Santa’s Stash is coming to town!

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Until this year, whenever I hear Bruce Springsteen’s version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” on the radio, I officially declare it the holiday season.  This year, I may have found something else to signify that the holiday season is here:  the nail pull pour of Santa’s Stash from Compass Rose!

Compass Rose is a small brewery in Raleigh, North Carolina that resides in a nondescript industrial area.  It’s one of the myriad of small breweries around the country who have set up shop in an industrial area that you would never find unless you were specifically looking for it.  Compass Rose is your quintessential small brewery/taproom that relies on word of mouth for business.  They don’t distribute their beers; their distribution consists of  crowlers from the brewery.  Their taproom is family (and dog) friendly: a big open, airy space that has big screen TVs all around the perimeter, an area for darts, and enough space for indoor cornhole play!  There is an outdoor patio perfect for cool fall evenings (they have a few fire pits on the patio) and they have a busy calendar of events – trivia nights, axe throwing (!), scavenger hunts – as well as a full calendar of food trucks to satisfy the hungry patrons.

Compass Rose Brewery, Raleigh, NC

 There is a small, but intensely dedicated team of people who all wear whatever hat is necessary to get the job done.  It’s like an ensemble cast in a play.  There is a talented brewmaster, in this case Justin McConkey.  There is a person who oversees the Taproom, played by Bryan Grace.  There are other roles for Event Planning and Marketing.  Everyone wears whatever hat that is required to get the job done and to make the customers happy.

That’s where I come in.  I was at Compass Rose because Mrs. Stoutwhisperer and I held a baby shower for our oldest daughter.  She (and her husband) are expecting twins and what better place to have a baby shower than a brewery!  Actually it was her idea!  Once we finalized the details for the shower,  I reached out to Justin to see how Santa’s Stash was coming along.  I knew it was sleeping in bourbon barrels so I asked if I could get a taste right from the barrel – a nail pull pour in brewer’s vernacular.  No guarantees, Justin said, but we’ll see come the day of the baby shower.  for context, the 2018 vintage of Santa’s Stash is a Stout infused with pure liquid cacao from Cholaca in Boulder, Colorado, freshly pureed cherries from JRP Orchards in Cana, Virginia, and resting in Heaven Hill bourbon barrels!  From the description provided by Justin, “expect deeply complex layers of roasted malt, espresso, dark chocolate, & cherry jam with a smooth and viscous mouthfeel”!  Sounds amazing, doesn’t it?  

A nail pull pour of Santa’s Stash!

Fast forward to Baby Shower day.  We’re in the taproom setting up the decorations and snacks for the event and I see Justin in the brewery area     (there are huge windows separating the taproom from the brewery).  I immediately stop helping setting up and wander uninvited into the brewery area.  I introduce myself to Justin and we start talking Stouts.  He offers me a pour of Santa’s Stash and I immediately accept.   Getting a pour of a Stout directly from a barrel is such a unique opportunity,  I really felt as if Justin was sharing something special with me.  A nail pull pour is the Stout at it’s most basic – no carbonation and at room temperature.  Santa’s Stash was amazing!  Bourbon notes – YES!  Chocolate notes – YES!  Cherry notes – YES!  Justin dialed this one in perfectly!  

Santa’s Stash!!

Today, December 1 is the official taproom release of Santa’s Stash.  I wasn’t able to make it to the taproom today to taste the final product, but I know it will be a winner!  I’ll be there soon to get a snifter (and hopefully a crowler to go!).   I know Santa will be proud to have his name associated with this Stout!  I expect Compass Rose will leave a snifter glass of Santa’s Stash out for him when he makes his stop at Compass Rose. That certainly will guarantee that they will be on Santa’s nice list!

Many thanks to Justin and the good people at Compass Rose!  If you are in Raleigh, please stop by their taproom/brewery, enjoy one of their brews on tap (it’s OK if it’s not a Stout!) and tell them the Stoutwhisperer sent you!

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year…..

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Now for many of you, this is a seasonal holiday song made popular by both Andy Williams and Johnny Mathis  However, for the Stoutwhisperer and many other Stout lovers, the most wonderful time of the year is now.  It’s Stout season and we will raise our Stout glass this Thursday, November 1, by StoutDay-Untappd-2018celebrating International Stout Day!.  The traditional beer calendar associates Fall with cooler temperatures and the transition to darker, stronger, more warming beers….and that’s the obvious sweet spot of Stouts!  Stouts from every brewery are either brewed or, if they are barrel aged, they are awakened from their boozy slumber to be bottled, canned, or kegged.  Stouts are being released almost every day of the week….and Stout lovers are standing in lines for those hard to get releases.  For some, entire “Days” (or weekends) are being held – take a look at Surly Brewing and their Darkness Day extravaganza!  Perhaps the most2018-09-29_15-14-32_068 well known release is yet to come, with Goose Island releasing their Bourbon Country Brand Stout and variants being released on Black Friday!

