Review: Forbidden Root Heavy Petal

In Beer Reviews by Karl

The Forbidden Root Heavy Petal is their first new brew in a while. Does it live up to expectations?


This last week or two has kinda been Heavy Petal week — Paste Magazine, Chicagoist and the Reader have all recently weighed in on the new beer from Forbidden Root. (We’re obviously not above jumping on a bandwagon, even if it’s a little late.)

Forbidden Root is an interesting beast in the landscape of Chicago breweries at the moment. They “debuted” (if that’s what one could call it) in a terrifically mysterious manner — with Phil Montoro tracking them down at the Oak Park Microbrew Review in 2013 at just their second public appearance.

With big praise for their exotic, botanical-style beers and no other promise of being able to get our hands on them any time soon, the bar of expectations was set very high. A few stories followed thereafter about neighborhood battles over their proposed brewery and taproom, and…now we’re in a bit of a holding pattern as construction proceeds.

At this point, their beers like Sublime Ginger, the Forbidden Root alcoholic root beer and Shady Character porter have all become part of the landscape (and if anyone had a position to take on brand overlap, I wouldn’t be too thrilled at Buckledown that people like me are getting this a bit mixed up with their Shady Aftermath porter). They’re reliably fine, but in a “what have you done for me lately” beer world, the shine is a bit off.

Perhaps that’s what prompted the push about Petal.

The Heavy Petal is the first new offering we’ve seen from Forbidden Root in some time, part of the “Divine Mud” Cacao series that will focus on chocolate and beer, leading off with this brew chocked full of west African chocolate, along with pecans and magnolia flowers. We’re used to seeing a certain variety of weird ingredients in our beers, and certainly we’ve described hop aromas as “floral”, but this is the first beer I can remember in a while that’s as straightforward flowery as this, especially for a beer as dark and hefty as this one.

It’s a conflict I can get behind — it’s an imperial stout in a big ol’ 750ml bottle that clocks in at 9.2% ABV. All signs point to a stereotypically aggressive, masculine beer…and then we see that subverted by the beer equivalent of a bouquet tossed into a crowd at a wedding. It’s got flowers, yeah, but if if you’ve ever seen how some women fight for those flowers, you know there ain’t much “nice” about it.

The aroma is delicately nutty but also vaguely fruity, with raisin and maybe apricot paste popping in. Let it warm, though, and you get big rich hefty cocoa and dense chocolate syrup, like melting a Vosges bar down. The body is syrupy, almost oily in its slickness with perhaps little bit of sediment to it as well.

Of note: do NOT drink this beer straight out of the fridge. You do yourself a major disservice pouring at 38; your patience for 50ish degrees will be rewarded. The nuttiness in the flavor is not at the level I was expecting, but perhaps the pecan profile from lighter beers like Lazy Magnolia’s pecan offering were more of what I was thinking of.

I will ill say I do love the chocolate in this one – it’s a dusty sort of unique tropical flavor, up front and forward, more cacao than candy. That said, would you be forgiven for calling this a Snickers bar near to a floral arrangement?  Probably, yeah.

The finish is probably the most fun of this one – it drops into a very dry territory and just when you think it might hit astringent, it elevates out with a gush of sweetness and herbaceous floral citrus, maybe with some pith or rind to it as well.  Good times.

Good but not quite great, this is fun to share around but doesn’t quite have me craving it or rushing back to it again. It does have me intrigued to see what else this chocolate-focused series will come up with, though.

Promise is certainly here, but it’s awaiting a payoff.

Disclosure: This beer was provided gratis by the brewer. Guys Drinking Beer does not solicit beers for review — we’re happy to pay our own way  — but if offered, we will occasionally accept if we find it of interest to our audience. 

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About the Author


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Karl has written about food, travel and beer for Chicago Magazine, Draft Magazine, Thrillist, Time Out Chicago and more. His book, Beer Lovers Chicago, comes out in early 2017, and if you're buying, he's likely having a porter or a pale ale.