Beer Review: Negative Space Variants
11 Below’s Negative Space has become one of the most popular stouts in Houston. This seasonal fall release is an Imperial Milk Stout aged on cacao nibs, ancho chilies and cinnamon. It shouldn’t be too hard to find in cans within the Houston area and can also be found on-tap.
11 Below threw an excellent release party for Negative Space this past Saturday that featured seven additional variants of the brew. Two of the variants were cask releases, which included the only one I didn’t get to try, Chocolate Tres Leches. I’m sure it was at a minimum really good as the six others are all recommendable. The second cask, Pumpkin Pie, was solid and the type of pumpkin ale I like; a big dark stout with a restrained spice profile. I’m glad they didn’t overwhelm the base beer with too much “pumpkin” and allowed the sweet, chocolatey malt to still be the star of the show.
The remaining five versions were on-tap. My favorite was Java featuring Java Pura Coffee. I love big stouts with plenty of coffee flavor, and this one definitely fit the bill. The chocolate flavors from the base beer pair wonderfully with the assertive coffee to create one of the better coffee flavored beers I‘ve had in awhile. Peanut Butter Cup, a peanut butter and cacao variant, has a rich, lush chocolate flavor, but only a hint of peanut butter. I would love to see them try this brew again and crank up the peanut butter a few notches, but was still very happy with the overall beer. Thin Mint, made using fresh mint and cacao, didn’t quite nail the flavor of a Thin Mint cookie, but packed a wallop of mint flavor. It took me a few minutes to come around on this one, as the mint seemed to overwhelm my taste buds at first, but I ended up really enjoying it. The dark malt and chocolate flavors seemed to come out more and balance out the mint.
The Orange Vanilla version tasted very similar to those orange flavored chocolates that people tend to get around Christmas time. The orange flavor is strong, but it works well and there’s enough sweet chocolate malt to keep things from going off the rails. The vanilla provides a pleasant sweetness that helps tie things together, but it’s fairly restrained and avoids being cloying. The final variant, Coconut, Vanilla, and Cacao was my second favorite of the bunch. None of the added elements took over the brew, which allowed for a nice complexity and provided room for all of the different flavors to shine. I would love to see 11 Below do wider releases of some of these variants similar to the Temptress series By Lakewood Brewing Co (out of Garland, TX), as these are tasty enough to warrant an expanded Negative Space series. I’m not sure if 11 Below will make additional kegs of any of these available, but if you happen to see one of these on-tap, I’d try them quickly before they’re gone.
Quote from Peter on his favorite variant from the Negative Space Release:
“I tried tasters of all of the variants, except for the Tres Leches. Overall, I thought all of the variants very well executed. My favorite was either the coconut and vanilla, or the pumpkin pie, although the coffee was very good. If you like sweet coconut stouts, this is the model version, very well balanced and appropriately sweet. As for the pumpkin pie cask, I was pretty shocked that I enjoyed it as much as I did. The pumpkin was definitely present, but it was not overpowering like many of the competitors’ pumpkin stouts. I really enjoyed that it was more than just pumpkin spices, although that was due to the cask, making it hard to recreate for can production/release. I really wish these variants were available throughout the year in cans!”