Archive for the 'Stout' category
With Saint Patrick’s Day upon us, I thought this would be a great time to review Guinness Foreign Extra Stout (FES), which hit American shores six or so months back. Instead of a flat-out review however, I will be comparing the FES with Guinness Draught (i.e. the can with a widget in it) and Extra Stout (ES).
The three contestants sit in front of me poured into two Imperial Pint glasses (the FES and Draught) and one shaker pint (ES), because unfortunately my third Imperial Pint shattered a long time ago. Visually the beers are rather similar. All are black bodied with some variation of tan-colored head. The FES has the darkest head of the three with the ES a tick or two lighter and the Draught considerably lighter, bordering on white. As for head consistency, the Draught has nitrogen, so it’s in a league of its own, however FES and ES are very similar, being full of large air bubbles, giving the heads a rocky structure. As the heads of the FES and ES recede, at a similar pace, intricate lacing is left down the glasses.
The nose of the three beers is quite different. ES has a prune, raisin, and earthy hop aroma to it. FES hits the nose with a roasted, slightly smokey, mingling of chocolate and coffee, a light touch of sourness (after the beer warms), and a hint of alcohol. The Draught lacks any real distinct aromatic qualities. Maybe a light grain, but certainly nothing compared to the other two beers.
As for the taste and mouthfeel, FES is a mix of the ES and Draught. It has the bolder flavor of the ES, but a mouthfeel that is smooth and goes down easy, similar to the Draught. Though both FES and ES are bold in taste, the taste itself is quite different. The FES has an enjoyable chocolate malt character that envelopes the mouth. I do not notice any coffee notes, as mentioned in the aroma, but I do notice a subtle sourness, and a tweak of alcohol in the finish. The ES on the other hand is a bit bitter and quite earthy, especially in the finish. The malt character is there but rather indistinct, with the aforementioned earthy quality taking all the lime light. The Draught… well that just goes down. A “light malt roast” is what I could label the taste but compared to the FES or ES it really does not amount too much.
The FES’ 7.5% abv is something to watch out for, especially when compared to the Draught’s 4.2%, but overall the FES is a great addition to the Guinness line-up, with great flavor and drinkability.
Side Note: Martyn Cornell (i.e. author of Amber Gold & Black … buy the book) has an interesting blog post about the difference between African and Ireland brewed FES. The post made me wonder where the American version of FES comes from. Anyone with an answer?
It’s rare these days that I offer up a review here on the SevenPack. It’s not that I no longer enjoy a tasty brew. It’s more a matter of time commitments and a lack of truly inspiring beers on the shelf. I enjoy that, lately, there are more phenomenal beers out there than ever. However, it seems that everyone is doing a different version of the same 20 beers we’ve been enjoying for the last few years. The only brewery I’ve found recently that is attempting to really push some boundaries is Fullsteam out of Durham, NC. However, they’re also a hometown brewery, so I’m a little bit biased. When I saw a new Dogfish Head brew hit the shelves (which doesn’t happen nearly often enough), I nearly sprang to the cash register to make my purchase. Dogfish Head is one of the reasons that I initially became a beer geek. They were putting out such novel and flavorful beers that it really excited my imagination. They’re still making these same great beers, but after tasting them so many times, the thrill is gone (so to speak). So, a new beer? A new adventure? I’m very excited to try this out…
The Bitches Brew pours a motor-oil black color with a beautiful dark caramel head. The aroma is rich and earthy with lots of molasses and root in the nose. The texture here is also great – it’s thick and viscous and coats the glass. In the mouth, my initial impression is of the mouthfeel. The beer is soft and smooth and coats the tongue, giving the impression of a very big flavor experience throughout the mouth. And, quite an impressive flavor there is. Initially, I’m struck by all of the things that make a true imperial stout great. It’s dark and burly and coats the mouth with aniseed and earthy flavors that are at once strong and sweet. On through the mouth, the feminine aspects of this beer are given more weight, as aspects of a light honey sweetness and fruit present themselves. It’s an interesting contrast of a syrupy beer with a lighter, transient sweetness – not a combination I’m familiar with. Neverthless, it works well. The big flavor of the stout coats the mouth and sticks around throughout, while the flitting sweetness seems to skip across the tongue, adding texture and complexity and then disappearing as quickly as it came. In the aftertaste, you can almost feel the honey sweetness dissipate while the bigger syrupy stout flavors stick around for many seconds after the beer is gone. Frankly, this isn’t that much different than the Chicory Stout, from what I can recall of that beer. However, it has its nuances, and it certainly turns the flavor up to 11. A beer like this, to me, is really the reason I started drinking good beer in the first place…
photo credit: walknboston
A couple months back Harpoon released their latest 100 Barrel Series beer, the Oyster Stout. I enjoy the beer and oyster combo, so I have been interested in this beer since its announcement a few months back. The beer’s name is not just a suggestion of what to eat while drinking this beer however. Actual oyster shells were used in the beer’s creation. Lets see if those shells make a difference.
