Stout and About

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A great weekend of good tastings:

Friday evening we went to our local Brixx pizza.  Brixx is known for their excellent pizza but they also have a pretty good craft beer selection.  Friday they happened to have 2016-03-25_222212361_46540_iOSSweetwater Dank Tank Pulled Pork Porter on tap.  I asked for a taste, which they always are happy to provide (our server also brought out tastes of their other two Stout offerings which scored big points from me!).   I liked the taste sample of the Sweetwater so I went for a full pour.  Wow!  I never thought you could taste smokiness in a beverage, but it was a very interesting taste sensation.  I noted a bit of a bacon/pork flavor as well, but it was the smoke flavor that was the most forward.  However after awhile, it also started to overwhelm my taste senses and by the time I took the last sip, I was glad to be done.   Kudos to Sweetwater Brewing for trying something out of the ordinary;  I always commend those who walk that fine line between genius and insanity.  I’m sure there are those who think Dank Tank Pulled Port Porter is sheer genius; however, while it’s not quite insanity, it’s a beer I probably wouldn’t actively seek out.   I’m not giving this an official review since I had it in a restaurant, but it’s a beer that you should know what you are walking into before you commit to a full size pour!  You may find it very tasty…or you might not!

Saturday brought out the burgers on the grill and I brought out a limited release of a local favorite – a double barrel aged version of Raleigh Brewing’s Miller’s Toll, an imperial stout
aged in bourbon barrels for 9 months, followed by 3 months in rum barrels.  It was bottled for their anniversary celebration a few weeks back in a limited run of 400 bottles.  I cracked one open and….boy am I glad I have another bottle!  My review is below, but it’s a winner!

Sunday was Easter and I was treated to a couple of enjoyable Stouts.  As I was preparing our traditional Easter Seafood boil, I enjoyed Highland Brewing’s The Kinsman Project.  It is their great Black Mocha Stout infused with Cinnamon Sticks, Cacao nibs, Vanilla Bean, and Chipotle Peppers.   A very tasty Stout with a bit of a bite at the end.  See my review below.  After the Seafood boil was over, I had the dessert treat I had been waiting to enjoy for a couple of weeks.   Frequent visitors to this blog know I visited Big Boss Brewery a few weeks back and had the unique pleasure of an advance sampling of their Root Beer Stout.  Ever since that evening, I knew that a Root Beer Stout float was in my future.  My local bottleshops finally received their shipments this past week and I was ready for the weekend!   My official review is below, but the Big Boss Brewing team made a Root Beer Stout that is a perfect match for a couple of scoops of vanilla ice cream.   I never thought that a Stout would go well with ice cream, but I was wrong!

This week brings the nationwide release of Founders Brewing KBS and the inevitable search for a 4-pack of KBS goodness.  Our friends in Michigan have been enjoying the 2016 vintage for a few weeks and now the nationwide distribution starts on April 1.  Best of luck to those who seek out this Stout!

On to the reviews…..

Raleigh Brewing – Double Barrel Aged Miller’s Toll

March 26, 2016 – I’m a big fan of Miller’s Toll from Raleigh Brewing (see my review in the Recent Reviews).  They took it a step further and bottled a Bourbon Barrel aged version (which is also in my beer fridge yet to be opened). In preparation for their Anniversary Party on March 5, the good people at Raleigh Brewing set aside some BAMT and aged it in Rum Barrels for 3 months. They put 400 bottles on sale the day of the party (which went quickly) and I was fortunate enough to get 2. I’ve been patiently waiting to open one and decided today was the day.

It was double waxed to indicate the special release – red for the Bourbon Barrel Aging, with the white wax for the Rum Barrel Aging. Once the wax was removed, the pour was simply 2016-03-26_202517057_830B3_iOSbeautiful, with a jet black liquid followed by the nice tan foamy head. The aroma was slightly bourbon with a bit of a sweeter scent than normal – I think that was the rum barrels making their presence known! The first sip was nice and smooth…medium mouthfeel….nice balanced bourbon taste but not overpowering at all. Just enough bourbon taste to remind me where this lived for 9 months.   The aftertaste was pure Miller’s Toll stout.   Raleigh Brewing, this can’t be a one-time release!   This is really tasty!   I like the impact Rum Barrels have on Stouts….Rum Barrel aging seems to smooth out any “rough edges” a Stout may have. Prairie Artisan Ales Pirate Bomb! is another recent winner that was aged in Rum Barrels.

