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!

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#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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why is February Stout Month… and the top ten reasons why I love Stouts!

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February has been declared to be Stout Month.  I have a real problem with that…..why is the shortest month of the year Stout Month?  I would suggest that either December or January be Stout Month….that way we would get 3 more days of Stout Loving!  OK…enough of that.

I’m actually glad that we have a Stout Month, no matter how many days it has.  It gives me a chance to create a top ten list of why I love Stouts!  Here they are in no particular order:

10.  Love the different adjunct flavors in Stouts….chocolate, vanilla, coffee, chili pepper, 2016-12-29_15-40-36_000coconut……all the way to beets, peppermint…and who knows whats next?

9.  Appreciate the different barrel agings and what they do to a Stout….bourbon, whiskey, tequila, wine, sherry, cognac….

8. Love the trend toward Stouts in cans! 2017-02-12_15-05-45_916 Looking forward to the Speedway Stout Cans.

7. Would prefer Stouts in 12 oz.(or 16 oz.) bottles….22 oz. bombers is a bit much for one person.

6. Really enjoy trading with my fellow Stout lovers!

2016-10-22_15-45-40_4885. I like collecting the glassware to match the brewer or Stout.

4. Happy to see collaborations between brewers, coffee roasters, and chocolate chefs (?). Love local sourcing partnerships.

3. I’m happy that if I can’t drink my Stout of choice right away….it’s considered “aging”!

2. Appreciate those brewers who brew a straight down the middle Imperial Stout!  Tough to do.2016-12-02_17-21-37_959

1. I really love the taste of a Stout over any other style….although I like a good IPA from time to time!

Did I miss anything!  Why do you love Stouts!  Share why you love Stouts with all of us!  Leave a comment and let us know why you are a Stout Lover!!

Happy Stout Month!

 

Guest Blogging at Brew Studs

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I’ve found that part of the fun and enjoyment of the craft beer experience is learning.  Learning takes various styles and forms – tasting and sampling different Stouts is one of them! – but another is reading about the world of craft beer and keeping up with new releases, industry trends, regulatory news, and other beer related news.  That puts me in front of my computer screen reading the numerous beer blogs that my peers write on a regular basis.  There are many quality blogs out there focused on the craft beer scene.  One of them, Brew Studs, is a great compendium of news, information, feature stories, reviews and opinion about the craft beer industry.  The neat part about Brew Studs is that it is a very collaborative blog.  Jeremy Fultz, the editor/publisher, encourages and welcomes contributions from the community of readers and craft beer aficionados.   My good fortune has given me the opportunity to write two blogposts for Brew Studs- one about aging and cellaring beer which I wrote in April 2016 and the one that just got posted yesterday about local sourcing and collaboration between Ohio-based Breweries and Coffee Roasters – the “Bean to Brew” trend!

It was a great article to write, as I learned much about the Ohio beer and coffee scene.  I spoke with John Haggerty, Brewmaster of Warped Wing, who gave me some amazing insights16230605_711576212354571_7366109581132431360_n into the world of brewing, the partnership with Press Coffee Bar and their upcoming release of Pirogue, a Belgian Black Tripel which uses Press’s WoodBurl coffee.  John also shared some of the future plans he has up his sleeve (I promised not to tell, but the craft beer fans in Dayton will be pleased!).  I also gained some good perspective from the other side of the Ohio River in Kentucky from Braxton Brewing and their custom Starter coffee collaboration with Carabello Coffee.  I also exchanged emails with other Ohio breweries and coffee roasters, such as Six Shooter Coffee and Twisted River Coffee Roaster, who shared with me their ideas and opinions about collaborating with local brewers and others in their local communities.  It really is a vibrant scene in Ohio, which surely is replicated all over the country in small towns and big cities.  I also braxton-small-craft-beer-brewery-cincinnatiwrote about Epic Brewing and their local/national release of Son of a Baptist, a coffee stout made in partnership with 12 local/regional coffee roasters.  They took a local idea and are applying it at a national level.  The version that just hit the North Carolina market uses coffee from Dynamite Roasting Co.in Black Mountain, NC.   These wonderful examples of craft beer breweries and coffee craft-beer-epic-son-of-a-baptist-cansroaster collaborations made me realize and appreciate the hard work, passion, and commitment these artisans have for their work….and that we need to patronize these local establishments whenever we can. They put in long hours at odd times to bring us the highest quality brews possible- coffee or beer – and we should show our support by the cup or glass!

