SanTan Sex Panther: 60 Percent of the Time, It's Good Every Time
I don't know how no other brewery snatched up the name "Sex Panther" before SanTan did, but I'm ecstatic they all missed out, because now I get to pepper this review with Anchorman quotes. Thank you, other breweries' name-creation guys. Next time we hang out, I'm taking you to Pleasure Town.
Sex Panther debuted on draft at SanTan's Chandler brewpub in early 2011 as a chocolate barleywine -- a unique style in the beer world. Reception was mixed, and it only worked 45 percent of the time, every time, as opposed to the preferred 60 percent, so in 2012 brewers switched the style to "double chocolate porter." The current recipe contains Colonial Rosewood Cocoa, white wheat, heaping helpings of chocolate malt and bits of real panther, so you know it's good.
In a pint glass, the brew's dusky as a chunk of dark chocolate but gives up lighter amber hues at the edges. Stick your nose close, if you dare. It's a formidable scent, and stings the nostrils with surprisingly tangy notes of raisins, figs, red wine and Dr. Pepper. Hints of toasted sourdough bread can also be picked out amid a background of coffee, cocoa and peanut skins.
The front of the flavor is similar to the front of the nose: prunes, figs, grape skins, a hint of vanilla. But it isn't until the swallow that this kitty really starts purring. Huge notes of dark chocolate, espresso, truffle, molasses and cocoa powder meld in mild sweetness before a looooong roast cacao finish. Summit hops provide some floral bitterness (20 IBUs), but most of the astringency comes from heavily roasted malts.When it all comes together, its almost like a dark-chocolate covered fig. The alcohol content -- a saucy 6.9 percent -- is nowhere to be found.
My only complaint? The body's a little thin, and the watery mouthfeel doesn't gel with Sex Panther's chewy, roasty flavors. Maybe Santan will put the beer on nitro to remedy this.
Sex Panther is the second player in SanTan's canned seasonal series, which began in November with RailSlide. The cans, designed by local Michal Mason, went on sale Jan. 7. Pick your cans up on shelves across the Valley -- Sex Panther may be illegal in nine countries, but not here.
Zach Fowle is a Certified Cicerone, an accredited guide to beer. He works at World of Beer in Tempe.