I was a bit surprised that this clocked in at only 10.5%ABV, as I had expected a higher ABV. No matter, this was a layered treat….malt, some elements of chocolate, bourbon, some sweetness….a lot going on but it all combined to present an amazingly complex Stout! I’m not sure how many of the 400 bottles are left to enjoy (I suspect Raleigh Brewing have a few more in their cellar!), but if you see one in the wild, by all means, go for it!

Stout of this World rating: 4.5 bombers

Highland Brewing – The Kinsman Project: Black Mocha Stout

March 27, 2016 – I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying Highland Brewing’s Black Mocha Stout in the past, so when I saw that their Black Mocha Stout (BMS from here on out) was going to be part of their specialty release program called The Kinsman Project, I was ready to buy. When I saw that they infused BMS with Cinnamon Sticks, Vanilla Beans, Cacao nibs and Chipotle Peppers, I was ready to drink!

Cracking open the 22oz. bomber and giving it a pour reminded me of a jet black waterfall. 2016-03-27_201635561_8270E_iOSA nice creamy foamy head completed the pour.   Aroma was a bit on the sweet side (Vanilla? Cinnamon?) but not really distinguishable. It was a bit on the cool side when I first poured it (around 45 degrees or so) and my first sip wasn’t much to write about. Thin mouthfeel, but no real flavor except for the chipotle pepper bite at the end.   I did like the heat of the peppers. Nothing crazy, just the fact that you knew there was some pepper in there.   I let it rest for a bit, sensing that the flavors would emerge as it warmed.   I was right….as it warmed, the flavors really released and I could taste the upfront flavors of vanilla, some cinnamon, some elements of chocolate…..and the back bite of the chipotle!   Now that is what I was hoping to taste!   The rest of the pour disappeared quickly as I really enjoyed the sweet/hot balance of each sip.   Note to self and others:   Drink this at around 55 degrees or you are cheating yourself out of a very tasty, complex stout!   The fact that it is only 5.6%ABV means you can enjoy the entire bomber in a long afternoon – and the second pour will be better than the first as it will have had a chance to sit and warm up a bit!  Just put your wine stopper in the bottle and leave it out to warm. Well done to the brew masters of Highland Brewing! There’s more Kinsman Project – Black Mocha Stout in my future!

Stout of this World rating: 4.0 bombers

Big Boss Brewing – Root Beer Stout

March 27, 2106 – Coming into this weekend, I was looking forward to the Root Beer Stout (RBS) float I was going to make on Sunday evening.   Fast forward to Sunday evening…..I wanted to review RBS like all of the other Stouts but I also wanted to have a little fun and make a float….so I did both!

The Big Boss brewmasters worked a bit of magic on this one…..It pours nice and black with 2016-03-27_230127194_B92F1_iOSa bit of a creamy foamy head.  The aroma is pure Root Beer but the taste is pure Stout with no hint of Root Beer.   Not sure how they were able to pull it off, but they did.  The mouthfeel is rather thin, but for a 6.75%ABV Stout, that’s not altogether surprising.  There is a bit of a sweet aftertaste, but certainly nothing that would suggest Root Beer.  This was an enjoyable and very drinkable Stout which belies it’s perceived novelty of a Root Beer Stout.

Next on the list was the real novelty…a Root Beer Stout float!  Simple enough, a couple of scoops of vanilla ice cream followed by a nice pour over of Root Beer Stout!  2016-03-27_230504290_90D9D_iOSThis is the match made in Big Boss heaven!  I was a bit unsure at first, but after a few sips, the vanilla ice cream began to melt and mix with the Stout….that’s when the magic occurred.  The taste was amazing and the rest of the float disappeared in record time.  The malt and touch of sweetness of the Root Beer Stout complemented the vanilla ice cream quite nicely which resulted in a float that wasn’t too sweet, wasn’t too stouty…..it was just right!
Good thing I bought a few bottles, because I plan on leaving them in my beer fridge and waiting for a hot summer day to have another Root Beer Stout float!

