Left Hand Fade To Black Ale - Volume 1: Foreign Extra Stout
When I bought this, I thought it was a stout, as I am most familiar with Left Hand's Milk and Nitro Milk stouts. Then, I looked at the label as I was pouring it, and I saw that it was labeled as an ale, so I thought this might be one of those rare and interesting black ales. Then I noticed the smell was nothing like one of those black ales, so I looked harder at the label and found that this said "Volume 1 Foreign Extra Stout." At the very least, this label has confused the hell out of me, but the beer is the important thing.
The color is a deep ruby brown to the point of blackness. I should probably have a category of beer on this site that is just for the ones that are pitch black like this to the point that I have to search the edges where the light can struggle through to give it a color. The light tan head dissipates very quickly. A simple ring of bubbles tops the beer. The aroma is very smokey and malty with oatmeal and maybe a hint of vanilla.
First sip is chocolate, smoke, coffee, and possibly ... hope. I kind of expected something like Dragon's Milk from the smell, and that's not what I'm getting. Instead, this is a solid tower of bitter smoke and barley with a grainy, bready base and a chocolate and coffee parapet across the top. It's solid, imposing, and it stands alone. I wonder if a full swig with enhance things...
Tip-in is very light carbonation and smokey grains. It's sweet right off the bat. The smokey oak rolls into the center with coffee fringes and a hint of chocolate to make things easier. The bitterness is on the tip of the tongue. The finish is more violent as it hits with bitterness and more smoke as the coffee gets more pronounced, the grains subside, and the chocolate looks around embarrassed and then slinks away in the hopes that no one notices.
Bottom Line: Guys who are good at stouts make another pretty good stout. This one is a bit more harsh than the others, but it is still worth a try.