Migration Week

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This week was the Raleigh invasion of Goose Island, appropriately called Migration Week. The Goose Island team visited various locations and hosted various events throughout the Raleigh area and brought along some beer that aren’t usually seen outside of Chicago.  For Stout lovers like me, I was drawn to the various tap lineups including 2013, 2014, and 2015 Bourbon County Stout, 2014 Bourbon County Coffee Stout, 2013 Bourbon County Barleywine, and 2014 Bourbon County Proprietors Stout.  The 2014 Bourbon County Prop is a Stout that I’ve always wanted to taste and really didn’t think I’d ever have an opportunity so I was looking forward to the week.  Unfortunately, life gets in the way and I wasn’t able to follow the Goose Island migration except for one event.   2016-05-19_221048336_64E43_iOSRidgewood Wine and Beer hosted a late afternoon session that featured the ’14 Prop.   The event started at 4:30 and I arrived at 4:37 to a line about 60 people deep. I had a brief chat with the Ridgewood people and was told that there was no chance I would get even a whiff of the Prop let alone a taste.  They only had a 1/6 barrel and that many already in line wouldn’t get it either.  Full 12 oz. tastes were being poured and while you could argue that smaller pours would give more people a chance to sample a rather rare Stout, I applaud the fact that a full 12 oz. pour really gives those lucky ones a chance to savor it.  I departed with a Goose Island key chain bottle opener and a reminder to myself that the craft beer scene in Raleigh is alive and well!  Thanks for coming to Raleigh, Goose Island – hope to see you next year – and I’ll make sure I plan better!

The weekly reviews:

Mexican Speedway Stout – Alesmith Brewing

May 21, 2016 – I was very interested in diving into the Mexican Speedway from Alesmith Brewing that I recently purchased and proxied from my new San Diego friend (thanks Michael!).  Mexican Speedway is base Speedway Stout aged in Tequila barrels with coffee, cinnamon, and chocolate.  A Stout version of Mexican Hot Chocolate!  It sounded great so I was ready to give it a taste.

2016-05-21_195003975_6546D_iOSAfter my requisite hour long wait gradually warming it, I popped the top. It poured jet black with a nice foamy cream colored head. I caught notes of the tequila, some coffee, and perhaps some sweetness from the chocolate and cinnamon.  The first sip was a bit different that what I expected…the tequila aging imparted a flavor that wasn’t what I would consider smooth. It wasn’t bad mind you, just different.   The mouthfeel was medium to thick and the aftertaste had a bit of an edge to it. It took a few tastes to get acclimated to the flavor, but once I did, I began to enjoy it.   This was my first exposure to a tequila-aged stout, so it took a few sips to get used to it.  I must admit that I was a bit disappointed – I love Speedway Stout and my expectations were high – but I just wasn’t expecting the tequila to have the impact that it did.  I really enjoyed a snifter of Hammerhead Speedway Stout recently and that may have helped to raise the expectation bar a few more notches!   But as I said, I got used to the taste after a few sips, so all was not lost.

The remainder of the bottle was nice and tasty and I quite enjoyed it. I have a few more bottles that are in my beer fridge and I’ll be very curious to see how aging affects Mexican Speedway. I would expect that it would smooth out the tequila, but time will tell.
Stout of this World rating: 4.0 bombers

 

Stone Xocoveza – Stone Brewing

May 22, 2016 – I was looking for something non-BA, something with a little spice in it, and something I hadn’t had in awhile. Looking through my stout fridge, there tucked in the back was a couple of bottles of Stone Xocovexa!   Bingo! That fit all of my objectives, so I pulled a bottle out and let it warm a bit.   When I opened it, it poured a beautiful black with 2016-05-22_200018391_C310E_iOSa nice foamy head.   The aroma was wonderful – notes of coffee, cinnamon, vanilla, and nutmeg – and the taste matched the aroma.   A deep complex stout with a medium mouthfeel and a nice bite of pepper in the aftertaste. It’s better than I remembered……what a nice surprise! As it warmed, the aromas brightened and the tastes were beautifully layered, with the smooth heat in the swallow. My snifter was empty quicker than I had hoped!

When I first had Xocoveza around the holidays, I don’t recall this level of complexity or the balance of spices…..it seems like a few months of aging has done it wonders! I’m looking forward to enjoying another bottle soon!

Stout of this World rating: 4.25 bombers

Happy Birthday BOMB!

