Avery – Mephistopheles’ Stout

avery.jpgWhoa! I guarantee that’s the first thing you’ll say if you try this beer. It’s an unapologetically gigantic American Style Imperial Stout which boasts tons of flavor and a huge malt profile – dense, with a choco-fruity character and a freakish 16% abv. Yea, it’s all that. I’ve tried some ‘Imperial’ stouts recently that really weren’t all they’re cracked up to be (cough, Fort Collins) and are essentially overblown one-dimensional efforts. The Mephistopheles, while it may be overly ambitious, is actually really interesting. It entertained me, to be honest. I felt like every sip revealed something new – and more subtle – about the flavor. It starts with a dominant sweetness, with a nod toward molasses, brown sugar, toffee and fruit. Oh, and alcohol. Did I mention that this was a 16 percent beer? I think I did, but I just drank a 16 percent beer so I can’t remember. The carbonation is relatively low, but that’s ok because you’ll never miss it with everything else that’s going on. The mouthfeel is where this beer is really a standout. It’s smooth, creamy and as thick as if it had come off a nitro tap. Very impressive for a beer straight out of a bottle. As it warms, the sweetness gives way to a more roasted texture with a nut-flavored coffee aftertaste – pleasant. If there is one downfall to the brew is that you probably shouldn’t have more than one. It’s not exactly a beer you can burn through and crack open another. In fact, mine took a solid 45 minutes to finish, so carve out some time on your schedule for this one. Overall, however, this beer is great. Sure, you can point to the overpowering flavors, abv, boldness, or whatever to pick it apart, but c’mon, beers like this are fun. It’s not for the faint of heart and you’ll probably need to be a true stout lover to really ‘get it’ , but if you fall into that category you owe it to yourself to give it a try. Another great effort from Avery.

Cheers, ~G

4_25.png score 4.25


Fort Collins Brewery – Double Chocolate Stout

fcdcs.jpegI love a Chocolate Stout, so a Double Chocolate Stout sounds absolutely, doubly delicious to me. I recently reviewed the Fort Collins ‘regular’ Chocolate Stout and was really excited to try the Imperial version of the brew. If you read the “That’s a lot of stout, man” post, you’ll remember that we thought the regular version was a little thin in body and the ‘chocolate’ was really more like a hint, at best. Maybe the Imperial version would be that rich and chocolaty brew that we were hoping for the first time around – or maybe not. The pour was promising, with a thick caramel head bubbling up to about three fingers and slowly fading to a small, but deliberate quarter inch. On the nose there was a little less umph than I anticipated, but coffee notes dominated and there was a hint of earthy malt and a touch of sweetness. The first taste, however, was like being hit with a stiff coffee uppercut. Bitter, oily coffee was almost all that I tasted from start to finish, with very little else to speak of. There was a hint of alcohol, but not an overpowering amount, while the most notable exemption from the overall flavor was, um, chocolate. I thought that was the point. Maybe it’s just me, but if the name of your beer has the words ‘double’ and ‘chocolate’ in it, there should be at least a hint of some incarnation of chocolate in there somewhere, right? Basically, if the name were Double Coffee Stout it would be perfect, because that’s what it is. If you’re a fan of dark, espresso-like coffee stouts then definitely pick up this beer – you’ll love it. However, if you’re expecting something inline with a Young’s or Brooklyn Brewery double chocolate stout, don’t even bother. Overall, this beer is strikingly one-dimensional and honestly, a bit of a disappointment. Proceed with caution, and maybe a quart half and half… Cheers, ~G

3_25.png score 3.25

That’s a lot of Stout, man (part deux)

In case you missed it, this is a little series about a recent ‘Stout Night’ I shared with my buddy, Jim. We tried 11 brews in all and my / our thoughts are summarized here in this two part review. If you missed part one, scroll down a bit to read it. So without further adieu, here’s part two.

lh_ms.jpgThe saga continues with the Left Hand – Milk Stout. OK, now were rockin’. The pour was deep and black, with a rich and creamy head. On the nose was a healthy dose of chocolate malt and coffee. Since this is a Milk Stout, there was a distinct sweetness to the nose as well – a nice touch. The flavor was excellent. It had most of the creaminess and roasted malt of ‘bigger’ stouts in the Imperial variety, but the general feel of the ber was still in the medium category. This is a highly drinkable, very enjoyable stout. I’m a fan.

