Forbidden Root Fernetic

Intense bitterness? Doesn’t faze me. Coffee? I’ll take it black, please. 100 IBU double IPA? Sign me up. Shot of Malört? Gladly. It’s no wonder then that I’m also a fan of fernet, the bitter Italian amaro, also known as the “bartender’s handshake.” 

The best known brand over here is Fernet-Branca. It’s so well known that most people just think of it as the entire category. The recipe is a secret blend of 27 herbs and other ingredients, known only to the company’s president. The result is a complex spirit with an intensely bitter taste. If ever a spirit was meant to inspire a Forbidden Root beer, Fernet-Branca is it.

That’s why it was no surprise when the Chicago-based botanical-centered brewery announced Fernetic, a collaboration with Fernet-Branca. The resulting imperial black ale was flavored with 20 botanicals to invoke the amaro and it pulls the feat off spectacularly.

I don’t drink Fernet-Branca often, but Fernetic tastes exactly as I remember the spirit. An intense melange of botanicals, from rhubarb to mint to anise add bitterness and a touch of sweetness. Roasted malt forms a solid backbone that reminds you this is still a beer. Taking down a bomber by yourself is a feat and is best shared with others, but the stark difference in ABV (8.4% for the beer versus 39% for the spirit) means you can enjoy the Fernet flavor much longer in this form.

This is certainly not a beer for everyone, but those that appreciate Fernet will definitely be rewarded.

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