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Shorter Days, Bigger Beers: The Black Ace

A snifter of the Black Ace Imperial Stout

As November sets in, the days are getting shorter and those of us here in Michigan lose out on much of our sunlight. With the nights starting early and the darkness outside sitting heavy, it’s the perfect time to embrace the spirit of the season and enjoy a dark, heavy beer. The Black Ace Imperial Stout is Grand River Brewery’s mainstay imperial stout, available year round with the new yearly batch releasing around this time. 

Imagine walking into the warm and bustling brewery, shielded from the cold wintery wind, and warming up with a hearty, deep brew. The Black Ace is just right for that, with a heavy body and high abv. At 9%, this brew is a great way to end any meal. The chocolate and molasses flavors from the grain give this beer a dessert-like quality.

The flavors of the Black Ace come primarily from the grain used in the brewing process. The brewers add as much grain to the mash tun as will fit, making this beer a true labor of love. Dark roasted grain brings out the chocolate and molasses flavors naturally, so no additives are needed. All that goes into this brew is water, grain, yeast, barley, and chocolate malt. 

While brewing this beer takes about the same amount of time as any other, the labor is more intensive because of the high grain level. The sweetness is balanced perfectly with hops, and at 60 ibus the Black Ace has a relatively high hop ratio for a stout. Many stouts sit between 20-40 ibus, with 60 being closer to an ale or an IPA. In face, the Monkey Mouth IPA is at 65 ibus, just a little higher than the Black Ace. The heavy maltiness and sweetness balances out with the hops so you can still taste them but it’s not overpowering. 

The Black Ace has been a mainstay at Grand River Brewery since about 2014 when the recipe was created. This is one of those rare beers that just came out right and didn’t need any tweaking. When it comes to beers like this, consistency is key, so our brewing team is always careful to check their notes. As we've seen in our Brewer's Corner in the monthly newsletter, taking notes during the brewing process is an essential step for any brewer.

The Black Ace isn't like any other stout. It's so unique that we use it as the base for the Dead Man’s Hand beer, a barrel aged stout at a heavy 12%. The Black Ace goes into our house whiskey barrels to age for a full year before its release in time for the Halloween season. The aging gives the Dead Man’s Hand a toasty element to the chocolate flavor, along with a hint of vanilla that brings out the whiskey flavor beautifully. While we have the Black Ace year round, the Dead Man’s Hand is a smaller batch release that only comes out seasonally.

Once the Dead Man’s Hand comes out of the whiskey barrels, the barrels are used to make our Dead Man’s Bounty Whiskey. The Whiskey ages in the barrels, absorbing the flavors of the Dead Man’s Hand, giving it a thicker body and a unique flavor. All of this stems back to the Black Ace, and without that mainstay imperial stout we wouldn’t have our barrel aged stout or the barrel aged whiskey.

Next time you’re at Grand River Brewery, try a snifter of the Black Ace with any of our dessert items for a truly decadent experience. And while you’re there, you can even nominate your favorite beer to be featured on the blog! Just take a picture of the beer you’d like to see featured and post it to Instagram or Facebook. Make sure you tag Grand River Brewery and use the hashtag #GRBBlog. If you write a short review of the beer in your post, we might feature your words too! If we end up using a beer you nominated, we will credit you in the post and tag you on our social media promotions of the blog. And yes, you can do it with your favorite GRB meal, too!