For me, it’s a time to celebrate the Stout!  I may be biased, but I think Stout lovers are the most ardent and dedicated devotees of any style of beer!  Tell me what you will be doing to celebrate International Stout Day!  I believe I will have a Stout to salute and honor the most Stoutstanding style of beer!  Go to your local brewery or bottleshop and enjoy your favorite Stout!  Leave me a comment and let me know what you will be drinking to celebrate International Stout Day!

 

I scored an Epic Triple Double this weekend!

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2017-11-18_15-11-00_432If you are into basketball at all, you know what a Triple Double is.  For those who are not basketball fans, a Triple Double is when a player achieves double digits (i.e. 10 or more) in three of the major statistical categories – points, rebounds, assists, steals or blocks.  Achieving a Triple Double is a difficult feat for most and is usually reserved for the more skilled players.

I’m excited to share the news that I scored a Stout Triple Double this weekend – thanks to the good people at Epic Brewing!  I enjoyed their Triple Barrel Big Bad Baptist and their Double Barrel Big Bad Baptist all in the same weekend!

Epic has really upped their Stout game in the past couple of years.  Their OG or franchise Stout is Big Bad Baptist (BBB) – a coffee stout that is barrel aged.  The neat thing about BBB is that each year the Epic brewmasters choose a different coffee to add to the base BBB stout, creating different “releases”.  Each release has it’s own flavor profile which makes each release different, unique, and makes for some tasty release comparisons!

Two years ago they introduced Son of a Baptist (SoB), a non barrel aged coffee stout.  With SoB,  Epic partnered with a number of regionally located coffee roasters to simultaneously release different regional variants.   Last year, the Baptist family expanded with Double Barrel Big Bad Baptist and Big Bad Baptista.   Double Barrel introduced the concept of Barrel Aged Coffee to the Baptist lineup while Baptista is Epic’s salute to Mexico with the addition of cinnamon, vanilla, cacao nibs and a blend of Mexican coffees!

I must admit that Big Bad Baptista was my favorite — until Epic went one step further and introduced Triple Barrel Big Bad Baptist this year.  Triple Barrel is an intoxicating 2017-11-18_15-12-47_336nectar of barrel aged Stout (Big Bad Baptist), barrel aged coffee, and barrel aged coconut!!   Yes, you read that right!  Epic put shaved coconut into barrels and let the coconut absorb the flavors that barrels can impart over time.  They also added some rum barrels into the aging process and the result is magic.

Opening up a bottle of Triple Barrel BBB the first aroma is coconut.  The flavor profile are complex layers of coffee, rum, coconut, whiskey, chocolate all wrapped around a wonderful base Stout.  The mouthfeel is just right and the swallow is smooth with just a hint of the coconut.  It was one of those Stouts that you are actually sad when the bottle is empty!

2017-11-19_15-04-01_247Next up is the Double Barrel Big Bad Baptist.  It’s Big Bad Baptist with the addition of barrel aged coffee……coffee that’s been aged in whiskey barrels.  A totally different flavor profile,  more boozy and less sweet than Triple Barrel, as you might expect.  However, I can taste more of the base stout than I could with the Triple Barrel.   I 2017-11-19_15-07-23_595suspect that’s what the Epic brewmasters were hoping for…very different flavor profiles across the Baptist family.  Just what a family should be…..same stout heritage, but different personalities!

At the end of it….do I have a new favorite?  Well, like a parent, the right answer is that they are all good in their own way.    Epic really has their act together when it comes to stouts…… the Triple Barrel Stout has the perfect balance of coconut sweetness and barrel aging.  Big Bad Baptista has the spice profile that I really like.  Double Barrel has a great profile of barrel aged coffee and BBB.   Lastly, the OG Big Bad Baptist hits the sweet spot for a barrel aged coffee Stout.   As in any family, you don’t have a preferred child; you love them all the same yet each have their different personalities.  While each has their positives, my favorite (for now) is Triple Barrel Big Bad Baptist.  The sweetness of the coconut really complements the bourbon flavor and the faint rum barrel flavor added an entirely new dimension to the aroma and taste. I’m glad I have another bottle to sample and review in the coming months!!