Well done, Big Boss Brewing!

Stout of this World rating: 4.25 bombers

 

 

St. Patrick’s Day and the coming Stout Drought!

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Another St. Patrick’s Day has come and gone.  If you could get past the wall to wall Guinness advertisements from “How to pour the perfect pint” to #GuinnessTache to their own @Untappd badge and wrapping up with their #stoutmoji campaign (which I happen to support by the way!) – I think that just about every craft brewery tapped their own version of a dry Irish Stout.  Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing, but to me St. Patrick’s Day is always bittersweet.  In my mind, March 17 signals the end of Stout season.  Yes, I know that the nationwide release of Founders KBS is in early April, but for the most part, we’re moving into the Spring/Summer rotation of IPAs, DIPAs, and Lagers.

If you are a Stout guy like me, you’ve been replenishing your beer fridge for the stout drought of Spring and Summer and buying those stouts you want to enjoy after a hard day at the office or on holiday at the beach (love those canned stouts!).    I know my beer fridge is bursting at the seams so I think I’m ready for the off-season, but I’m also aging a number of bottles for enjoyment in a year or so.

One downside that I experienced on March 17- I had a bottle of Guinness that I opened up to enjoy before the traditional Irish meal of Corned Beef and Cabbage (prepared by Mrs. Stoutwhisperer!).  I knew something was amiss when it didn’t smell right and there was no head to the pour.  A few sips and I knew it wasn’t right, so I participated in the rare but well-known tactic of the “Drain Pour”.  Too bad, but life is too short and my inventory is too large to suffer through a bad beer.   Not sure what happened, but don’t worry Guinness, I’ll be back!

My replacement choice was somewhat odd – Hitachino Nest Espresso Stout!   See below for my review of that beer and my others from the weekend!   All in all, it was a very enjoyable Stout weekend!  Hope you enjoyed St. Patrick’s Day and are thinking ahead on how you will make it through the impending Stout Drought!

Hitachino Nest – Espresso Stout

I’ve heard about this Japanese brewery for a awhile and when I saw their lineup of beers at a local bottleshop, I knew I had to give one a try.  Espresso Stout called my name and so I bit.  It was a stubby bottle containing 11.2 oz (?) of a 7%ABV jet black beer.  It was a nice pour with a nice creamy head.  As you can see, since the bottle is only 11.2 ounces, it doesn’t quite 2016-03-17_200508903_7CA2C_iOSreach the top of the glass.   The aroma was coffee.   The first sip was smooth and was all about the coffee.  The mouthfeel was thin to average which was expected based on the pour.  Subsequent sips repeated the first one – basically this is a stout that give you a shot of espresso with each taste.  It’s a no nonsense, straight on coffee stout.  Personally, I like coffee stouts but I also believe that you can have too much of a good thing and that’s why I came to appreciate the 11.2 oz. bottle.  I finished the bottle right before I think I would have gone into coffee taste overload.  If coffee stouts are your go to beer, then I highly recommend Espresso Stout.   I probably would buy it if I saw it again, but it’s not one I would seek out.

Stout of this World rating: 3.75 bombers

Prairie Artisan Ales – Pirate BOMB!

From previous ratings of PAA BOMB! and it’s variants, you know I’m a fan.  When I read that Pirate BOMB! was on the release schedule, I was hooked.  BOMB! in Rum Barrels?  Really?  So when it started appearing locally in bottleshops, I was on social media alert and 2016-03-18_210739939_544F9_iOSfortunately, luck was on my side when I saw a posting from my friends at House of Hops in Raleigh, NC (@HouseofHops1) and just happened to be in the area.  I was able to pick up a few bottles and it moved to the top of my review list.

It poured like all BOMB!s do…jet black with little head.  There was a nice aroma….I could smell the rum as well as the BOMB! spices.  The first sip just wrapped around my tongue and the rum barrel aging added some kick to the BOMB! but not as much as the Bourbon barrel aged BOMB! The taste was just about perfect……this clocks in at 14% ABV, so it’s a warm one, but it’s one of the best BOMB!s I’ve had!  I’m glad I bought more than one, because I know I’ll want to confirm how good this was a couple more times!!  To my friends at Prairie Artisan Ales, keep doing what you are doing!

