Before drinking this Twin Peaks–inspired beer with no fishy percolators, please take a moment to mentally queue up Julee Cruise’s “Falling.” Let the opening bass notes and swelling synth orchestration set the mood.
This should help prepare your palate for Short’s Brewing Company’s Black Yukon Sucker Punch, which was named after a mysterious cocktail with a dark base and blueish head from Season Two, Episode Five. Just like David Lynch’s network television masterpiece, this beer is complex and satisfying. A little weird, a little bold; but overall a well-constructed, dynamic piece of art.
Twin Peaks references are not uncommon in the coffee world; the phrase “damn fine coffee” may conjure images of both a spit-taking Kyle MacLachlan and Everyman Espresso. In this context, you’ll see those words used in reference to the incorporation of Higher Grounds coffee (a frequent Short’s collaborator and nearby roaster down the way in Traverse City, Michigan).
The show references don’t stop there; the label includes representations of three Short’s Brewing team members posing as Judge Clinton Sternwood, Agent Dale Cooper, and Sheriff Harry Truman (respectively), each holding a Black Yukon Sucker Punch (akin to how it showed up in the series originally) in the Black Lodge (the iconic netherworld of plush leather chairs, blood-red drapes, and zigzag-patterned floor). While that wasn’t the milieu in which the three characters imbibed, it was used as a clear signal to the show’s fans.
But why even a Twin Peaks theme? Head brewer Tony Hansen explains: “We do have some Twin Peaks super-fans at Short’s. When we heard that the series was coming back, we felt very inspired to create some Twin Peaks–themed beers. Black Yukon is one of three beers that we created. The others were Diane—a coffee porter—and Fire Walk With Me—a coffee porter with chilies. All of which had the common theme of using ‘damn fine coffee.’ ”
This imperial porter, brewed with coffee and blackberries, was barrel-aged in emptied Woodford Reserve whiskey barrels. The result is a dark, rich, thick-pouring beer. It’s definitely on the heartier side of the porter style; you’d be forgiven for mistaking it for a stout. The novelty of the drink doesn’t end at the label; the low-key but active head foams with a blueish tint. The blackberries were chosen specifically for the coloring, to bring the otherwise dark, opaque drink to something that could match the fictional cocktail (the precise recipe for which is never revealed in the show).
Fans of both beer and the television show will be pleasantly surprised that this bottle isn’t just a novel, nominal nod to a piece of popular culture. It’s a handsome beer and a bold, fruity ride. The blackberries hit your nose immediately, flooding the palate on the first sip. They’re not alone though; the rich, roasted malts and subtle coffee notes soon follow. The barrels come in toward the end with a kick of oak. The whole shebang is heavy on dark fruit; notes of berries, prunes, raisins, and dates are at play throughout the glass. The barrel notes are subtler; the tell-tale vanilla and caramel that often come from American whiskey barrels take a back seat to the blackberries and malt. The blend of fruit, wood, and alcohol culminate in a luxurious, fortified red wine flavor; this beer puts the “port” in porter. And at more than 10 precent ABV, you have to watch these; they sneak up on you.
It has so much going on, one could imagine stopping short, being good enough sans Higher Grounds’s contribution. Or with different fermentation as a sour beer. This is a bottled thought experiment. But it’s certainly a more complete whole with the additional roast and subtler fruit components from the coffee, which help stabilize the much more aggressive flavors of blackberries and wood. Every part plays nicely together; and let’s be honest, could a beer referencing Twin Peaks not include [damn fine] coffee?
This special beer isn’t in Short’s regular rotation. And as part of Short’s “Private Stache” series, it’s only released at the Short’s Brew Pub in Bellaire, Michigan. But for those looking to spend some time in the northern part of the mitten, Hansen says they are planning on making it again. The barrel-aging will take some time, so like the return of Twin Peaks itself, you may need to have a little patience.