry of flavors to this one that stays tightly packed. Look for caramel, notes of licorice, and a finish of cocoa and dark chocolates.
We’ve had the pleasure of sampling numerous High Water beers over the years, but this one absolutely stands out as a malt-forward highlight: packed with rich, generous caramelization. Do share!—as there aren’t many bottles of this Rare Beer Club exclusive to go around.
As noted above, check this one out fresh. The alcohol levels and minimal early oxidation suggest it should also be good for a bit of time in one’s cellar. Those coffee and chocolate and roast notes, along with hefty ABV (though it stays hidden), put this in prime territory for grilled beef, maybe pork. Or as counterpoint to creamy vanilla desserts.
Some of our Rare Beer Club members may already be familiar with the folks at High Water Brewing in northern California. The brewery’s Campfire Stout, one of three core offerings, is brewed with graham crackers, molasses and natural flavor—evoking s’mores!—and has been especially successful for them as of late (while also picking up two gold medals during recent Great American Beer Festivals). Their Aphotic imperial porter (the name’s Greek, translating to “without light”) is another High Water core, showcasing a masterful depth via dark malts. And then there’s Hop Riot IPA, the brewery’s flagship—an aggressively dank and lean West-Coast IPA, which offers up an excellent taste of what these folks can do with pungent hops.
They’re only the tip of the iceberg.
High Water Brewing began producing in spring of 2011, headed by Steve and Barri Altimari. The brewery gets its name from a loose Italian translation of the couple’s last name, the first half of Altimari (alta) providing the ‘High’ and the latter (mare) offering ‘sea’ or ‘Water.’ High Water’s labeling often incorporates iconic waterfall imagery—which seems especially apt for a brewery whose headquarters is about 90 minutes directly west of Yosemite National Park.
Steve Altimari serves as brewmaster and president, with around two decades of professional brewing experience under his belt. Up until 2010 he served as brewmaster at Valley Brewing Co., where he released highly coveted, limited bottlings of things like Überhoppy (a massive imperial IPA) and his Decadence line of barrel-aged sour ales, many of which were traded in relatively small circles of the beer-geek community. At High Water, Steve works closely with his wife Barri, who serves as first lady and flavorologist at the company, in developing their new beer recipes. Barri’s background as a brewpub owner, sous/pastry chef, and developer of recipes for food companies feeds directly into the creativity of their brewery—fueling the design of food-minded beers and, as they put it, Unique Flavors for the Curious Palate. The pair has been responsible for successful designs that include, beyond Campfire Stout, things like Sugaree (channeling a maple bourbon pecan pie) and a crisp canned Cucumber Kolsch. Their 2017 release calendar is packed with barrel-aged sours, Campfire-Stout riffs and more.
High Water’s steadily been making a reputation for themselves across the West Coast as well as far beyond. The brewery’s currently distributed throughout California and eight other U.S. states, as well as more than a dozen countries internationally (including Japan, Brazil, France, Spain, Greece, Belgium, Denmark...). We’ve been digging everything we’ve been tasting from these folks, and we’re pleased to be able to offer our Rare Beer Club members this exclusive release from the brewery: a unique bottling of their Aphotic imperial porter with cacao nibs.
To keep up on the latest news from High Water, get in touch on Twitter @HighWaterBrew and Instagram @HighWaterBrewing, or reach out via [email protected]
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