The beer poured black with a creamy light-tan head into my pint glass. The head slowly degraded over four to five minutes to a thin covering of tight, small bubbles. The nose had a lightly sour note to it, though it was predominantly chocolate malt. This malt profile was also the slightest bit roasted.
The carbonation tingled the tip of my tongue at the beginning of each sip. This tingle progressed to a pleasant smoothness come mid-tongue. Mid-tongue is where the malt hit with its chocolate character. The chocolate was on the sweeter side of the scale, though not cloying by any means. For the finish the beer went lightly bitter and roasted. I found the finish a bit harsh, especially when compared to the beer’s mid-mouth character. With three-quarters of the twenty-two ounce bottle done, I noticed the beer’s roasted character really starting to dominate my mouth. I also noticed my mouth, especially the back section, being extremely dry. I did not notice this dryness during most of the session but it certainly was there at the end, almost as if it grew in strength with every sip. This dryness may have been caused by the salt in the beer, due to the oyster shells, but that is only a guess on my part.
Overall the beer was enjoyable.
I have not had a Troëgs beer in quite some time, so when I saw this Java Head at Half Time I decided to pick it up. Troëgs has impressed in the past so lets see if they keep up the good beer record.
Poured into a pint glass the beer is black in color, even when held up to a light. A light tan head consisting of a tight packing of small bubbles graced the top of the beer for a good five minutes. A lightly roasted coffee aroma pleasantly greeted my nose. In the mouth the coffee went a lot bigger, when compared to the aroma. Rich Columbian black coffee came to mind. The beer finished bitter and a bit course, but this just enhanced the coffee essence of the beer.
Though rather one-dimensional in flavor, mixed in with the coffee was some flavor of dark malt, I found the beer very good. Smooth and medium on the tongue, I had a hard time putting the beer down long enough to scribble some notes. Another good showing by Troëgs.
Well, well – it has turned into a veritable Belgian Stout fest around here the last couple of days. Last night I tried out the Magic Hat seasonal variety – tonight I try out a bomber of Allagash that has been sitting in my fridge for quite some time.
This one pours a very deep chocolate brown, though not overbearingly so, with a semi-dense off-white head that flares up but eventually simmers down to a light coating on the beer. The aroma here is rather fruity and has only the slightest hint of aniseed and chocolate on the nose. In the mouth, this beer isn’t near as viscous as I’d expect from the genre. On the contrary, it slides easily through the mouth, not really sticking to the tongue or mouth much at all. The flavor here is oddly tart for a stout, though combined with some decent chocolate and toffee hints that give it an interesting combination of the rich and dark with the cherry sours. It *is* a good stout. It has a richness of flavor, though it isn’t adequately complemented by the texture of the beer. I do especially like the tartness of the cherry flavors, as it cuts any residual richness, though it’d be much more effective if the richness of flavor were combined with a greater richness of texture. Overall, I would have to say that the Magic Hat from last night put this beer to shame. This is a tough thing to say, as these Allagash bombers cost a premium and Magic Hat is relatively affordable. But, hey, the tastebuds don’t lie…
Every now and again, the nice folks at Magic Hat will send us a sneak preview of a beer we may or may not wind up having access to here in North Carolina. Frankly, I’m unsure if this particular brew will make it here or not, but I can tell you that it’s the Magic Hat beer that I’ve been most excited about in quite some time. I like a good stout. I don’t necessarily *love* a good stout, but I like one. And, almost without fail, I prefer the Belgian takes on this particular genre, as they often have a fruity/tangy/yeasty tinge that you just won’t find in the more popular Irish, English, or American varieties. So, I’m pretty happy to see what Magic Hat has done with the genre.
