River Horse Brewing Company - Night Grazer
- ABV: 11.2%
- Bottle Size: 750-ml
- Serving Temperature: 52–59° F
- Suggested Glassware: Snifter, Tulip, Teku or Pinot Glass
We’ve been looking forward to having this exclusive release from River Horse for our Rare Beer Club members around the holidays, and Night Grazer in particular is a beer that we’ve specifically chosen to build upon River Horse’s strengths, including using the beer’s various special ingredients. Night Grazer’s a full-bodied imperial stout brewed with Ugandan coffee beans, red chile peppers, cinnamon, chocolate and vanilla—tuned to be a perfect sipper for the colder months. This one’s never been made before, and it will be available exclusively to our Rare Beer Club members with a small allocation set aside for the brewery tasting room.
Locally roasted Ugandan coffee beans are added during cold conditioning for a fresh cold-brew coffee presence. The brewery’s developed a longstanding relationship with the roaster, who’s able to roast small batches of beans to their profile specifications. They’ve really been enjoying the character that they’ve been able to get in previous beers that took advantage of these Ugandan coffee beans, in particular. The brewery’s also added a careful amount of red chile peppers during the brew, which offer up a soft touch of heat as a textural component. Additionally, River Horse’s Night Grazer incorporates cinnamon sticks toward the end of the boil, remaining on the subtle side and predominantly serving to add some further depth to the stout. The chocolate and vanilla bring everything to a smooth, cohesive whole.
Night Grazer pours pitch black and proves it’s a thick, burly imperial stout from the start. A modest dark-brown foam caps things, as a generous set of aromatics is led by contributions from the coffee and cinnamon additions. It’s a spicy, cinnamon-edged expression that really emphasizes that cold-brew character that River Horse has been able to coax out of its coffee additions. The roaster that they work with swung by the brewery to check on the fermenting Night Grazer to finalize the coffee decision, and the coffee impact proves exceptional here.
The flavor is really where this beer shows its full profile, though, as the red chile peppers and the vanilla addition start to play out. The chiles come through much more in the flavor than in the aromatics, providing some welcome underlying heat that keeps this beer feeling lean. The vanilla and chocolate budge up nicely alongside the smooth chocolate and coffee notes of the malt core. River Horse uses debittered black malt to provide a smooth, nonastringent backbone for this beer, and the special additions come together from there. The coffee is a generous, beautifully rounded presence throughout every part of the experience, while that cinnamon, as it did from the start, lands with comforting spice and character (but subtly).
Night Grazer’s ready to drink on day one, and we’d definitely encourage folks to pop one of these over the holidays to enjoy the special additions playing out at max volume. As for food pairings: look to similarly decadent, robust options, such as beef or poutine with demi-glace.
River Horse Brewing will seem like a new name to many of our Rare Beer Club members in places distant to New Jersey, but the brewery’s actually 22 years old at this point. Expect this to become a more and more common occurrence going forward with well over 6,000 breweries in the U.S. The fact is River Horse has been seeing a rebirth over recent years, and we’re looking forward to giving our Rare Beer Club members a taste of what we found there.
River Horse, per owner Chris Walsh, was originally founded by three brothers, who saw it through one rise and fall of the craft beer tides before it was purchased by Walsh and Glenn Bernabeo in 2007, both having worked heavily with distressed companies. They redid all the packaging, branding and beer lineups, while keeping the original name intact. They’re joined by Head Brewer Chris Rakow, who signed on around 2008 after studying to be an electrical engineer and quickly departing that field for brewing school and a job at Harpoon Brewery. In 2013, they were able to move into a facility two and a half times larger than the last one.
It’s been exciting for us to watch everything going on over at River Horse, including releases like their Hipp-O-Lantern Imperial Pumpkin Ale, and barrel-aged versions of their Oatmeal Milk Stout. The brewery’s Barrel Aged Series further includes a rum-barrel-aged Baltic porter and a cranberry sour—brewed with a mélange of yeast, bacteria and New Jersey cranberries. Some Rare Beer Club members will recall the brewery’s delicious Imperial Chocolate Porter, which we featured as another exclusive a few years back. River Horse also recently a canning line to their operations, releasing a number of rotating one-offs through their tasting room.
This month, we’re excited to offer up River Horse’s Night Grazer as an exclusive release via the Rare Beer Club. This one is a massive imperial stout with a number of special additions, including Ugandan coffee beans and red chile peppers. It’s a brilliantly built offering that builds off a number of the brewery’s strengths, and it will be available exclusively through the Rare Beer Club and the brewery’s tasting room in New Jersey.
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