Is size important?

Standard

The Stout world seems to be confused about size.  If you go to your favorite bottleshop or taproom, you’ll see Stouts in 12oz cans, 16oz cans, 19oz cans (BA TENFIDY), 11.2 oz bottles,  12 oz bottles, 16oz bottles, 500ml bottles, 22oz bombers and 750ml bottles, and in rare cases, 1 liter bottles (yes, Rogue I’m talking about Rolling Thunder).   Consistent we’re not.

2017-03-25_13-45-37_490Why is size important?  Well, in the Stout world it’s important because the other critical variable is %ABV or how potent the beverage is in terms of alcohol content.  While there is a trend toward “session” Stouts, the average Stout weighs in somewhere between 9 and 15% ABV.  Now I know there are others on the lower and higher sides, but most are in that ABV window.  A 22oz
12% bomber is not only filling, the normal person feels pretty loose after consuming an entire bottle.   Some might say that a 22oz bomber is the right size for sharing , but in many situations, sharing isn’t part of the equation.  Putting a bottle stopper on and saving it like a wine isn’t really an option, so drinking the entire bottle becomes the task for the day.  I really like the strategy that Founder’s Brewing is taking this year with their 2017 release of KBS.  They are releasing KBS in both 750ml (25.4oz) bottles and 4 packs of 12 oz bottles!  That certainly gives us Stout lovers the option on how we want to enjoy our KBS!

The most recent release I’m not sure I understand (other than it being a novelty) is Rogue’s 2016 release of Rolling Thunder Imperial Stout.  As you can see below, it was 2017-03-25_13-48-34_891released in a 1 Liter (33.8 oz) bottle which can be restoppered.  I’m not sure about you, but I’ve never thought beers really stay the same after they are stoppered.  You lose carbonation and once you open it, oxidization starts.  That’s why I’m not a fan of 32 or 64oz growlers.

Why all of the different sizes and shapes?  There are a few reasons.  One is cost.
Depending on the amount of Stout, some brewers choose a larger capacity bottle which means less bottles.  That leads me to the next reason – marketing.  Scarce supply can create a higher demand for the beer and a heightened interest in the brewery.   For me, an example of this is the offerings from Ram Brewing just outside of Chicago (Schaumburg to be exact).  To be frank, I never heard of Ram until I read about them on various online boards and just how great their Stouts are.  When Ram announced their releases online, lines formed and the trading started.   The 2017 version of Chaos is in great demand on the trading boards.  Small breweries can make great beer and create quite a buzz through low volumes and high demand!

The other part of marketing is brewery only releases versus distribution.  Brewery only releases accomplishes a couple of things: it takes care of your primary customers (those local to the brewery) and allows the brewer to control the distribution.  Brewery only releases is a topic better left for another blog post…so stay tuned!

Another decision is can vs. bottle….there is a clear trend toward canning Stouts and there is an economic as well as quality aspect to this.  Cans allow no light in (obviously) and therefore the beer has a longer shelf life.  Glass allows light in and exposure to light 2017-03-25_13-47-05_782over time breaks down the beer.  That’s why one of the rules of successfully aging Stouts is to keep them in a dark area.

Back to the size of the Stout….I’d like to see some consistency in approach.  If a Stout is 12% or higher ABV, I’d like to have an option for a 12oz. bottle.  I really have to commend Founder’s – I’m not sure of the economics, but as a Stout consumer, I really like having the option and in my world, I would opt for the 4 pack of 12oz. bottles.  That gives me 4 opportunities to enjoy the Stout, whereas if I bought the similar quantity in 750ml bottles, I would only have 2 chances.  I also believe taste sensitivity begins to diminish after 16oz or so (no science behind this, just personal observation) and when quality is more important than quantity, I’d rather have my full complement of taste buds and be left with wanting more!

Marketing, economics, quantity, distribution, even tradition – all these determine the size, shape, and type of vessel for our wonderful Stouts!  What do you think about the various bottle/can sizes for Stouts?  Do you have a preference?  Leave a comment and let me know your thoughts!

Cheers!

Advertisements

#ProperGlassware

Standard

When I started down this Stout road, my preferred glass of choice was a frosted pint 2016-12-29_17-45-02_824glass.  I liked my beer cold because that’s what I always was told and frankly, that always how it was served.  The colder the better and having a frosted glass was even better.

Fast forward to the present and I know so much more….and so does everyone else.  Stouts should be savored and sipped at around 50-55 degrees F.  – unless the brewer specifically calls out something different (one example are Nitro Stouts, which are recommended to be served cold (40 degrees)).  Unfortunately, most bars and restaurants serve their beer cold no matter the style, so many Stout lovers order two beers at a time, warming the first one up by cupping their hands around the glass and allowing the second to warm naturally.  Colder temps hide some of the wonderful flavors that Stouts can have and having the different flavors emerge as the Stout warms is a wonderful thing to experience.  One of the areas that is getting more 2016-07-04_194004482_00E49_iOSattention is the actual type of glassware to aid in bringing out the aroma and flavors of a given style of beer.  Rogue and Left Hand Brewing actually collaborated with Spiegelau to develop a Stout glass which enables the optimal release of flavors, the ability to warm the Stout through human hand warmth and thin glass walls, and a wide opening for the aromas to escape.

