The Stout of the Union!

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With all of the recent hubub about the State of the Union address here in the US, ¬†I thought I’d share a few hundred words about the STOUT of the Union! ¬†I’m pleased to tell you that it has never been better! ¬†The variety, the quality and the selection is the best in stout history! ¬†Also, stouts are available more during the entire year than ever before! ¬†Let me expound on a few things that have been on my mind…

cropped-2015-11-08_112739000_71d9b_ios.jpgI’m not sure who the governing body is for all of these special “days” or “months” that we like to celebrate and commemorate but whoever decided that the shortest month of the year should be Stout month seriously miscalculated! All kidding aside, we’re nearing the end of February and what many would consider the end of Stout Season. Being the Stoutwhisperer, there is no such thing as Stout Season, unless you want to consider the entire year a “season”. In actuality, if you want to put an exclamation point on the busy part of the stout release season, I would submit to you that exclamation point is the annual Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS) release by Founders Brewing of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Whatever your2018-05-12_17-11-06_547 (2018-05-13T18_26_18.502) feelings are about Founders, KBS is one of the early bourbon barrel aged Stouts and deserves a place in the Stout Hall of Fame! The annual KBS release is in early March and Founders makes it an event, starting in it’s home state of Michigan and then rolling it out nationally. After the KBS release, things start to settle down and the brewer calendar starts to transition to the lighter colored brews……perhaps with one exception. The good people at Toppling Goliath are having their 2019 vintage Assassin release on March 30 this year. Stout lovers bought up all the tickets to the release in mere minutes and the migration to Decorah, Iowa will commence in late March. ¬†Note: I wish I could show a picture of Assassin, but I’ve never been fortunate enough to see it in the wild, much less taste it on draught or from the bottle (that means ISO!)!

That all said, there will be Stout releases in April and May, perhaps at your local brewery. Stout releases tend to be few and far between in the summer months of June, July, and August…..but in September, things begin to crank back up and the Stouts begin to flow!

The increasing popularity of our favorite elixir (also known as the Stout) has broadened and widened the timeframes for releasing Stouts. ¬†It’s an abundance of riches for us…..but it also makes me pause. ¬†There are so many talented brewers out there creating incredible stouts and innovating with new and interesting ingredients.

Take for example, the team from Braxton Brewing in Covington, KY. ¬†Their claim to stout fame is their tasty Dark Charge Stout, released annually in December. ¬†Braxton 2019-02-17_14-56-31_226Labs is their small batch experimental laboratory where they try new things and see how they turn out. ¬†I was fortunate enough to sample their Dark Charge with Pineapple and smoked Poblano Peppers. ¬†I was intrigued, as I felt it could be really tasty but I also thought it could be a train wreck if it wasn’t executed well. ¬†My fears were unfounded, as the sweetness and flavor profile from the pineapple shone through and the notes of smokiness and heat from the Poblanos tempered the pineapple to create a wonderful balanced stout. ¬†It worked and I’m so glad I had the opportunity to enjoy it!

All in all, the State of the Stout Union is incredible.  We have more creative and innovative brewers than ever, which translates to more amazing and jaw dropping Stouts!  There are more choices, adjuncts, and flavor choices than ever, which makes it an exciting time for us!

Let me know your favorite adjunct and the Stout which does the best job of showing it!

Until next time….never doubt a stout!

 

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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!

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!

 

Surly’s Darkness Weekend

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This weekend was a big weekend in Minnesota….I mean Wisconsin. ¬†The good people at Surly Brewing held their 11th annual celebration of Darkness, their renowned BottleRussian Imperial Stout. ¬† Because of the popularity of the event, they moved it from their brewery in Minneapolis to the Somerset Amphitheater in Somerset, Wisconsin. ¬†Moving the celebration to a location more suitable for a festival like environment was probably a wise choice! ¬† The different attendance packages Surly offered included on-site camping – love that option for an event like this! ¬†Let everyone have a great time and minimize the potential for trouble. ¬†They also provided shuttles from Minneapolis for those who couldn’t do the camping thing. ¬†Nice move, Surly!

This year, Surly released for the first-time ever three bottles Darkness variants! ¬†Aside from the OG Darkness, they released a Bourbon Barrel-aged Cherry Vanilla Darkness, a Rum barrel-aged Coconut Darkness and a Fernet Barrel-aged Darkness. ¬† I’d love to try the Rum BA Coconut Darkness! ¬†For those who are wondering (including me), according to Wikipedia,¬†Fernet is made from a number of herbs and spices which vary according to the brand, but usually include myrrh, rhubarb, chamomile, cardamom, aloe, and especially saffron,¬†with a base of grape distilled spirits. ¬†Sounds interesting!! ¬†I think I’d like to try that variant as well!