This pours a motor oil syrupy black with a thick and luscious caramel head that looks just delicious. In the nose, there is a ton of chocolate here, with some interesting bitter and dark fruit hints that are reminiscent of a black forest cherry desert – very fine indeed. In the mouth, this beer is a blast of flavor that I haven’t had in some time since I’ve been focusing on summer beers lately. Initially, there is slightly cloying sweetness that is redolent of a Belgian yeast flavor that you Belgian fans will recognize. This flavor quickly moves to a bittersweet chocolate flavor with an earthy backbone that rides down the tongue before moving to the more sugary flavor of dark cherry and maybe some red grape. The combination of the earthy chocolaty tones and the dark fruit persist down the throat and stick around in an aftertaste that just won’t quit.
Really, this beer tastes so much bigger than its 6.2% abv would give away. The flavor here is so huge, and it has such a yeasty presence and blaze of flavor through the mouth, that I’m tempted to call it Imperial. However, it turns out that, considering what it’s doing to the tastebuds, this stuff is practically sessionable for a stout (though don’t session too hard). I must say that this is the most impressive Magic Hat beer that I’ve had in a long time – maybe ever. Hats off to a company that, previously, had only won me over on their lighter beers like the #9. This brew is proof that these guys can play in the ballsier dark beer arena.
Third up from Beer of the Month Club this week is another brew from BrewDog, the brewery that rocked my socks last night. This one is, in it’s full name, is the BrewDog Rip Tide Twisted Merciless Stout.
It pours a motor oil black with almost no head at all, even following a vigorous pour. In the nose, the aroma is syrupy sweet, displaying hints of maple and horehound. The first thing I notice about this brew is the light mouthfeel. With a ‘twisted merciless stout’, I expect something thick and velvety, but this it positively light with no more viscosity than a run-of-the-mill lager. The flavor here is very earthy and bitter. There is just a bit of sweetness, and it is reminiscent of ginseng and licorice. The predominant flavor, however, is of a rootsy bitterness. It is pungent, a bit abrasive, and unfortunately sticks around well into the aftertaste. In short, I’m not so into this beer. I think there is a niche for this beer, and I think there are people that would love it, but I’m not one of them. When I think of big, ballsy stouts, I think of thick mouthfeels, rich syrupy sweetness, and generally luxurious flavors. Earlier tonight, I tried the Founder’s Canadian Breakfast Stout, and it certainly embodied all of these characteristics. However, the BrewDog Stout reminds me more of a bitter black ale, which isn’t a genre I prefer. So, frankly, I wouldn’t drink this again – quite a downer after my blockbuster experience with the Hardcore IPA last night…
The wife enjoys chocolate and I enjoy beer (shocking as that may sound), so I thought it would be fun to sample two chocolate beers side by side for comparison sake. On one side was Southern Tier Choklat Stout, the other High & Mighty Two-Headed Beast. Unsurprisingly both beers poured black, but there were differences in the heads. The Two-Headed Beast’s head was a thick, dark tan, which dissipated to a light spattering of bubble islands. The Choklat had a lighter tan head, in comparison to the Two-Headed Beast, that dissipated into nothingness after a couple minutes.
The nose of both beers were very similar, each possessing aromas of sweet chocolate and chocolate powder. The Two-Headed Beast added to those characteristics slightly with a light-burnt note which lingered in the nasal passage. The taste, once again, only deviated slightly from each other. The Choklat went the sweet, chocolate syrup route, while the Two-Headed Beast went with a bitter chocolate flavoring.
Both beers were enjoyable, and definitely hit the “chocolate” aspect on the head. It was interesting tasting the subtle differences between the beers, and a reminder of how vast the spectrum of craft beer is.
Two-hundred fifty years is a long time. Sure there are older breweries, but 250 years is still a big accomplishment. For making it 250 years Guinness has released a celebratory beer. The “standard” Guinness recipe has been slightly tweaked for this limited release. With this in mind I thought I would do a side by side comparison of the regular Guinness and the 250 celebratory Guinness. One major difference between the two, the 250 is not nitrogen infused. This means no “Guinness style” head. It also means the mouthfeel will be different. Keeping these things in mind, lets delve into the beers.
Both poured black (a very dark shade of ruby when held directly to the light), with the 250 having a slightly darker tan head, which disappeared to a thin covering after mere minutes. In the nose the 250 had a roasted character, while the regular Guinness leaned a bit smokier. Both had the traditional “Guinness smell” (its probably malt but for me Guinness has always had a particular, enticing, smell to it) with the 250 also possessing a hint of toffee.
In the mouth the slightly different aroma characteristics play out in the taste. The 250 is a bit roastier in the mouth, while the first sips of the regular Guinness are a bit ash-like in nature. The regular Guinness beats the 250 in the mouthfeel department, but it had the unfair nitrogen advantage. There was however nothing wrong with the 250′s lighter mouth presence.