Another trend is for breweries to release branded glassware to enhance their marketing reach as well as to match the glass style to optimize the taste experience.  Many brewers sell Tulip glasses or Teku glasses for Stouts.  Many also are selling limited edition glassware for special Stout releases…..and many are buying them!  There are trading forums on Facebook, Reddit, Beer Advocate, and elsewhere dedicated to trading and selling glassware!!  As you can tell from some of my Instagram or Twitter posts (@stoutwhisperer for both), I’m a novice Stout glassware guy.  I’ve bought some, I’ve traded for some, I’ve been given some.  Some limited, some widely available.  Below are some examples of my glassware along with their partner beverage!  My rule, as silly as it may be, is that only the named Stout can be poured into a branded glass – that is, only Founder’s KBS can go into a KBS glass, Goose Island Bourbon County can only go into a Bourbon County glass, etc.

I’ve even become the proud owner of2017-03-11_16-17-26_481 a pair of Stoutwhisperer Stout glasses thanks to Mrs. Stoutwhisperer.  They have become my go to Stout glasses and you’ll see them in many of my Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest pictures.  Many other posters like to show off their glassware as well – you can usually tell when they use #properglassware as a tag.

Collecting Stout glassware is a fun and relatively inexpensive partner hobby to collecting, tasting, reviewing, and writing about Stouts!

Now that you have some nice Stout glasses, you need to make sure you care for them and keep them clean.  They are usually very fragile, as their walls are intentionally thin so your hands can warm the liquid which as noted above, brings the flavors and aromas out and greatly enhances the taste of your Stout!  I highly recommend hand washing and air drying them.  It’s also important to insure they are clean, otherwise you’ll see the dreaded air bubbles sticking to the side of the glass – see the examples below.  Bubbles stick to the side of the glass when there are small particles on the glass….which means it’s a dirty glass!  There is nothing worse than posting a picture online and have a poster point out your dirty glass!  I speak from experience….

To insure a clean glass, I get some hot water, add a drop of Dawn dishwashing liquid in the glass, and use a bottle/glass washer to clean the glass an hour or so before using it.  That’s also when I usually take my Stout of choice out of the cooler or fridge so it can start to warm up.    If you are out and about, good bars and restaurants usually have a water spray near the taps so they can give their glasses a quick upside down spray to insure a nice clean and cool glass and to insure the best tasting experience for their beers.

To sum up – keep your glass clean, your Stouts at 50-55 (unless specifically called out by the brewer), use a Stout appropriate glass, and you’ll give yourself the best chance to have a great tasting experience and have a much better journey down Stout Street!

Until next time – Cheers!

 

 

Stout down!

Standard

I’d like to provide an update to my FedEx damaged shipment.  You may recall in my last post that I sent a 6 shipper to California and when my experienced and trusted trading partner sent the full 6 shipper back, it made it all the way from California to North Carolina when it was identified as “damaged in shipment” and wound up going all the way back to California as directed by the shipper’s instructions.  Now the shipper 2017-03-03_07-10-38_408intervened and attempted to have the shipment be redirected to me (the last 200 miles) but unfortunately, FedEx decided to ship it all the way back cross-country back to California.  Well, the damaged shipment made it safely back to Cali, and what my shipper and trusted trading partner received was quite interesting.  It appears that 4 of the 6 bottles were safe; one bottle was 2017-03-03_07-10-26_600completely missing and the last bottle was totally shattered in the shipper.  Based on the pictures my trading partner sent me, I can only speculate on what happened….either the package was dropped from a high altitude or someone was thirsty, opened the package, took a bottle and proceeded to damage the box so it would be declared “damaged in shipment”.  I 2017-03-03_07-10-53_850just can’t think of any other options that make any sense!  My trading partner is repacking the 4 shaken survivors, adding a couple other bottles and is sending a box back east again!

The FedEx representative that he spoke to recommended that Express is the way to go and that Ground shipping has had issues…….and it’s only a few dollars more for a seemingly safer trip!  Sounds like a good move and important advice for all if you choose to ship via FedEx.

I’ve seen debated on forums the value of shipping FedEx versus UPS versus USPS…..everyone has their opinions and horror stories about each.  None are perfect and none are bad – there is a risk every time you drop off a package and place it in the hands of others!  Just pack the passengers as best you can and hope that they survive the trip to their final destination.  Some tips:

  1. Try to make it as “non-beer” as possible – mask the liquid noise with tic tags, dried pasta, or some other noisy, non breakable item.
  2. Use bubble wrap, bubble wrap and when you think you are done, more bubble wrap.
  3. Invest in packing tape and tape every seam of the box.
  4. Pack the contents in a garbage bag so if there is leakage, it is contained in the bag and hopefully will still make it to it’s final destination.
  5. Add as much filler as possible so when it’s shaken, nothing moves…nothing.
  6. Find a trusted local shipping partner – I’ve built a relationship with a  local UPS Store and because of that, most of my shipping is with UPS.

There is always a risk of having problems….but it’s worth the risk when you receive “beer mail” and it’s a Stout or other beer that you’ve been wanting for some time! Hopefully the third trip cross-country for my Stouts will be smooth and uneventful and I can report to you soon that they made it safely!

Any interesting shipping stories you would like to share?  Any additional shipping tips for pass along?  Feel free to leave a comment!