Next up, Lion Stout. I’m a little biased on this one because I came into this tasting knowing that I love this stout already, and shocker, it held up like a champ. Even after the sweetness of the Milk Stout, the Lion’s flavor just seemed right. From the pour, to the head, the nose and flavor all are so consistent and refined that it’s hard to find an objective part of the beer to critique. If I were going to make a stout as my signature brew I would certainly try and model it after the Lion. Plus, it’s from Sri Lanka, which is just kinda cool. All those medals proudly displayed on the label tell you all you need to know.

40412.jpgWe had a whole mess ‘o chocolate stouts to dive into, so we settled on the Fort Collins Chocolate Stout to kick us off. The nose was certainly chocolaty, but there were substantial notes of smoke and coffee in there as well. It ‘seemed’ like this was going to be a huge tasting beer. It wasn’t huge, in fact, I’d say it was kind of light. There was a medium-high carbonation, but that was ok, as it balanced the dominant smokey overtones nicely. My main critique would be the mouthfeel being a little on the light side. Although some may point to that quality as a plus, for me, the style needs to be a little on the heaver side. Overall, pleasant, but I’d like to taste a little more chocolate and have a little more body.

roguechocolatestout.jpgWe didn’t spend too much time dwelling on the lightness of the Fort Collins because there was a huge bottle of the Rogue Chocolate Stout staring us in the face. Let me say that I really like Rogue beers. They have some of my all-time favorites, so I was excited to try the Stout. Whoa, the nose on this one was certainly different. Along with all the usual suspects in a Chocolate Stout, there was a pronounced hoppy thing going on in there. The Chocolate was jumping right out of the glass, but eventually faded back into the pack as the beer warmed. The flavor was dark chocolate and cocoa, almost like there was some Hershey’s syrup in there. In fact, I think they must have added some kind of adjunct because the mocha texture was not a typical roasted malt style, but more of a beer float. The most unique characteristic about this stout was it’s bitterness. Unlike anything else we tried, this Stout was actually bitter, and I’m not sure I loved that aspect of the flavor. My guess is that they’re trying to balance all that syrupy sweetness with something bitter, but personally, I think the bitterness and the sweetness are too far away on the tongue to be complimentary. It was just kind of awkward. Overall though, I enjoyed the bold chocolate flavor and it was a nice departure from the coffee side of the spectrum.

double_chocolate_stout.jpgDid someone say chocolate? Oh yea, I did. As if there wasn’t enough chocolate going around, next up was the Young’s- Double Chocolate Stout. Double chocolate, huh? Is this an Imperial Chocolate then? Maybe a doppelchoc? OK, now I’m just entertaining myself. Back to the beer. From the first sip I was really into this beer. It was creamy and the carbonation was perfectly suited for the smooth mouthfeel. The chocolate seemed a little more refined – like a fine European dark – and made the beer lean a little more toward the cappuccino side of the spectrum. Also, although it wasn’t *twice* as chocolaty as the other brews, it was super silky and smooth. Highly drinkable.

brooklyn_stout.jpgAre we really at the last beer? Looks like it, and this one’s gonna be good. I know this because next up is the Brooklyn Beer – Black Chocolate Stout. We tried some of my favorite beers in this tasting – some (like the Lion) are a staple for me and are all-around excellent beers. That said, the Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout is, in my opinion, the best stout I’ve ever had. To me, this beer is in a class all by itself. Partly because it’s a 10.9 abv beer, which opens up a whole new category of Imperial style brews, but mostly because this beer, regardless of the alcohol content, is simply extremely well crafted. It has all the roasted malt goodness that you’d want in a stout, a perfectly blended chocolate sweetness, finished with a dry heat which rounds out the beer perfectly. Russian Imperials can sometimes overwhelm me towards the end of the glass, but this beer, being slightly lighter in feel than some others, is perhaps the most drinkable and enjoyable all the way through. If you get a chance to try one, do it, you wont be disappointed.