I was not expecting a massive recipe change for the 250, and there was not one. If you can find the beer (and I do not believe it is that hard to find), it would not make a bad purchase. To celebrate Guinness’ 250 year I would not go out of my way to purchase their celebratory brew. A traditional Guinness will do just fine. Its what got the brewery this far anyway.
Along with the two beers from Woodstock Inn Brewery (the not-so-well received Wassail, and the enjoyable Pemi Pale Ale), I picked up another beer coming back from dogsledding. This third beer came from Vermont brewery Long Trail and was their Coffee Stout release for their “Brewmaster Series”.
Forgetting I was pouring a stout, I poured the beer a bit hard into my pint glass, causing a monstrous rich tan head, of tight little bubbles, to form. This head, which sat atop the beer’s body, took quite some time to dissipate. During this dissipation period I was able to enjoy the beer’s rich aromas of roasted coffee, and light bitter chocolate. In the mouth these rich aromas continue on into big roasted coffee flavors. Unfortunately a harsh, acidic note, which I found unpleasant but my wife did not mind too much, accompanied these big roasty flavors.
I will admit if the beer did not have it’s acidic/harshness the beer would have been rather one-dimensional. I would have preferred that single dimension however.
The next selection this month from the Beer of the Month Club is the Lion Stout. The funny thing is, this is the 2nd time we’ve received this one from BOMC. The upsides are A) It’s a killer beer, and B) It was about a year-and-a-half ago when they first sent it. So, no hard feelings, and I’m glad to have more of these in the fridge. Here is the original review:
Now, I consider myself a fairly adept beer drinker. But, truth be known, I had no idea Sri Lanka made any good beers. Much less did I realize that Sri Lanka might make a decent Stout – just doesn’t seem likely to me. But, there it was, sitting in the latest shipment from the Beer of the Month Club.
The Lion Stout pours a deep, deep brown with dense debris and a dense, caramel-colored head. The aroma of this beer is sheer joy – it’s very rich with a sweet toffee aroma blended with coffee hints. In the mouth, this beer is all sweet and rich. There is a thick sweetness that encompasses toffee, coffee, nuts and chocolate. The sweetness is the predominant force here, but a light nutty bitterness creeps in to give some balance, and there’s even a slight sour tinge that is reminiscent of licorice. The mouthfeel of this beer is also excellent. It is thick and coats the entire mouth, lending the flavor to all parts of the tongue at once and finishing with a lingering flavor that sits in the mouth for many seconds after the beer has seemingly disappeared. Now, I gotta be honest with you – I think that this beer is a rarity when it comes to Sri Lankan beers – I just can’t imagine a ton of great beer exports coming out of a rather unassuming country. However, I do have to give my hats-off to Lion, because this Stout is as good as most anything that we’re brewing stateside or in the UK. I believe this beer enjoys fairly wide distribution, so I’d suggest that you pick up a bottle if for no other reason than to enjoy a Sri Lankan brew.
We don’t often see much of Red Hook in these parts except for their fairly generic six-packs, and the occasional 12-pack variety box that we’ll pick up when we can’t decide on a single genre. In fact, I’m not sure I was aware that they even produced specialty bombers until I saw this one on the shelf a while back. And, sad to say, you can gauge my excitement by the fact that this beer has been sitting in the fridge for a couple of months now. I want to drink this and get it out of my life before summer gets too far along and I swear off stouts completely…
So, the Double Black pours a thick motor-oil black color, as one might expect. The head started off thick, dense, and caramel-colored. But, to be honest, it dwindled down to nothing much quicker than I expected. In the nose, this is pretty chocolatey and has the expected hints of coffee. The flavor of this is as rich as I expected and even more flavorful than anticipated. Initially, there is a super-rich chocolate sweetness on the tip of the tongue. This is subsequently met by a bit of bitterness. The bitterness may or may not be attributable to a hop contribution, but it tastes more like a bittersweet chocolate with a rootsy, earthy tone. This doesn’t last very long, before a sharper dark bread sweetness rears it’s head and carries the beer on through the mouth. And all along with these flavors is a backbone of coffee grounds that actually serves the beer very nicely. Honestly, I’m quite impressed with this – moreso than I expected. It is the summer, and I am shying away from these types of beers about now, but this really is pretty tasty…
For the record Linda hasn’t brought me any beers from her travels so she is officially on notice. You know who is kind enough to bring me beer, the BOMC. Ben took the lighter offerings for this month and I’m responsible for the Jamaica Stout from Jamaica (couldn’t really find out much about the brewers) and a Vanilla Porter from Atwater Brewery in Detriot Rock City. I’ve had some good experiences with stouts this past winter so I’m hoping this stout caps off the end of my dark beer drinking season.
