Pouring from a 22oz bomber, the Garage Brewing Cherry Top Belgian Stout unveils a deep black hue in the glass, complemented by subtle red highlights. The modest cola-like foam provides a touch of effervescence. While visually intriguing, it sets the stage for a beer that promises a departure from the ordinary.

Aroma: Bourbon-Barrel Boldness Takes Center Stage

The beer opens with an assertive yet inviting aroma dominated by the bourbon barrel treatment. Dark alcohol and vanilla notes waft through the air, setting expectations for a rich and bold flavor profile. It’s a sensory introduction that captures attention but remains invitingly soft.

Taste: A Symphony of Surprises on the Palate

Contrary to expectations, the Cherry Top Belgian Stout delivers a flavor profile that defies convention. Dark cherry notes intertwine with an unexpected surge of acidity, creating a dynamic interplay. The marriage of citric acid, barrel tannins, and dark fruits such as black cherry and blackberry imparts a Cabernet Sauvignon-like character. The beer leans towards the realm of oud bruin, a Flemish-style dark sour, showcasing a surprising lightness and high attenuation that contributes to its vinous theme. Notably, the listed vanilla adjunct is more perceptible in the aroma than in the flavor, a fortunate circumstance given its potential clash with the current medley of flavors.

Mouthfeel: An Elegant Dance of Lightness

Despite its bold recipe and formidable 9.2% ABV, the Cherry Top Belgian Stout offers a remarkably light-bodied experience. The vinous theme is sustained, providing an elegant and unexpected dimension to the overall drinking experience. The beer’s high attenuation and acidic notes contribute to a body that defies its alcoholic strength.

Overall: A Puzzling Elegance and Shared Enjoyment

Cherry Top emerges as a unique and sophisticated creation in Garage Brewing’s lineup. Its surprising vinous character and oud bruin affinity elevate it beyond the expectations set by its label. Sharing this beer with a group becomes an engaging experience, as the aroma and flavor diverge, leaving imbibers in delightful disbelief. Sampled among a regular tasting crowd, Cherry Top was unanimously puzzling yet thoroughly enjoyed, making it a standout in the brewery’s offerings.

Comparisons: A Niche Amongst Peers

Drawing comparisons to other available options, Jolly Pumpkin’s Madrugada Obscura stands out as a roastier and more acidic alternative. However, Cherry Top gains an edge with its balance and the enticing bourbon barrel aroma. While Bell’s Cherry Stout may seem an obvious parallel, it distinguishes itself as more stout-centric, with a less pronounced dark sour ale character. The lower ABV and 6-pack format also position it as a regular drinking beer rather than a special occasion indulgence.

In conclusion, Garage Brewing’s Cherry Top Belgian Stout is a daring exploration into unexpected flavor territories, making it a noteworthy addition for those seeking a distinctive and enjoyable beer. Distributed across LA and San Diego, this brew beckons enthusiasts to explore its nuances either through retail or the brewery’s own Temecula-based pub and pizzeria.