There’s a brewery hidden on South Murphy in Sunnyvale that’s truly a real gem and holds its own next to the plethora of big name breweries in the Bay Area. Led by brewer Steve Donohue (interview), Firehouse Brewery doesn’t have a ton of tap space, but the quality of the brews, without a doubt, makes up for it.
In case you’re not convinced, some of their beer gets distributed to the rest of the Bay Area. Bottles of the crowd favorite Hops on Rye IPA can be found in select stores so you can give the Firehouse brews a try for yourself. Recently, a second beer made its way into bottles to satisfy your taste buds. Donohue calls it his One Tun Imperial Stout (nicknamed OTIS) and a small batch of bottles made it out of the brewery.
On first glance the label is very similar to Hops on Rye, it’s simple and recognizable. The fine print also indicates that you’re up against an ABV of 10% for this brew. The beer inside pours a thick, dark black-brown color, with a finger of frothy chocolate head forming atop. The head lingers around for quite some time, finally fading down leaving behind lots of thick lace in the process.
The aroma is full of rich roasted dark chocolate with a bit of sweeter milk chocolate, some roasted coffee, and a bit of earthiness. The high ABV does come through a bit as well. When you open this bottle, let it warm up a bit to the recommended 45 to 50 degrees to really get the most out of the aroma.
When the beer hits the tongue it starts off strong. There’s lots of dark roasted chocolate flavor alongside some licorice and coffee with just a touch of sweet dark fruit flavor as well. Through the middle, some sweeter milk chocolate flavors take over for a bit with some earthy hop flavor.
The finish is a return back to darker bitter chocolate and coffee flavors with a just a touch of warming alcohol coming though. The chocolate flavor really lingers on the tongue for quite some time, but the roasted flavors provide a bit of dryness that keeps you coming back for more. The beer feels rich and full bodied with mild level of carbonation. It feels thick and viscous on the tongue, but still has a smoothness to it keep it drinkable.
OTIS is a savory slow sipper and a fantastic example of great Imperial Stout. So many Imperial Stouts are too big and in the process lose control of their balance, but not this one. The flavors are quite bold and strong, but the body and mouth feel match up, creating a well-balanced beer overall. If you have never had a Firehouse beer (or you’re already a fan of Hops on Rye), I definitely recommend you give it a shot.