A Review of JailHouse Brewing Company’s Midnight Special India-Style Black Ale

My husband Bill and I discovered the delicious craft beers coming from JailHouse Brewing Company last summer when we ventured to Hampton, Ga., took a tour of the brand new brewery and met the company’s friendly owner and founder, Glenn Golden. JailHouse Brewing Company has only been in business since the fall of 2009, but the small brewery is already making some big waves in the Atlanta area. Its three main beers, Mugshot India Pale Ale, Slammer Wheat and Breakout Stout, are being sold in bars and bottles in and around Atlanta, much to the delight of area beer lovers.

Bill and I have to move to North Carolina this week, which means our supply of JailHouse beers will be depleted soon. We’re both sad that we’ll soon be missing the delightfully complex and tasty beers put out by this up-and-coming brewing company. To drown our sorrows a bit, we stopped by Peachtree City World of Beverage yesterday and picked up a few bottles of JailHouse Brewing Company’s Midnight Special India-Style Black Ale. JailHouse Brewing Company made just 94 cases of this brew, so I feel pretty privileged to have a few bottles of it.

The guy who sold us the beer was very enthusiastic about it and the brewery it came from, proudly letting us know that his store was among the very first to embrace JailHouse beers. He also told us the Midnight Special brew packs a powerful wallop with an alcohol content of 10 percent by volume. This beer’s powerful kick and limited edition status is also reflected in its price. JailHouse Brewing Company’s regular beers retail for $4.99 per 22 ounce bottle. Midnight Special is selling for $9.99.

Having tasted this beer twice, I think the higher price is warranted. Midnight Special is a delightfully complex and satisfying beer, perfect for those who like dark beers with a lot of character. I’ve heard this beer got its name from the popular Creedence Clearwater Revival song, “Midnight Special,” which is basically about a guy in jail who hopes the Midnight Special train will shine its ever-loving light on him. The reference to the song is reflected in the artwork on the label, which depicts a prisoner in stripes facing a train with a glowing headlight.

The pour

I pulled a bottle of Midnight Special out of my refrigerator and pulled off the cap, then poured it into an official JailHouse Brewing Company glass, which I acquired on the tour I took of the facility last summer. This beer pours out solid black and beautiful. A lovely, thick, brown head appeared and left filmy remnants on the edges of the glass as I took my first sip.

The nose

This ale is a marriage of India Pale Ale and Stout. Placing the glass to my nose, I inhaled deeply and detected the aroma of rich, roasted grain and hops. I picked up elements of roasted coffee, chocolate and toffee. There’s just a hint of cinnamon.

The taste

My first taste of this beer reminded me of a dark, bittersweet chocolate shake. The flavor is balanced and complex, and if I let it linger on my tongue, I pick up chocolate, toffee and a very faint element of mint.

The texture

This beer’s texture is smooth as silk and very rich and satisfying. This is a beer that would go down best on a cool day when the weather invites you to consume something substantial. This beer is heavy and very potent, meant to be sipped and savored. It definitely shouldn’t be guzzled as a thirst quencher. As I enjoy this brew on a cold, rainy Sunday afternoon in late March, I’m thinking it would be even better on a cold day in winter. As the weather seasonally warms up in the Atlanta area, I don’t know that the Midnight Special will be quite as enchanting. I’m actually really glad we had a temporary cool down this weekend so I could enjoy this black ale to the fullest.

Overall

Even though the weather is about to get very warm in Atlanta and most everywhere else in the northern hemisphere, I will probably pick up a few more bottles of the Midnight Special India-Style Black Ale to take with me to North Carolina. I have a feeling this beer will be very welcome in the winter when the weather cools down again. It’s absolutely delicious.

As much as I hated to leave Germany, which is where we lived before we moved to Georgia and is pretty much beer heaven as far as I’m concerned, I’m also kind of sad to leave Georgia, which has turned out to be almost as beer heavenly. I have a feeling that Glenn Golden and his burgeoning beer company are going places and I feel very privileged to have been here to see his beers at their beginnings. As for the Midnight Special, I give it five stars out of five. As John Fogerty sings, “Let the Midnight Special shine a light on me.” I definitely share that sentiment when I enjoy this limited edition offering from JailHouse Brewing Company.

For more information: www.jailhousebrewing.com