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As I was peering into the Stout House (my beer fridge) to decide what I wanted to taste and review, this Christmas BOMB! seemed to call out to me.  I was in the mood for a spicy, 2016-05-08_193403872_01037_iOSthick Stout so it was a perfect match.  Little did I know that I was celebrating both Mothers Day and the 3rd birthday of BOMB!   Our friends at Prairie Ales just posted a blog commemorating the BOMB! birth and announcing the distribution of Birthday BOMB!  Birthday BOMB! is the wonderful Stout that we all know and love with some homemade caramel added to the brew.  Word has it that it has been seen out in distribution and will hopefully be in your area soon.  I for one am looking forward to celebrating the birthday of BOMB! with a Birthday BOMB!

As a quick aside, you’ll note the bubbles on the side of the glass.  A keen observer tweeted me and told me that is a sign of a dirty glass!  I always rinsed out my glass after every session so I thought I was good, but apparently its a best practice to rinse your glass prior to a pour as well.  Another lesson learned…..

Prairie Artisan Ales – Christmas BOMB!

If you’ve read any of my previous reviews, you’ll note that I’m a BOMB! fan.  I’m really taken by the thickness of this Stout as well as the spice palette and the heat at the end.  I’ll cut to the chase – I’m still a BOMB! fan.  The good people at Prairie didn’t do anything to change my mind and more probably reinforced their genius – at least in my opinion!

I took out my bottle of Christmas BOMB! and let it set out for an hour to warm a bit.  As you can see, it poured a nice black with a small liner of a foamy head that dissipated 2016-05-10_232032000_54CBB_iOSquickly.  The aromas brought me back to the first Christmas BOMB! I had back during the holidays….a good strong whiff of spices.  The first sip was nice and thick and I knew then I was enjoying a BOMB!  The Stout coated my tongue and the aftertaste had a bit of heat to it, another telltale sign of BOMB!  The spices added a layer of complexity to this already complex Stout.   This is a great Stout for those who like to have their taste buds bombarded!  As I
neared the bottom of my glass, I thought back to the other BOMB!s that I have had the pleasure of tasting and realized that Prairie has quite the BOMB! lineup!  Truth be told, however, I do believe Pirate BOMB! is the best of the lot (at least of the lot that I’ve had the privilege of tasting!).  I really commend the creativity and innovation of the brew team at Prairie.  I hope to be lucky enough to taste a Birthday BOMB! and see how the caramel impacts the overall flavor.   Happy Birthday BOMB!

Stout of this World rating: 4.25 bombers

My Epic Weekend!

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Epic Brewing is best known in the Stout world for Big Bad Baptist,  a 12%ABV Bourbon barrel-aged Stout that has a large legion of followers (now including me!).  Based in Salt 2016-04-30_124127401_CFA26_iOSLake City, Utah,  Epic is in the midst of one of the more ambitious brewing projects I have seen in quite a while.   The Epic team is releasing not 1, not 2, but 14 variations of Son of a Baptist, a non-barrel aged relative of BBB.  The brains behind the brew at Epic is also a coffee lover, so a request went out to find coffee roasters that would be willing to collaborate on small batches of Stout.  The request was to submit beans that would enhance the flavor profile of a Stout.   They selected 14 roasters and made 14 different versions of Son of a Baptist.   Roasters from California to Virginia, Michigan to Texas made the cut….and so did a local Raleigh, North Carolina roaster, Larry’s Coffee!  Larry’s Coffee is a socially and environmentally responsible coffee roaster based in Raleigh.  They roast some amazing coffee and they clearly have fun doing it!  I went on a tour of their facility about 5 years ago and have been a fan (and consumer) ever since.  I especially like their cold brew offering!

To celebrate the occasion, Epic hosted a release party last week at Pharmacy Bottle + Beverage in Cary, NC where the Larry’s Coffee version was introduced for the first time! James from Epic was the host for the release party and he did a great job sharing stories about Son of a Baptist as well as offering some samples of upcoming summer brews from Epic!  2016-04-27_235310000_53607_iOS Peter and Ryan from Larry’s Coffee were there to answer questions and they also had the Peruvian coffee that was used in the beer available to sample as brewed coffee!  Neat touch!  Peter told me that they selected the Peruvian coffee beans for their chocolate notes and the way it would compliment the malts in the Stout. They were right on, as my review will attest.  Pharmacy was very crowded on Wednesday evening and as I looked around, I saw many of the patrons with a glass of Son of a Baptist in their hand!   Hats off to James, Peter, Ryan, and the Pharmacy team!