I urge you to head over to Brew Studs, peruse the website, give the Bean to Brew article a read and learn more about local sourcing and collaboration in practice through the eyes of those Ohio brewers and coffee roasters!

After you are done, come on back and share your local craft beer/coffee collaborations that you think are worthy of recognition!!

 

 

Stoutography

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When I decided to share my interest and passion for Stouts with the rest of the world, I didn’t realize the level of photographic genius that would be required.  Looking at Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and all of the other social media options, it’s clear that there are those who have a knack for craftbeer photography and people like me who don’t.  I aspire to have the level of creativity and natural talent that some have.  I just put the bottle and glass in the frame, take a picture and post it.  However, there is so much more than that….and I need help!   Fortunately and thankfully the iPhone generation takes care of that…because there’s an app for that!!  I’ve been having fun with two specific  applications, Prisma and Color Splash.  Prisma is an app that takes a photo and converts it into a specific photographic motif.  Color Splash takes a photo, converts it into black and white, and gives the user the opportunity to add color back to any area of the photo.

I struggle with props, backgrounds, and themes – that’s why I envy those social media posters who have the natural ability to “know” what colors work or what backgrounds or settings work best with a bottle or glass of Stout….or any beer for that matter.  I try and learn from each photo….and hopefully can apply it to my Stoutography!

Here are some examples of how a normal picture can morph using the iPhone apps.  Here is a picture I took today of the Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout that I enjoyed.  Next to that is the Prisma interpretation using their “Old Fashioned” motif….

Prisma has about 20 different motifs that you can convert a picture into….it’s a fun, innovative and creative way to present a somewhat regular photo.  It’s free and highly recommended!

Here is a similar picture using Color Splash.  The picture on the left was converted to all black and white and I then added back the color to the label and the “EAT” sign in the background:

It helps to bring the intended subject to the forefront.  It’s a real easy app to use and I plan to use it more in the future!   One note – the iOS version costs $0.99 but I think it a worthwhile investment for something that works so well.

There are numerous other iPhone and Android apps to help the novice craft beer photographer, but there are many other tips and tricks that can be used with requiring an app.  Using an appropriate background and picture specific props can really make a normal picture become great.  For example, the Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout picture could have been naturally enhanced had I put some coffee beans around the bottle or had I used some type of red background to compliment the label and to make the full glass of stout stand out.

Here’s a couple of pictures where I tried to use props to enhance the photos.  The one on the left just happened to coincide with the first snow of the year in North Carolina.  I thought the white snow would be an excellent backdrop to the dark stout and the blue logo.  I think the snow makes the Stout really stand out!   The one on the right was taken during the holiday season and I wanted to highlight the red label against the red and gold holiday decorations.  The red and gold coloring gives out a warmth to the picture that I think works well.

I’ve also tried a couple of outdoor shots and got real lucky on this one:

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I really like the sun streaming from between the branches of the trees…it was a unique feature that I didn’t expect and most likely will have a hard time ever recreating!

The next photo that seemed to get some notoriety is the one where I lined up my TenFidy purchase from the Barrel-Aged and Java Barrel-Aged TenFidy release event in Brevard, NC.  I tend to think that this got some love because of the excess of it all and the uniqueness of having all of those stovepipe beers stacked like that!

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The last example I’ll share with you is the value of having a “model” with the beer.  In this case, it’s Bella our black pug dog who, on occasion, has photobombed a couple of my shots.  She wouldn’t move from the shot so I decided to take it with her in the picture!  The funny part about it is if I try to have her actually pose for a shot, she won’t do it!

Creativity is key in successful craft beer photos.  While the run of the mill bottle/can plus a filled glass photo is nice to document the experience, it doesn’t really communicate anything else.  Having the imagination and creativity to somehow apply or connect the beer to something else in this crazy world is what makes the picture interesting to others.

If you post craft beer photos in the world of social media, I urge you to use your creativity and artistic background to search for that craft beer picture.  Don’t be afraid to try something new or different.

Let’s go on this craft beer photographic journey together…follow @stoutwhisperer on both Twitter and Instagram!  If you follow me, I’ll follow you right back.  Feel free to share any tips, tricks, or suggestions with us that work for you when taking Stout or any other craft beer pictures!