Reviewed: Toppling Goliath Assassin 2021
Official description: [From the bottle] Killer imperial stout aged in whiskey barrels. [From the TG website] Assassin barrel-aged stout spends over a year in barrels – sometimes closer to two. Notes of bourbon warm each sip, washing over a fudgy chocolate base.
Toppling Goliath Brewing Co. – Toppling Goliath Assassin 2021 – 22oz bottle served in Rastal Harmony glass – 13.6% ABV
Toppling Goliath gained international attention eight or nine years ago for their Pseudo Sue pale ale and trio of imperial stouts: Assassin, Mornin’ Delight, and Kentucky Brunch. Mornin’ Delight and Kentucky Brunch, both coffee imperial stouts, garnered even more attention with the latter eventually becoming the highest-rated beer of all time on RateBeer, BeerAdvocate, and Untappd.
There are several variants of Assassin including Vanilla Bean, Coconut, S’mores, Coffee, Cinnamon & Hazelnut, Tequila Barrel-Aged, Double Barrel, and others. This year’s release (copper wax) has very little official information available. There’s no ABV on the label, for example, but a quick search reveals previous Assassin releases have been somewhere between 12% and 12.8% ABV. (Update: The 2021 version is 13.6% according to the brewery.) The type of barrel and exact age length are unknown. “Whiskey barrels” is all you get on the label while the Toppling Goliath website says it “spends over a year in barrels – sometimes closer to two.”
I’m sampling the 2021 release of Assassin from a 22oz bottle with a matte black, metallic silver and copper label with matching glittery copper wax on the cap and neck. The ABV is nowhere to be found on the bottle label itself, though “For Sale in Iowa Only” is proudly featured.
Into my glass, Assassin is an inky, jet black beer with dark brown foam that fizzes up momentarily, but refuses to stick around for more than 20 seconds. You’re left with a still, viscous substance in the glass that stains the edges as you swirl it. Bringing up the glass, Assassin has an enticing nose of cherry liqueur, shaved coconut, and dark chocolate fudge with Raisinets and Twizzlers peeking through as it warms up to room temperature.
Digging in, Assassin leans sweet with lovely salted caramel and buttery fudge providing a decadent base flavor. There’s minimal background bitterness. Assassin relies on warming bourbon barrel notes to provide balance. The bourbon barrel character, however, is nicely mellowed out. This tastes like a beer that has been aged long enough to file the sharp edges off. There’s no spicy, hot alcohol character nor an overly tannic wood bite. Rather, 2021 Assassin tastes like a 2-year-old beer already. The beer glides around the palate effortlessly with an oily, coating effect. Those rich dessert notes in the nose manifest in the flavor with hardly any lingering sweetness or booziness. Godiva liqueur, creamy ganache, and mild bourbon warmth combine for an incredible experience.
Perceived Specs for Toppling Goliath Assassin 2021
This year’s release of Assassin is an inviting, sweeter dessert stout that is already good to go with no roughness around the edges. The barrel character is mellowed out with no booziness or sharp tannins to distract. Even though bitterness is modest at best, there isn’t any cloying sweetness from the monster base beer. But the mouthfeel is where Assassin really shines: intensely decadent with salted caramel and melted chocolate dessert flavors. It’s a fantastic example of what a barrel-aged imperial stout can be without adding the kitchen sink of bakery ingredients.
VERDICT: 96 pts (SUPERLATIVE)
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