The more you drink craft beer, the more you realize that certain breweries do certain things really well: their “core competencies” (for all you business types out there). Maybe it’s beer styles of a specific country (Goose Island); maybe it’s crafting traditional classics (Great Lakes); or maybe it’s just dreaming up elaborate and creative brews (Rogue, Dogfish Head). Really, there could be a much larger discussion regarding specific breweries and their strengths/weaknesses, but that’s probably best left for another time. The point I’m getting to here is this: when you’re in the mood for some powerful stuff, look no further than Three Floyds.

Even just the names of their beers conjure up images of power: Dreadnaught, Behemoth, Dark Lord … Arctic Panzer Wolf?! I don’t know who’s coming up with them, but they’re perfect. And what I do know is, if you pick up a Three Floyds brew of ABV 8.0% or above (and there are quite a few), you’re in for a treat.

Enter Blackheart, Three Floyds’ salute to the Brits. This “English Style IPA” uses all English ingredients and is aged on toasted oak to give it even more of a “just shipped from England to India” taste. At 8.0% ABV exactly, I suppose it’s right at the low end of my strong beer continuum. But it qualifies … and rightly so, because it’s delicious. Sweet, almost sticky malts combine with a subtle hop aroma as you pour (I didn’t catch any oak, but I was unaware of the aging process before drinking). My guess is it’s not dry-hopped very heavily; the smell has a mead-like, honey quality to it. Balance returns, however, as you sip…the 70 IBUS of grassy English hops blending perfectly with the honey sweetness, which is magnified a bit more by the alcohol and lingers long after you put your glass down. It’s thick, syrupy, and boasts a small layer of froth despite its low carbonation…a welcome diversion from the thinner body and crisp bitterness of many American IPAs. Smooth and mellow aren’t your usual adjectives for this style, but here they’re right at home, most likely because of the oak-aging. Trust me, though; mellow or not, it’ll go to your head all too quickly on an empty stomach, especially if you try to tackle a bomber alone.

My hesitation to give Blackheart a firm “A” has to do with the fact that it’s a May release beer…and I drank it in January. Yes, it’s my fault for keeping the bottle on the shelf so long, but I’ll have to revisit the brew in a few months when it’s fresh to really get a sense of its character. But something tells me it won’t disappoint…