2018-09-29_15-14-32_068Aside from the Darkness release party, Surly arranged for a few of their closest friends to come to Wisconsin and pour¬†some of their darkest creations.¬† Some participating breweries included Burial (North Carolina!), Trophy Brewing (North Carolina!), Toppling Goliath (Iowa), Half Acre (Chicago), Mikerphone (Chicago), Cigar City (Tampa) and Sixpoint (Brooklyn)……a nice touch and some fantastic pours, I’m sure!

If a Darkness release and a Stoutfest wasn’t enough, Surly outdid themselves with a tasty metal music lineup (Saturday headliner: Carcass), other extreme music (Friday headliner: Sick of It All), a community bottle share, and food trucks to keep everyone happy.

Also for those who love the Darkness label artwork (count me among that crowd), this year’s Darkness art was designed by St. Paul-based artist Michael Iver Jacobsen. Michael drew a minotaur brooding at the center of his labyrinth.

I had a chance to do an email interview with Jerrod Johnson, head brewer at Surly a 2018-09-02_15-17-12_580 (2018-09-03T18_13_27.546)few months ago.  He gave me a preview of Darkness Day (see the question about the variants) along with some insights into the how and why of Darkness:

  • What was the inspiration behind the creation of Darkness?

Jerrod:  The Surly Nation loves two things: Surly beer and truly dark metal music. Darkness is basically our loving tribute to them.

  • What do you feel is unique or separates Darkness from it‚Äôs RIS peers?

Jerrod: Darkness is a huge imperial stout that uses the highest quality ingredients. Unlike many imperial stouts, we add a massive amount of aromatic hops. This both balances the intense malty sweetness of the base beer and adds mysterious notes of forest and pine. The hops fade over time, so if you like it hoppy, drink it fresh

  • What do you feel barrel aging does to Darkness?

Jerrod: Barrel aging brings out more complex malty notes from the introduction of small amounts of oxygen in the barrel, creates vanilla and oak notes, and adds a perceived dryness that helps to balance the sweetness of the stout. The character of the original liquid, in this case rye whiskey, also carries over into the beer.

  • Have you considered any additional variants?¬†¬†Other barrel types?

Jerrod: Yes, we’ve created several variants on a very limited scale, mostly as single firkins or infusion kegs. Vanilla Darkness aged on Red Oak, Cherry Darkness, and Fernet BA Darkness all turned out great. We have exclusively used rye whiskey barrels for our BA Darkness releases but are experimenting with other types of barrels.

Thanks to Tiffany Jackson from Surly for connecting me with Jerrod!  Tiffany is the PR and Communications Manager at Surly and she has been great to work with!

I appreciate the time, effort, and thought that Surly put into this year’s Darkness Weekend! ¬†They really put their customers first in creating a top experience. ¬†Count me amongst those who will put the 2019 Darkness Weekend on my calendar!!

There are many release events around the country that try and provide the best experience for their fans…funny how most of them are Stout related!! ¬†That being said, I’m not sure if any of them outdo Surly’s Darkness Weekend! ¬†Some may come close or equal it, but outdo? ¬†I doubt it.

Let me know what your favorite release event is and why!

 

 

Is there still a Stout Drought?

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In years past Stouts were considered cold weather beverages. ¬†The summer months were reserved for the IPA crowd and the Stout lovers had to wait for the temperatures¬†2018-08-05_15-05-13_185to cool before the tasty dark elixir made a triumphant return to the shelves and taps. Thankfully for those who consider themselves Stout aficionados, the annual “Stout Drought” is being eliminated (or at least is shrinking) and we have the craft beer industry to thank! ¬†As more local craft beer brewers enter the market, they are listening to their customers – ¬†we want Stouts year round – and they are obliging! ¬†All you have to do is look at social media…..there are weekly Stout releases and although we can’t be everywhere to take advantage of each release, just knowing they are out there tells me the Stout market is alive and well, even in the summer months! ¬†So go ahead and drink that Stout on a hot summer day!

 

Heads Carolina, Tails California!

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I haven’t posted much lately so I’m going to combine a couple of ideas into one post!

April was North Carolina Beer month which celebrates the 200+ breweries from the mountains to the ocean. There were beerfests across the state, in Asheville, Charlotte, the Triad, and here in the Triangle, where Brewgaloo was held.  The Triangle Brewers Association also had  a weekend of fun and they recognized those local brewers in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area.