I’m proud of my Epic Triple Double this weekend!  It was quite the taste journey and I would be happy to take that trip again!!

Until next time….have a stoutstanding week!!

 

 

 

Is size important?

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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!

#ProperGlassware

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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!

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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!

Stout and about…..

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A few random observations:

-I’m in the middle of my first beer trading “damaged shipment”.  I sent a full 6 shipper from North Carolina to California, had it refilled and it was sent back to NC by one of my good trading partners.  It made it all the way cross country back to western North Carolina and then I saw the dreaded “Damaged in Shipment – returning to Shipper” note on my FedEx app.  I called FedEx to see if they can redirect it back to me – after all, it made it 90% of the way – just deliver it to me and I’ll determine what was damaged.  Unfortunately, the shipper instructions called for a return if damaged, so FedEx couldn’t reroute it without a request from the shipper (my trading partner).  I reached out to my trading partner and he immediately called FedEx.  He requested that the delivery be completed to me…and that’s where we’re at.  The FedEx rep he spoke to didn’t seem real confident that it will be redirected to me, so it may very well wind up back in California for my trading partner to take stock of what happened.   Tough to determine what happened, especially since we were using a good styrofoam 6-shipper.   Putting it all in perspective, this is my first damaged shipment among many trades and also….it’s only beer.  Even though I would love to be sipping on some Nibs and Beans Speedway Stout right now, no one got hurt and I’ll survive!  We’ll see where this goes….anyone have any good “damaged in shipment” stories to share?  For all I know, we had a thirsty FedEx person who perhaps heard some sloshing and decided to check it out!   I’ll let you know what happens in a future blogpost!

-My wonderful bride, Mrs. Stoutwhisperer, made me a stout glass with my logo.  It looked really great but when I poured a Stout in it, the logo disappeared!  I don’t know 2017-02-26_15-44-56_759the technical details of glass making but apparently the etching wasn’t deep enough.  Not to be deterred, she went to her Etsy network and found someone who made two Stoutwhisperer glasses for me!  I was thrilled to get these logo glasses and you can expect to see them in my photos going forward next to any brewery glassware I’ve procured.  The logo looks great with a nice dark Stout as a background!  Hope you think so as well!

-I just returned from a business trip to the land of Mickey Mouse – Orlando, Florida.  After the important work was finished, I tried to find some time to check out the craft beer scene in Orlando.  Unfortunately, that turned into “whatever you can do in a two 2017-02-20_19-31-28_597hour window on your way to the airport heading home”.  I used the intelligence I gathered from my friends at Beer Advocate and headed to Knightly Liquors on Orange Blossom Boulevard.  Yes, it’s in a sketchy area, but they have a great assortment of Stouts!  After talking with them, I found out about their “behind the counter” selection and I was able to bring home a couple of bottles of Funky Buddha’s Maple Bacon Coffee Porter!  I’m really excited about cracking open a bottle next weekend and seeing if MBCP lives up to the hype!  I also picked up a couple of Stouts from Canada I’ve heard about but haven’t had the chance to taste – Aphrodite and Peche Mortel from Brasserie Dieu du 2017-02-24_19-25-56_000Ciel in Quebec.  Knightly has a great beer selection….I highly recommend you check them out if you are in Orlando….they are in the SeaWorld area.  Friendly knowledgeable people and great selection…what else can you ask for?

-We’re wrapping up the Stout Month of February….so that means my world will slow down for just a bit.  The only real Stout event coming up is the annual KBS release!  Founder’s is having all of their release events around Grand Rapids and Michigan during the month of March – and everyone else will be able to taste the elixir that is KBS in April.  I’m especially looking forward to the 2017 release as that will complete my 5 year KBS vertical..starting with 2013..14..15..16..and now 17!  I’m looking forward to doing some tastings across the years!   That also means my Stout Cellar is at it’s maximum capacity.  That means it’s time to take inventory and open the cellar for some trading!  I’m more about trying new Stouts and trying to trade for Whales!  There are so many brewers creating amazing Stouts that it’s difficult to keep up…but the quest continues!

If you are reading this and think I need to know about a specific Stout, please let me know!  If you are local to a brewery and a Stout that deserves more love, have them send me a bottle or two so I can taste it and review it!  I love to sample new Stouts!

That’s it for now….thanks for checking me out!   See you next time!

Hope you have a Stoutstanding week!