Drinking the New French Broad Koko Stout–What It’s Like

You’re on a barstool in a place with low light and someone singing. The mahogany bar glows a little, softly, off-focus,  odd but lovely. Expansive windows reveal an Alpine landscape beyond–shouldering white peaks, blank, fearsome promontories, a mute and booming study in geologic improbabilities. What are these sounds? Well, there’s a fire crackling, for one thing, in a vast stone hearth, a few plush armchairs arrayed around, occupied by sippers, readers apparently, irregularly speaking in unsyllabled tones. In a corner, on a slightly raised platform, there’s a woman in a stunning white dress singing to you. Lots of lips on this one. Also leg. She is holding the microphone in a way that hooks some part of your mind and slinks away with it down paths unlit. When she blinks it’s nice and slow and you realize you may be an eyelid man. When she unblinks, you realize you’ve never properly appreciated the color green. The bartender–how long has he been there?–is drying a highball glass with a white towel. He has big meaty elbows, a $50 haircut and black clothes that fit. “Get you something?”

“A beer,” you say, like they do in the movies. Your voice sounds good in this place. Maybe you belong here. Around all these nice things, these talented people, this warm den in the middle of the relentless wild, held in luxury’s good hands…maybe this is where you belong.

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It’s a black beer he puts on the bar in front of you–an absorbing, opaque, maybe Satanic black. Two fingers of densely packed amber head keep the cold in. If you put it up to your ear, it’d sing to you too: a seduction in slow, concatenating erasure. It would sound like this: fizzzzzzzzzzzz, and would blow tiny kisses of cool air on your ear with each bubble’s sacrifice. I am not long for the world, it seems to say to you.

“What’s this?” you ask the bartender.

“Ask him,” he says, signaling someone sitting next to you. “He’s the brewer.”

“Peter Batinski,” says your neighbor by way of introduction. He’s wearing a hoodie over a pink shirt and a pair of pants that could fit three or four of him. His bike leans against a far wall. “That’s the French Broad Koko Stout,” he says. “Only the second time we’ve ever made it. We used more than a pound of Costa Rican cacao nibs per barrel. The gravity is 5.9 percent.”

“Anything else you wanna say about it?” you ask.

He thinks for a while, says, “It’s dark.”

You take a drink and your eyes close all by themselves. Then open.

You’re on a barstool in a place with low light and someone singing…