April has been selected as North Carolina Beer Month and all of the local bottleshops and breweries have special events to highlight local North Carolina beers. My contribution to NC Beer Month for this week is tasting and reviewing Wicked Weed’s Dark Age and tasting Trophy Brewing’s El Hombre. Additionally, I was on the prowl for KBS and I’ll share with you the results of my hunt.
This past Friday, I went to Trophy Brewing with Mrs. Stoutwhisperer and my son to give their highly regarded pizza a try. I also wanted to taste their El Hombre, an Horchata Stout that came highly recommended. Unfortunately for us, Trophy has a great following and they were packed at 6pm. We were really hungry so we weren’t going to wait, but before we left, I wanted to sample El Hombre. My son (21 year old) and I each got a chalice of this Horchata Stout, but surprisingly (to me at least), it was served as cold as all of their other beers and I really didn’t get a taste of how good El Hombre could be. I’m not sure why Trophy (or any other brewery for that matter) wouldn’t serve their beers at the best temperature for the style of beer. Breweries should educate their clientele on how best to serve and drink their various offerings. A cold stout hides the flavors that the brewmaster works so hard to develop. I plan on revisiting Trophy soon to try their pizza and will order another El Hombre but will let it warm a bit so I can actually taste the flavors of the Stout that the brewmasters intended!
As I noted in my last post, this past week the elusive KBS from Founders Brewing in Grand Rapids, Michigan made its annual migration into North Carolina. It surfaced briefly on tap at Bull McCabe’s in Durham on April 1, but the rare 4 pack didn’t make an appearance until a few days later. All of the traditional hunting grounds (i.e. bottleshops) had different ways to handle the demand. Some created priority lists for their best clients, some used social media to trumpet the arrival, and others are taking the lottery route. Most were rationing one or two bottles of KBS per person to get it in the hands of more Stout lovers. Rare were those sellers who allowed the 4 pack to be sold! I was really looking for a 4 pack, as I wanted to add to my KBS vertical, have one now, and put a couple in the beer cellar for special occasions down the road.
Fortunately, the good people at House of Hops (Twitter: @houseofhops1) in Raleigh came to the rescue and are worthy of the Stoutwhisperer’s praise! They were taking names for their KBS list and my persistence wore them down. I really like the vibe at House of Hops and enjoy talking to the folks there. They are very friendly and helpful. When I picked up my KBS, I had a chance to chat with Gabriela and Jesse about KBS and Stouts in general. Jesse and I first ran into each other sampling the Root Beer Stout at the Big Boss Brewing event a few weeks back, so I know he’s got good taste! I was thrilled to walk out with a 4 pack and thought my quest was complete. I highly recommend visiting House of Hops if you are ever in Raleigh….tell them the Stoutwhisperer sent you!
Fast forward to the next morning……there is a Whole Foods near me that has an excellent beer selection. Jason runs their beer shop and he traditionally sends out a Twitter message when new beers come into the store and from there, its first come, first serve. That’s how I was able to get my 2015 KBS last year, but I didn’t want to bank on my luck two years in a row. Fortunately, the tweet came out early and I was able to scramble over and bag another 4 pack! Jason a good old school guy and he doesn’t believe in rationing bottles so I was one of the lucky few.
While I was basking in my KBS success, I took a ride over to Taylor’s Wine Shop at lunchtime. Taylor’s is located inside a BP Gas Station and is known to have a pretty darn good craft beer selection. Niki (aka “the Beer Lady”), was kind enough to talk to me and I happened to ask her about her KBS allotment. Much to my surprise, she was expecting it to come in the next day and was just going to start her list! She was rationing 2 bottles per person, but I was at the top of the list……and sure enough, I got a text message from Niki the next day that KBS was in and I could pick up my 2 bottles!
I also had the chance to get 2 more bottles from my local Total Wine (thanks Chase!!) but decided that 10 was enough. Another bottleshop in the area is having a lottery this week for their KBS allocation, but I’ll pass on that as well. The Stout Karma train doesn’t have many seats and I want to be sure I’m on it (I missed out on Mexican Cake last year)! Through a little planning and a LOT of luck my KBS hunting season is complete and I bagged the limit. This should last me through the Stout Drought…..now on to the reviews!
Wicked Weed Brewing – Dark Age
March 9, 2016 – Wicked Weed is an Asheville brewing institution known primarily for their Sours, but every once in a while they go the Stout route. Dark Age is a Bourbon barrel aged imperial stout that is being bottled for the first time. While I must admit I was underwhelmed by their Milk and Cookies Stout and haven’t yet had El Paradiso, I’ve heard good things about Dark Age. This 12%ABV 12.7oz bottle was released a couple of weeks ago to much fanfare (at least in the Carolinas) and seemed to saturate the Triangle market, as everyone seemed to get a large delivery of this release. Since April is North Carolina Beer month, I decided to do my part and give Dark Age a try…..
This Stout pours a nice black waterfall with a decent tan foamy head. It has a straight on bourbon aroma – not trying to hide anything, that’s for sure! The first sip is smooth and while there is bourbon throughout the taste, it’s not overwhelming. The mouthfeel is thin to medium and the aftertaste is smooth as well. A decent down the middle bourbon barrel imperial stout! This strikes me as an excellent introduction to the world of BBA Stouts……no variants, smooth taste from the sip to the swallow, with a consistent hint of bourbon. Not the best I’ve had, but also far, far from the worst. I’m going to age another bottle of Dark Age for a while to see if the flavor profile changes at all. All in all, a decent BBA Stout from our friends at Wicked Weed!
Stout of this World rating: 4.0 bombers
Founders Brewing – Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS) 2016 vintage
March 10, 2016 – Since my recent KBS trials and tribulations have been documented in recent posts, I felt a need to see if the destination was worth the journey, so I took some time to open a fresh bottle of the 2016 vintage of KBS. I’ve read many of the reviews from others and while many were very complimentary, there were those who felt it needed a bit more aging. Jason at Whole Foods felt that Founders was one of the few breweries who actually ages their beer to be at its peak aging when sold – rather than rely on the customer to age it a bit more. So going into the review, I wasn’t sure what side of the barrel I would fall on.
I wore my KBS t-shirt to commemorate the event and poured it into the 2016 KBS glass – big kudos to Founders Brewing for the 17oz. size!! This is a perfect size as it allows me to give a good pour and get some foamy head without worrying about spillage! KBS isn’t the most heady beer, but I was able to get a decent head from the pour! The aroma was an alluring combination of bourbon, chocolate, and a hint of coffee. Would the taste match the aroma? The first sip answered the question….unequivocally yes!
The smoothness of the 2016 vintage is unsurpassed. Notes of coffee and chocolate infused with a smooth layer of bourbon creates a taste that leaves one wanting another. The mouthfeel is nice as it coats the tongue and there is absolutely no bite in the aftertaste. As I write this, I realized that I didn’t get this level of complexity when I had it on tap at Bull McCabe’s for the release party……it was quite good there but in a more controlled environment (my house) it’s at another level. I’ll note once again, that the temperature of the Stout is so critical to the emergence of the flavors. I had refrigerated my bottle of KBS but took it out a full hour before I opened it to gradually warm to 50 degrees or so. Drinking KBS (or most Stouts) cold will rob you out of enjoying the full range of scents and flavors……so do yourself a favor and give it time to rest and warm….even 30 minutes will work.
I think Jason is right….this doesn’t need any aging. This is an amazing Stout right now. Find it and drink it!
Stout of this World rating: 4.5 bombers