The good people at Epic (thanks, Matthew!) graciously sent me a sample of Son of a Baptist made with coffee from Portola Coffee Lab in Southern California.  Portola’s Terra Incognita espresso blend was selected for their version of SoB.  This blend is comprised of Ethiopian Harrar and Colombian Cauca beans.   I find it quite amazing how the flavors of Stout beer change and evolve depending on the coffee bean used…and I assume that’s what the Epic Brewmaster was going for, so mission accomplished!

On to the Epic reviews!!

Epic Brewing Company – Big Bad Baptist

April 30, 2016 – I’ve had this bottle in my beer cellar for about 6 months now. I’m not altogether sure what I was waiting for but with the release of Son of a Baptist, I thought it was high time to break this Bourbon barrel-aged Big Bad boy open and see if all of the positive online reviews are merited.  Epic makes BBB in various “releases” using different dark roasted coffee; I had the privilege of tasting release #61, which was brewed with Caffe Ibis coffee in February, 2015 and packed in October, 2015. This release came in at 12.1%ABV and is bottled in a 22oz. bomber.

2016-04-30_202852000_A7E8D_iOSAfter taking it out of the fridge and letting it sit for an hour to bring it to around 50-55 degrees, I opened it and let it pour. It BBB was a beautiful jet black with a nice foamy head. Once the photo opp was over, I lifted the glass to my nose and was bombarded with some amazing aromas.   Usually there is one scent that dominates and overwhelms; Big Bad Baptist provided me with equal notes of coffee, chocolate, and bourbon! Each aroma was incredibly layered and I could detect each scent, which I must say is a first from all of my tastings.   Either my nose is better at differentiating scents or this is foreshadowing what’s to come.

My first sip confirmed it – this is a Stout that is smooth, balanced, and complex! I could taste the coffee blended with the chocolate, along with the slight booziness of the bourbon. The mouthfeel was medium and the aftertaste was smooth. As I continued my taste journey, I marveled at the attention to detail that is required to get this Stout so balanced and smooth.   This is a Stout that deserves every bit of recognition and praise that it gets!  I enjoyed every single sip of Big Bad Baptist and it delivered that smooth, balanced taste all the way to the bottom of the glass!!  Kudos to the Epic Brewmaster!

I guarantee that Big Bad Baptist will always have a place in my Stout House and that is one of the highest compliments I can pay a Stout!

Stout of this World rating: 4.5 bombers

Epic Brewing Company – Son of a Baptist

May 1, 2016 – Coming off of my Big Bad Baptist experience the day before, I had to reset my expectations for Son of a Baptist.  Son of a Baptist is a relative of BBB in that it is the same base Stout but with two significant differences: Son is not Bourbon barrel-aged and that Son has about 14 variants.  Epic was able to partner with about 14 different coffee roasters across the country and used their recommended beans to create Stouts such that each variation has a different flavor profile.  The outcome shows how different coffee beans can influence the ultimate flavor of the Stout.  Pretty unique and an incredible labor of love!  It must have been quite a job first to source out different coffee roasters then brew different batches highlighting the flavors and notes from the coffee!

I was able to taste the Larry’s Coffee version at the release party last Wednesday.  I found it to be quite good and thought the coffee was very complementary to the Stout and it 2016-05-03_001557000_52A6A_iOSworked well!  I was hoping for a similar experience when I opened a bottle of Son using coffee from Portola Coffee Lab, a Southern California roaster. This version clocked in at 7.9%ABV in its 22oz. bomber.

As with BBB, I took Son out of the fridge and let it sit for an hour before I opened it. The pour was similar to Big Bad Baptist as it was a jet black pour and a nice foamy head that hung in there for quite some time. The aroma was pure coffee – didn’t get any chocolate scent in Son.   The first sip was quite tasty, with some nice coffee notes, not overwhelming with a medium mouthfeel. The aftertaste was smooth and went down easy. Subsequent tastes mirrored the first with the only difference was that as it warmed, the mouthfeel got a bit thicker – which I like – though it never got to the “tongue coating” stage.

I really enjoyed Son of a Baptist – I appreciate the creativity and effort the Epic Brewing team put forth in this “series” of a single Stout.   With the lower ABV, I could easily see myself savoring this on a summer evening.

Current plans call for Epic to release these variations in 12oz. cans later this year – great idea!  One recommendation would be to take a page from the Terrapin playbook and release mixed 4 packs, so we can taste and sample the differences across the various coffees.  I’m happy to support Larry’s Coffee as my local roaster, but tasting the different flavor profiles is a good way to showcase the Son of a Baptist series!

Stout of this World rating: 4.0 bombers