Four Bullets' Black Jack Brown Is Kind Of A Bust.
Welcome to On Tap! Each week in this recurring feature, we'll take an in-depth look at one of the many beers now available in the suddenly crowded North Texas brew scene. The goal here is to look at these area beers without our local goggles on and to wonder aloud, “Is this beer good or do I just like it because it's local?” Should be a fun experiment, no? Cheers to that!
This week, we sipped on Four Bullets Brewery's Black Jack Brown.
Fast Facts on Four Bullets Black Jack Brown.
Style: British Brown Ale.
ABV: 5.5 percent.
International Bitterness Units (IBUs): N/A.
Color: Reddish brown.
Four Bullets hails from Richardson and specializes in pub-style ales. Its website lets you know right off the bat that Four Bullets is the “first and only brewery in Richardson.” Good to know.
The main thing that sets Four Bullets apart from other Dallas-Fort Worth area breweries (Editor's note: being from Richardson isn't enough?) is its focus on low-carbonated, British-style ales.
Have you ever had a beer from a firkin or a cask? This is sort of like what Four Bullets' beers are like. They are smooth, but under-carbonated. But, unlike beer from a firkin, there's a noticeable lack of foamy head present. Is this a problem? While I respect the style of real ale and British pub-style beer, the low carbonation is sort of a bummer.
OK, mostly a bummer.
Background on Brown Ale.
British brown ales are losing popularity lately. For a primer on brown ale, check out our review of Grapevine Brewing's Sir Williams Brown Ale. According to BJCP Style Guidelines, British Brown Ale is known to be a cousin to the porter style, with a malty, caramel-centric focus, but a less roasty flavor. British brown ales are also light-to-medium in body, with quite a bit of latitude in the carbonation range.
Black Jack Brown pours quite clear for a dark beer. This is a noticeable trait of some brown ales. Upon pour (and quite appropriate for its “pub” style), this beer arrives with a scant head. Overall, this beer is very nice-looking.
A first whiff of Black Jack Brown reveals a caramel note. Behind that is a faint raisin character that lingers in my nostrils. I also pick up a strong sense of roastiness that's almost akin to a porter. This is an overall pleasant aroma, and it's on target for its style.
Black Jack Brown's flavor rings true to style, too. Lots of dark malt floods the palate, followed by raisins and a lingering roast flavor. Beyond the nice parts of the flavor, there is a tiny sense of some sort of medicinal situation going on, which is unfortunate. But, OK, let's get back to the good parts and just focus on the first few traits of this beer, and maybe not so much on the American-style carbonation that I was yearning for.
Four Bullets is right on target with parts of the mouthfeel with this beer. There is tons of flavor, along with a dry, roasty and raisin-y finish. The tiny bite of carbonation present plays nicely with the flavors in the beer and accentuates what's there. I understand that Black Jack caters to the under-served pub-style beer but, American snobbery aside, they still get dinged a few points for lacking the carbonation that most beer drinkers here in the States expect. Sorry, that's just how it is. On the upside: Less burps, maybe?
I understand what Four Bullets is going for with the British pub-ale style, but the low-carbonation style feels like a mistake. I have now tried two different Four Bullets Brewery beers at two different bars, and both beer orders came with a rebuttal/caveat from the bartender about the carbonation. It seems like most beer drinkers expect a certain level of carbonation, and that they may be sending their Four Bullets beers back due to this perceived problem. Why else would a bartender offer fair warning? Just know, I suppose, that if you visit a bar and order a Four Bullets Brewery beer, it's not cool to send it back. It's supposed to be served that way.
On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd give Four Bullets Brewery Black Jack Brown a 4.5.
What's happening in the area brew scene? (Powered by Dallas Brew Scene.)
• Thursday, September 10. Brew Ha Ha Comedy Series at Community Beer Company.
• Friday, September 11. Martin House Party (featuring a meet and greet with head brewer Cody Martin) at Noble Rey Brewing Company.
• Saturday, September 12. Dallas Observer Brewfest at Dallas Farmers Market.
• Thursday, September 17-20. Addison Oktoberfest at Addison Circle Park.
• Thursday, September 24-26. Fort Worth Oktoberfest at Panther Island Pavilion.
• Saturday, September 26. Pegasus Music & Craft Beer Festival at Verizon Theatre.
• Saturday, October 3-4. Texas Beer Camp at Long Road Farm.
• Saturday, November 7. Untapped Dallas at Fair Park.
• Friday, November 13. 2nd Annual Brewer's Ball at Renaissance Dallas Hotel.
Previous On Tap Reviews:
• Peticolas' Royal Scandal: 10.
• Community's Mosaic IPA: 10.