Wow, that was fun! I had a great time tasting all of these beers and having them back-to-back gave me a chance to really compare the differences in a way I’ve not done before. I hope you got something out of it, too. I’d love to hear some comments and thoughts about beers that didn’t make it into this tasting and maybe give me some suggestions on beers you think I might enjoy. Until then, Cheers! ~G

That’s a lot of Stout, man… (part one)

I think it might be time for me to admit that I have a small obsession with stouts these days. I can’t stop, people. I need them, and they need me. Stouts…you complete me. Actually, they’re making me fat, but I don’t care – I can buy bigger clothes.

So, here’s the concept. My buddy Jim and I decided that since there is so much stout goodness out there, a ‘Stout Night’ was in order. Sounds delicious, right? So over the next few days I hopped around from store to store, cobbling together the beers which would make it into the session. Quick side note, I hate calling a night of beer drinking a ‘session.’ I don’t know why I capitulate to that description cause it sounds kinda nerdy. Ironically, using the word capitulate when I could have just said give-in is also nerdy. I’m screwed on this one, I think. At any rate, I finally made the final selections and the night was set – this was going to be fun. Here’s the lineup: Harviestoun – Old Engine Oil, Bridgeport – Stout, Highland Brewing – Black Mocha Stout, Oscar’s – Chocolate Oatmeal Stout, Left Hand – Milk Stout, Fort Collins – Chocolate Stout, Mackeson – Triple Stout, Lion Stout, Rouge – Chocolate Stout, Young’s – Double Chocolate Stout, and finally, the Brooklyn Brewing Co – Black Chocolate Stout. You’ll notice that there aren’t many of the Imperial variety and most of these don’t exceed 6.2% (although a couple do) and that’s intentional. It’s not really a fair fight to compare some of the ‘smaller’ stouts to the Imperial monsters, so we focused on beers you’d find in a typical grocery store to see who reigns supreme. Let’s do it.

We decided to basically guess as to the order in which we would try the beers; starting from what we thought would be the smallest, and ending with the biggest. We had our plan so we opened the first bottle – the Harviestoun Old Engine Oil. We’d never tried this beer so we really had no idea what to expect, but we weren’t all that scared to be honest.

Part One:

old_engine_oil.jpgThe pour was almost totally black with an virtually non-existent head, even after an aggressive pour. On the nose is mostly roasted malt, without too much else going on. The flavor of the stout was pretty basic, featuring lots of roastiness and coffee-like bitterness. The body was medium-thin and the carbonation level seemed to be a little prickly for the lightness of the beer. Overall, a pretty good start to the night but nothing to write home about. Old Engine Oil *does* get points for having a name that makes me want to try it, strictly based on curiosity. Low points go to it being pretty average all around.

bport.jpgNext on the list was the Bridgeport Stout. Again, a nice dark pour with very little head to speak of. This beer had a little more chocolate on the nose and at least smelled like it would have a degree of complexity that the first brew lacked. Well, the nose was good. The flavor was, again, thinner than I would have liked with a bitterness that seemed to collect in a sourish kind of way about halfway through. If you had told me that this was a homebrew I would have believed you. It would have been a pretty decent home brew, but not on par with what a major brewery should be capable of. This beer just came off as kind of flat, not in carbonation, but in character.

Next up was the Highland Black Mocha Stout. I’ve been impressed with this smaller brewery for it’s consistency, highlighted by the Kashmir Imperial IPA, so I had high hopes for the stout. The pour yielded a little better head than the first 2 beers, with more head and better coloring. And finally, some character on the nose. Chocolate and coffee were present and there was a hint of sweetness in there somewhere as well. The flavor was a bit of a surprise in that the body was a little thinner than you’d expect from the nose. There are some good qualities to the beer, although the overall palette seems a little disjointed. The malty bitterness separates from the sweeter elements on the tongue, and the aftertaste seems to rest in a different place altogether. It’s like the beer is fighting with itself a tad. Overall, pretty decent, though, and we’re moving in the right direction in our quest. Not a real quest, of course, unless you count walking to the fridge for another beer as quest-like. I’d call it more of a jaunt, but that’s just me.