I’m a bit surprised that a brewery in Jamaica made a stout, given the warm climate, but I guess its important to experience a wide range of delicious beer genres regardless of temperature. This beer is uber black with a fluffy caramel head that rises and falls in the glass. The nose is mostly comprised of the characteristic chocolate aroma and is rounded out with a mild toastiness. Now to the taste. I’m getting a little chocolate that dances about the tongue and a bitter twinge sticks to the roof of the mouth. So far, it’s not bad, definitely tolerable. The flavor isn’t as sweet as the smell and a coffee bitterness opens on the back of the palate. This beer isn’t entirely balanced and there is a mustiness to the aftertaste but overall it is easily drinkable. Not the best stout ever but certainly not the worst. If you’re ever in Jamaica and don’t want to drink a Redstripe or whatever bucket of beers the resort has on special give this beer a try. You won’t be able to drink a lot of them but it will be something different.
Like Ben and Matt, I am not a big stout drinker. I do not avoid them, but I do not go out of my way for them either. I have to be in the right mood for them, and I am not even sure what that “mood” is. This is what makes Bar Harbor Brewing’s Cadillac Mtn. Stout so interesting. Looking at my notes, I see nothing that makes it stick out as “oh this is what is different about this stout compared to others”, but boy does it stick out.
It pours black with a tan head, which recedes to a thin but full covering. Towards the end of the session the head is only clinging to the glass walls, leaving a black void to stare into as I enjoy the last few sips of this delectable brew. The aromas remind me of lightly burnt, semi-sweet, dark chocolate, with a little ash thrown in if I inhale for too long. In the mouth the beer is smooth and its chocolate aromas come out in the taste. This is not a “chocolate stout” however, so the chocolate is not over-powering by any means. Just a good flavoring of chocolate malt and some sweetness. There is a subtle flavoring of smoke at the back of the throat, that is a nice contrast and finish to the chocolate malt. The beer’s tastes stick around for quite some time after the swallow.
Bar Harbor Brewing has a real winner with this beer. I would easily qualify this beer as one of the best, possibly even the best, beer I had from my travel beer reviews. I still do not know how they did it, but it is a great combination of sights, smells, and flavors with this beer. I enjoyed this beer so much, when I visited Bar Harbor a few weeks after my first trip (I was passing through to Nova Scotia), I cleared out the local supermarket of three six packs of this beer. I am sad to say those six packs are now gone… but I will always have those beer memories.
I ain’t gonna lie to you guys – I’m not that excited about this beer. A) I’m not REALLY a big stout fan – its true. B) I don’t really like most ales with ‘cream’ in the name. C) It’s kinda a boring label (in my opinion, but isn’t all of this my opinion?). The only thing this beer has going for it with me is the name, because I love most Bell’s beers. Our old housemate and buddy, who I shall call Perry, left this in the fridge many moons ago, and it’s overdue to be consumed, so here we go…
This stout, unsurprisingly, pours super dark hue with a light caramel colored head – it’s a fairly rich head that dissipates slowly into a thin coating over the beer. In the nose, it’s all bitter chocolate, coffee, and malt. It’s rich, that’s for sure – mighty rich. Whew! In the mouth, it’s super rich. Again, lemme be honest – right before drinking this beer, I took a couple of Thin Mints to the face (it’s Girl Scout cookie season). As it happens, this beer is an excellent accompaniment to Thin Mints. It is chock full of chocolate, mostly of a sharp and bitter variety. In addition, there are some lightly acidic coffee features and a toffee softness to this. These flavors traverse the tongue and, towards the back of the mouth, I’m sensing a dark raspberry fruit flavor kick back into the mouth, making this akin to a black forest fruit dessert in many ways. And, to be sure, the mouthfeel is thick and silky smooth. This isn’t a bad beer – it’s actually really good for what it is. Honestly, it’s too rich and too dark for my current mood. But, it has a great combination of rich malty flavors, chocolate hints, and dark fruits, and I can’t deny that these play well together. If this is your thing, and if you can even still find this beer on shelves, then check it out before the weather gets warm enough to make this stuff a moot point. However, for me, I’ll admit that this is a well executed beer by Bell’s, and I’ll move on to some lighter varieties…