Stout of this World rating: 4.5 bombers

Blue Mountain Barrel House – Dark Hollow

I’ve had Dark Hollow in my beer fridge for quite some time, and when I was rearranging some bottles, I noticed the cork said “Best by July 2016”.   That meant try it now!  I liked the unique bottle shape and the cork/cage as the gatekeeper to the liquid….now that I popped the cork, how did it taste?2016-03-19_201458154_EBEA9_iOS

The pour was nice and black, with a very thin line of foam.  I could detect a bourbon in the aroma, but it was pleasant and not overpowering.  The first sip was a nice smooth one – I knew there was some bourbon barrel aging going on, but it was complimentary and really added to the depth of the stout.  Many bourbon barrel aged stouts are bourbon dominant and smooth out over time – perhaps this was what happened here, but it worked!  The mouthfeel was average to thick and the aftertaste was smooth.  As Dark Hollow warmed, the taste became a bit more complex; I really enjoyed this beer to the very last sip!  It clocks in at 10%ABV, but there was a depth and subtlety to this Stout which I didn’t expect!

When I review Stouts, I like to find and sample beers and breweries that aren’t yet “on the radar”.  Dark Hollow and Blue Mountain Barrel House are a perfect example of those wonderful surprises you can find in your Stout journey!  Go find a bottle and pop the cork – I think you’ll like what you taste!!

Stout of this World rating: 4.0 bombers

Oskar Blues Brewing – TENFIDY

While I’ve had the pleasure of drinking TENFIDY before, I’ve never put it through it’s paces in a review.  Now it’s time.  Oskar Blues is a brewing concern that has it’s origins in Colorado, expanded to western North Carolina, and is now expanding yet again to Austin, Texas.  They are one of the pioneers in canning craft beer; to be honest, I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen anything bottled from Oskar Blues.  TENFIDY is their stout offering, clocking in at….I’ll bet you can’t guess….yes, it’s 10.5% ABV.  It is a straight forward Imperial Stout; they make a Bourbon Barrel aged TENFIDY, but the BA variant is one of those rare ones that are usually sold 2016-03-20_193556363_E1A33_iOSonly at the brewery.

Regular TENFIDY is a beautiful sight; it’s an inky jet black pour with a nice tan foamy head that sticks around for awhile.  The aroma is very malty….you know it’s a stout, that’s for sure and after all of the barrel aged beers I’ve tasted lately, a straight malty stout aroma was more than welcome!  The first sip of TENFIDY was nice and smooth.  It has a thicker than average mouthfeel and the aftertaste is pure stout.  As it warmed, it developed more depth and became even smoother than the first few sips.  I began to sense some chocolate and perhaps some toffee notes.    This is an excellent example of an Imperial Stout!  I recommend letting it warm to 50-55 degrees to allow all of the flavor palette to develop and for maximum enjoyment.

TENFIDY is a seasonal release,  so as we start moving into the Stout Drought, it would be worthwhile to go get a 4 pack (or two!) so you can treat yourself during the summer.   Get some now before they sell out for the season!

Stout of this World rating: 4.25 bombers

 

 

 

Something old, something new

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This week was a good one!   I was privileged to sample not one, not two, but three excellent stouts this week….let’s take a look at the week that was:

