Final analysis: Cherry Caray Stout
Style: Fruit beer/Export Stout. Original gravity: 1080 + unknown fruit contribution. Final gravity: 1022. ABV: 9%?? (7.35% + fruit contribution).
Appearance: Pours a thick black out of the bottle, though one can clearly see ruby red highlights as it splashes against the glass. A red tinge is also visible in the head, though the head is very thin, leaving only a wisp of fizz swirling on top.
Smell: A tart cherry aroma dominates the nose. Combined with a hint of alcohol, it's almost wine-like, though in the background you can pick up a little malt sweetness and the roasty smell of mocha cappuccino.
Taste: The tart flavor of cherries hits your palate at first, though it quickly gives way to a chocolatey, roasty sweet stout flavor. There's very little burnt flavor from the malt; it's more of a dark chocolate taste. You get a little hop bitterness in the finish, but just enough to keep this beer from being cloying. The cherries come back in a big way in the finish. With all the flavors, the alcohol presence gets pushed to the back, but after a couple sips you realize it's there. Overall, I think the tartness of the cherries keeps the beer from being too sweet despite the minimal hop and roasted grain contributions.
Mouthfeel: The beer is undercarbonated, and while this was partly by design, I suspect it may also be due in part to inadequate mixing of the bottling sugar (I guess we'll find out if one bottle ends up being a gusher!). The lack of carbonation gives it a thick quality that makes this a sipper and complements its full flavors.
Drinkability: The flavors, thickness and alcohol content should all render this low on the drinkability scale, but given all these factors I still find you can drink a pint relatively effortlessly. Nonetheless, I would still prefer this in a wine glass, likely with dessert (or for dessert!).
Overall, I'm very happy with this beer. I'll be curious to see how this ages, but it'll be tough for me to keep my hands off the bottles that long. I know I described it as "wine-like" a couple different times, but the tartness really gives it a red wine-like finish in your mouth despite the fact that it's not really dry. My initial thought after racking to the secondary was that it needed more of a roasted barley contribution, but I'm not so sure I want to mess with it at this point. This is definitely something I'd like to brew again... just with a tad more carbonation.