• Peticolas' Velvet Hammer: 10.
• Community's Barrel-Aged Legion: 10.
• Community's Legion: 10.
• Lakewood's Saint Dymphna: 9.5.
• Peticolas' Lost Epic: 9.5.
• Community's Ascension Porter: 9.5.
• Lakewood's Temptress: 9.5.
• Lakewood's Goatman: 9.5.
• Community's Public Ale: 9.5.
• Peticolas' Thrilla in Brazilla: 9.5.
• Revolver's Blood & Honey: 9.
• Martin House's Imperial Texan: 9.
• Community's Trinity Tripel: 9.
• Peticolas' Irish Goodbye: 9.
• Four Corners' Block Party Porter: 9.
• Cedar Creek's Belgian Dubbel: 9.
• Deep Ellum's Easy Peasy IPA: 8.5.
• Deep Ellum's Oak Cliff Coffee Ale: 8.5.
• Lakewood's Rock Ryder: 8.5.
• Rahr's Bourbon Barrel Aged Winter Warmer: 8.5.
• Lakewood's Raspberry Temptress: 8.5.
• Noble Rey's SteamPunk: 8.
• 903 Brewers' Citra On Top: 8.
• Bitter Sisters' Hissy Fit: 8.
• BrainDead's Gritz: 8.
• Community's Barrel-Aged Inspiration : 8.
• Cedar Creek's Fisticuffs: 8.
• Lakewood's Punkel: 8.
• Four Corners' El Chingon IPA: 8.
• Martin House's Day Break: 8.
• Deep Ellum's GOURDzilla: 8.
• Peticolas' The Duke (Aged 12 Months): 8.
• Deep Ellum's Pale Ale: 8.
• Revolver's Bock: 8.
• 903 Brewers' Sasquatch: 8.
• Peticolas' Wintervention: 8.
• Armadillo Ale Works' Brunch Money: 8.
• Martin House's Salsa Verde: 8.
• Cedar Creek's Spinning Mule Robust Porter: 8.
• Lakewood's Holiday Bonus: 8.
• Lakewood's Hop Trapp: 8.
• Lakewood's Hopochondria: 7.5.
• Martin House's Rubberneck Red: 7.5.
• Lakewood's Antigoon's Revenge: 7.5.
• Community's Texas Pils: 7.5.
• Lakewood's Zomer Pils: 7.5.
• Cedar Creek's Dankosaurus: 7.5.
• Shannon's Chocolate Stout: 7.
• BrainDead's Red Ale: 7.
• Community's Razzy Raspberry Witbier: 7.
• Martin House's Gateway Blonde Ale: 7.
• Bearded Eel's Purple Unicorn: 7.
• Shannon Brewing Company's Irish Red: 7.
• Texas Ale Project's Somethin' Shady: 7.
• Deep Ellum IPA: 7.
• Cedar Creek's The Lawn Ranger: 7.
• Martin House Brewing Company's Cellarman's Reserve IPA (Amarillo).: 7.
• Lakewood's Till & Toil: 7.
• 903 Brewers' The Chosen One: 7.
• 903 Brewers' Sugar On Top: 7.
• Martin House's Gateway XPA: 7.
• Armadillo Ale Work's Quakertown Stout: 7.
• Revolver's High Brass: 7.
• Community's Pale Ale: 7.
• Martin House's River House: 7.
• Grapevine Craft Brewery's Sir William's Brown Ale: 7.
• Community's Funnel Cake Ale: 7.
• Audacity's Boss Raptor IPA: 7.
• Collective Brewing Project's Mom Azacca: 6.5.
• Revolver's Ironhead IPA: 6.5.
• 903 Brewers' Trot Line: 6.5.
• Peticolas' Operation Collaboration: 6.5.
• Grapevine Craft Brewery's Nightwatch: 6.5.
• Peticolas' The Duke: 6.5.
• Deep Ellum's Double Brown Stout : 6.5.
• Tupps' Cotton Mill Gold: 6.
• Rabbit Hole's Tweedleyum: 6.
• Rabbit Hole's Off With Your Red: 6.
• Cedar Creek's Elliott's Phoned Home Pale Ale: 6
• Grapevine Craft Brewery's Lakefire: 6
• Armadillo Ale Works' WunderMelon: 6
• Deep Ellum Pale Ale: 6
• Lakewood's La Dame Du Lac: 5.5.
• Deep Ellum's Numb Comfort: 5.
• Four Corners Heart O' Texas: 4.
• Audacity's Sunset Boulevard: 4.
• Shannon Brewing Company's IPA: 4.
• Grapevine's Monarch: 4.
• Franconia Wheat: 3.
• Miller Lite: 1.