Driving home from work on Friday evenings are a crapshoot.  Sometimes I fly, sometimes I crawl.  This week I flew….and I was so far ahead of schedule I decided to stop by Wine and Beer 101, a bottleshop that is right on my way home to do a little window shopping and see if there was anything that I wanted to add to my collection.   I walked in and was met by Kat, the local Foothills Brewing market sales manager.  Unbeknownst to me, it was a 2015-01-18_114809000_920D6_iOSFoothills Brewing tap takeover with the guest of honor being the 2016 vintage of Sexual Chocolate!!  Kat told me what was on tap, gave me a Foothills t-shirt and gave me a couple of tickets for the Sexual Chocolate bottle raffle!!  I made a beeline for the bar, asked for a Sexual Chocolate and was given a full pour in a free Foothills tulip (well, not given…I paid for it!).  Yes, Friday evening was good to the Stoutwhisperer!   The 2016 vintage of Sexual Chocolate was even better than I remembered…..as I wandered around waiting for the raffle, I was struck by the smoothness of this black elixir and the nice thick mouthfeel.   Yes, I would really like to win the raffle and buy a 2016 bottle of Sexual Chocolate!  Alas, there were others in the raffle that were more fortunate than I.  I couldn’t stay for the next raffle, so I finished my pour of Sexual Chocolate,  had a nice conversation with Kat, and walked out of Wine and Beer 101 with a smile on my face knowing that I was a very lucky person, even if I didn’t win the raffle!

Saturday we celebrated the 19th birthday of the Stoutwhisperer’s youngest daughter, the baby of the family.  To celebrate, we went to the Piedmont Ale House a great establishment2016-03-12_223937260_8F149_iOS   in Burlington, NC known for it’s craft beer selection!  It was her choice, but I was not going to argue.  After perusing the craft beer menu, I decided on Old Rasputin from North Coast Brewing Co. in  California as I never had it on draft.  The bartender gave me a nice heady pour, which I like, and it was a great partner with the Fish and Chips that I ordered.  Nice and smooth for a RIS, it was a good choice to enjoy the evening with the family and celebrate a birthday!

 

Now onto the “official” review for the weekend.  I’ve been seeing all of the Founders Brewing KBS Week activity though my social media outlets and also read an incredible article by Robert Allen (@rallenMI) from the Detroit Free Press about how Founders ages KBS in underground cave cellars.  I suggest you give it a read…and watch the video that accompanies the article!  I would love to sample KBS directly from the barrel like they were doing!!  (Note to Founders Brewing – send me an invite and I’ll be there!)  So in the spirit of KBS Week and in the upcoming distribution of KBS in early April, I decided to break out a bottle of 2015 KBS to taste and review.  Fortunately, I have a bottle of 2013, 2014 and a couple of 2015 KBS so I’m starting a small vertical…..

Founders Brewing – KBS (2015)

I’ve been keeping KBS in my beer fridge for a while, but as I noted above, all of the 2016-03-13_200020070_52C1B_iOSactivities in Grand Rapids, MI have whetted my appetite for KBS, so I decided to open a 2015 KBS and see how it survived a year.   It poured nice, with a relatively thin head, but there was a nice smooth aroma of bourbon.  The first sip reinforced the bourbon aroma, but the taste was not too forward; rather, it was complimentary to the coffee and chocolate  that I could taste as well.  The mouthfeel was nice as it coated my tongue; not the thickest I’ve had, but it was nice.  The aftertaste was smoooooth….nice and warming, with none of the bourbon “bite” that sometimes accompanies bourbon barrel aged beers.  As it warmed, it improved in taste and I found myself wanting more….which at the end of the day, is a good thing!

This is a beer that tastes good fresh and also ages well.  I’ve got a vertical working from 2013, so I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to acquire a 2016 vintage!  I’ll be reaching out to my local bottleshops to get on their “special preferred” lists for limited beers like KBS!!

KBS is a highly rated beer that could easily ride on their reputation; however, thanks to the good people at Founders Brewing, they deliver!  Can’t wait for the 2016 vintage!

Stout of this World rating: 4.5 bombers

 

 

 

 

Big Boss Brewing Field Trip

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The good people at Big Boss Brewing invited me to attend their 2016 release party earlier this week. They wanted to share what they have “on tap” for the year with a select group of media and social media people, food industry representatives, and fellow local brewers.   It was a nice low-key event, with US Foods providing the tasty food to accompany the wonderful Big Boss Beer! All of the Big Boss staff was there, answering any and all questions and encouraging us to sample their offerings.2016-03-08_232451275_EECFB_iOS

When Mrs. Stoutwhisperer and I walked in, we were offered a good sized sample of Starduster, a single hop Pale Ale brewed with Polaris hops. While not my preferred style, I found it to be a nice, crisp, refreshing beer with a nice tang from the German hops. Mrs. Stoutwhisperer enjoyed it as well and was her beer of choice for the evening.