beergeek_1978_15333412.jpgOscar’s Oatmeal Chocolate Stout from Sand Creek Brewing Co. was next and I had never even heard of this beer before. The name sure sounds good, though, so here we go. The pour was rich and dark and the nose was really pleasing and chocolaty. The first thing that I noticed about this beer was that it was really well balanced. The carbonation level was right on the money and the oatmeal provided a nice thickness to the mouthfeel, which is something that has been lacking so far in our tasting. The recipe was obviously well-crafted and I would like to try more from the brewery if I can find some.

mackeson.jpg The journey continues with the Mackeson Triple Stout. This beer is actually a Milk Stout and the lactose-induced sweetness is immediately apparent on the nose. Theres also a hint of dried fruit – a spicy kind of sweetness reminiscent of fruitcake. For the record, I don’t like fruitcake and wouldn’t really suggest eating one, or putting one in your beer, but this was surprisingly a nice part of the nose. Caramel, chocolate and coffee are all there in abundance and the head is a nice caramel color. The flavor is rich and sweet – a nice departure from the more basic beers so far. The carbonation was mellowed on this beer relative to the others and overall felt a little more finished and balanced. It’s is very drinkable and not overly heavy and I’d characterize the body as medium, while still nice and flavorful. The best one so far, but there are some heavy hitters to come.

By now you’re probably thinking that this is a really long blog post and 1) I don’t have time to read all of this at one time and 2) I need a beer. Maybe a stout? Stay tuned for part two where we dive in to some of the big boys – yum.

Cheers, ~G

Left Hand – Imperial Stout

It’s winter, so I’m drinking big beers these days. Sometimes really big beers. I find myself drawn to anything with Imperial in the name, and when it’s describing a stout, all the better. Left Hand always seems to have their head in the game, so I thought I’d give the Imperial Stout a try to see how it stacks up against a few others I’ve tried recently – most notably the Shlafly’s Imperial Stout. Left Hand describes this beer as a Russian Imperial and the pour looks to fit that bill, as it’s super dark with a medium head after an aggressive pour. On the nose is chocolate at first, closely followed by a cookie dough type of sweetness with a hint of toffee and a touch of fruit. Smells creamy. The mouthfeel is generally lighter than I would have guessed, but highly flavorful and consistent with the nose; lots of chocolate, coffee, malt goodness and buttery cream. This would be good with dessert. The brewery claims that it uses a generous amount of hops to balance the brew, but I find the hop profile to be very subdued, and it’s fine that way. The alcohol burn, present all the way through, satisfies the bite portion of the beer and doesn’t color the more pleasant parts of the beers flavor. Overall, I’m impressed with the drinkability of this beer – especially for a 10.4 abv – and it’s perfect for the season no doubt. High points are the sweetness of the malt, like you’re drinking a beer float, while the low points would come for a thin mouthfeel for the style. Recommended for big stout lovers who may want to have more than one beer in a night. Cheers ~G

42.png – score 4

Bluegrass Beer Company – Jefferson’s Reserve Bourbon Barrel Stout

bbc_stout1.jpgThis beer may just win the longest name in history contest. I’ll have to check on that. What I know for sure is that BBC ages the stout for around 60 days in oak barrels from McLain & Kyne’s Jefferson’s Reserve bourbon. Cool idea, and it works. The nose has more than a subtle hint of bourbon and oak, but is mostly dominated by toasted oats, chocolate malt and vanilla bean. The head is a bit understated in thickness and longevity but is a nice caramel color, and fairly typical for a higher abv stout . It’s a flavorful beer and the bourbon barrel aging is smooth and balanced, providing a nice hand-off to the coffee-tinged malt which constitutes most of the overall flavor. My critiques are a slightly thin mouthfeel and medium-light body, as the bold bourbon notes and toasty aroma could support a heavier beer. The finish concludes like baker’s chocolate, but I’d like to feel a little more warming in an 8% beer. I’d compare the weight to a Guinness, but the flavor is easily twice that. The bourbon edge is quite good, and the toasty malt profile plus vanilla creaminess makes this beer a real pleasure to drink.

Cheers ~G

41.png score -4