IF AWARDS WERE handed out for the best names in beer, Grand Teton’s Black Cauldron would undoubtedly be a finalist among imperial stouts. Though neither as apocalyptic as The Abyss or Dark Lord nor as topically splendid as Chocolate Rain, Black Cauldron projects a veiled, ominous gravitas and solidity that is an ideal soubriquet for the style. Too, it would surely win extra nostalgia points from anyone familiar with Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain.
While this imaginary hardware is being handed out we must unfortunately also nominate Black Cauldron for having one of beer’s lamest labels. Its cartoonish depiction of two women gathered around a cauldron (extremely well-lit despite it evidently being the witching hour) belongs to a high school fit of gothic fancy or a cookbook for pagan children. Or a Disney film, for that matter.
The liquid itself falls between these two extremes, neither redoubtable nor risible. There’s no mistaking this beer for child’s play, though—thick-bodied (estimated 5.5 Plato), cola-colored, and with a formidable dark tan head, it oozes aromas of burnt (and smoked) grains and leaves a residue when swirled in the glass. This also releases some dark berry aromas, though little fruit sweetness can be found in its flavor. Rather it favors coffee roast and slightly chalky dark cocoa, with molasses and black licorice trailing in the background.
IBUs of 47 from Hallertau, Magnum, and Cascade hops lend a lurking leafiness to the aroma and a straightforward bitterness in the finish. Some bits of caramel flesh out the midsection, but overall the mouthfeel tends a bit too much towards astringency, likely as a result of the amount of Carafa and smoked malts. Carbonation is rather mild overall and none too effective—not that it should be very prominent in this style, but a notch or two more would have helped disperse the roasted malt flavors more evenly. Alcohol warming from the 8% ABV is modestly apparent in the finish—more would have been welcome. The smoked malt was a twist worth trying, though overall it does more to mute the beer’s already limited sweetness instead of framing it. Perhaps, like a good piece of cast iron, this Black Cauldron just needed more seasoning in the cellar?
Served: 12 oz bottle