My mission for the evening was to find out what their Stout plans were for the year – any plans for Aces and Ates? Variants? Barrel aging? Any other Stout offerings?   I must admit that I was totally thrown off my plans when I saw the signage for Root Beer Stout!! I made a beeline for the back where they were pouring samples……leaving Mrs. S in my 2016-03-08_234047146_4D5A0_iOSwake…..and asked for a full size pour!   The man at the tap, Clay Fussell, sensed my keen interest (I think it was the Stoutwhisperer shirt that I was wearing), poured me a full glass, and proceeded to tell me about the small batch limited run of Root Beer Stout, that it will be sold only in 12oz. bottles, and…………I didn’t quite catch the last part of Clay’s pitch, as I was in awe of the root beer aroma that I was inhaling! It brought me back to my younger days, when the local A&W drive-in sold A&W root beer on tap in frosted mugs….yep, Big Boss captured that Root Beer scent perfectly.   When I started to take my first sip, I was expecting a syrupy sweet root beer – but that’s when I came back to Big Boss Brewing, as the taste was pure stout!   I caught some vanilla notes, perhaps a bit of chocolate in there from the malt, but there was no denying I was drinking a stout. Not a thick, chewy stout, to be sure, as it clocks in at a relatively light 6.75% ABV, so I wasn’t expecting it to coat my tongue!  More on Root Beer Stout a bit later….

Mrs. S and I continued down our self-guided tour, taking a look at the racks of barrels from various wineries and distilleries. I took special note of those barrels what were labeled 2016-03-08_232422754_ED8D2_iOS“STOUT” and wondered what their future would hold…..perhaps Bourbon Barrel Aces and Ates???? Sign me up for taste testing any samples!  We also were admiring the two huge Foeders that are being used for their upcoming Strange Cargo lineup (which Big Boss
recently announced via their blog), when Dave Rogers suggested we come on over, as he was going to be pulling some Monkey Bizz-Ness out of one of the barrels for some special sampling.  Monkey Bizz-Ness is a 9%ABV spiced Farmhouse ale aged in red wine barrels.   While the NC Beer Guys did an impromptu Periscope, Brad Wynn and Bobby McInerny talked about the beer and it turned into somewhat of a press conference, as they fielded questions about all of the beers being sampled that evening!  I especially liked the black pepper bite of Monkey Bizz-Ness; Brad mentioned that it needed a bit of balance with the other spices and red wine barrel aging and thought that the black pepper would do it. I think he was spot on!

 

Press conference over, we decided to call it a night. We thanked our hosts and headed home.  A few other notes from the evening:

-All of the Big Boss personnel were engaging and willing to answer any and all questions I threw at them. I know you might say that should be expected as it was a media/industry gathering, but that doesn’t always happen, so all the Big Boss staff should be commended!

-Mrs. Stoutwhisperer commented about how the craft brew business is a labor of love, that it was obvious that the Big Boss staff are committed to their trade and that they really had passion for what they are doing. Couldn’t agree more!

-I’m looking forward to picking up some Root Beer Stout soon. Frankly, I should have had Mrs. S create a scene so I could have grabbed a couple of bottles “to go”….but I’ll take the more common (and legal) route and buy them from one of the local Raleigh bottleshops. Aside from running Root Beer Stout through its paces for a review, I’m really interested in making a Big Boss Root Beer Stout float with a couple scoops of Maple Hill Farm vanilla ice cream!!   Free idea for the Big Boss team……hook up with a local ice cream partner and have a Root Beer Stout float party!!

-It was great to meet some of my fellow social media comrades – BeerJeepJen, NCBeerGuys, 919Beer, TriBizDesign, TriangleExplorer

-Lastly, many thanks to Big Boss for putting this together.   While my quest for good Stout knows no boundaries or borders, I prefer to stick close to home and support the local craft beer scene. Events like this help me get to know the “people behind the label” and make me better understand and appreciate the hard work and long hours our local craft brewers put in to give us the best product they can make!