I celebrated NC Beer month in a few ways:

  • I created ‚ÄúThe Tollwhisperer‚ÄĚ a wonderful cuvee blend of @Raleighbrewing BA The Toll 2018-04-21_15-03-31_608and The Toll conditioned with cacao nibs. It was a wonderful nectar that the good people at Raleigh Brewing should take note of and consider for a future release!¬† The barrel aging and the chocolate notes combined well and made for a tasty Stout that was a one of a kind treat!
  • Mrs. Stoutwhisperer and I took a trip to Asheboro to visit Four Saints Brewing Co. It‚Äôs a wonderful 2018-04-22_17-48-20_000 (2018-04-28T20_19_57.328)brewery/taproom in downtown Asheboro that had the feel of a local neighborhood gathering spot.¬†Locals were welcomed by first name and visitors¬†were welcomed as if they were a local.¬† The two people tending the bar were very helpful and accommodating. If ¬†I were an Asheboro resident, I could see how Four Saints would be a regular stop!
  • I also enjoyed the following NC Stouts:
    • The cocoa and vanilla variant of Heavyweight Champ from Trophy Brewing
    • A 2016 vintage of
      Drunken Vigils from Southern Pines Brewing
    • A 2016 vintage of Foothills Brewing Sexual Chocolate

 

I extended NC Beer month 2018-05-06_14-25-47_121by a few days and enjoyed MDXXI, an Imperial Mexican Chocolate Stout from Twin Leaf Brewery

  • Mrs. Stoutwhisperer and I also took another road trip to Waxhaw (south of Charlotte) to visit The Dreamchasers Brewery to pick up a couple of bottles of Wail of the Baen
    Sidhe, a really tasty Bourbon Barrel aged Stout with vanilla beans and chocolate.The Taproom in downtown Waxhaw is a renovated firestation!  The day we visited, all of the garage doors were wide open and everyone was enjoying the nice breeze and low humidity….a real neat place for families and locals to 2018-05-13_14-48-30_805 (2018-05-20T18_44_01.000)meet and relax!

North Carolina Beer Month is really a great chance to focus on the amazing Stouts that North Carolina has to offer.  It truly is a statewide celebration of the craft beer industry!

Following NC Beer Month, I took a look at the last couple months of my sampling and realized I hadn’t had any Stouts west of the Mississippi!  I took care of that my having a California weekend!  Here were my selections:

-Traeblod, an excellent Maple and Coffee stout from Mikkeller San Diego. This was really a tasty one!2018-05-18_17-04-26_945

-Goshawk’s Grasp from Horus Aged Ales out of Oceanside, CA.  A thick, chewy Stout with 2018-05-19_15-20-35_149notes of Hazelnuts and Coffee. Loved the aroma and the taste!

-Darkstar November from Bottle Logic Brewing in Anaheim, CA.¬† Another incredible Stout from Bottle Logic ‚Äď a bourbon 2018-05-20_15-37-56_115barrel imperial stout brewed with molasses and rye.¬† I really loved what the molasses added to this one ‚Äď it really softened the bourbon notes and made it a smooth Stout!

I really enjoyed my California weekend‚Ķ.and I’m looking forward to traveling west again soon! ¬†Hope you will come along for the ride!

What are you favorite North Carolina or California Stouts!  Let me know!

Funky Carolina? North Buddha?

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North Carolina has been the fortunate recipient recently of a number of breweries who have expanded their distribution footprint into the Southeast.  Cigar City and Firestone Walker have started sharing their lineup and the next one sharing their bottles, cans, and taps is none other than Funky Buddha Brewery from Oakland Park Florida, just north of Fort Lauderdale.  In the Stout world I live in, Funky Buddha is known for their tasty Stouts and Porters:

…..and a few others that make a guest appearance from time to time! ¬†They have a 2017-09-02_15-00-03_348great Barrel-Aging program and have a great knack for dialing in their adjuncts to perfection! ¬†I’ve been fortunate enough to take most (but not all) of the above and I’ve been very impressed with the entire lineup! ¬†I’ve had to trade for most of these and I’m thrilled to know that many of these will find their way to my local bottleshops and taprooms! ¬†My guess is that FB will start with sending Maple Bacon Coffee Porter and Last 2017-12-09_15-10-02_608Snow up north to us (as well as some of their non-Stout/Porter lineup) and will expand to their Barrel Aged Stouts and Porters depending on sales and volume.

I just enjoyed the 2018 vintage of Maple Bacon 2018-03-17_15-21-45_473Coffee Porter and it truly is a memorable beer….the maple aroma lasts for a good while and it’s truly deserving of all of the accolades it has received over the years! ¬†The Funky Buddha brew crew appears to have the recipe down just right!

I hope that Funky Buddha makes a splash in North Carolina and puts it’s best foot forward in their market introduction. ¬†Tap Takeovers, tastings, and other special events will be critical in the fight for shelf space in what is a very competitive marketplace in North Carolina. ¬†Local, 2017-03-25_15-16-14_075 (2017-07-09T19_02_26.169)regional, and national brewers are all vying for our wallets and cellar space and Funky Buddha certainly has the Stout/Porter lineup to grab a healthy share!

Here’s to a successful launch for Funky Buddha in North Carolina! ¬†The Stoutwhisperer is looking forward to seeing MBCP and Last Snow on the shelves in North Carolina….but make sure and bring some Morning Wood and Last Buffalo as well!

What breweries are you hoping would expand into your market?  Let me know the brewery and where you are at and perhaps we can reach out and see what can be done!