Funky Carolina? North Buddha?



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!

Nothing but Infinite Wishes at Smog City!


There are many positives associated with east coast living but one of the negatives is
not getting exposure to many of the west coast Stouts.   There are only a few Stouts that regularly make the cross-country distribution journey – Speedway Stout from Alesmith Brewing comes to mind – while many other Stouts make it past the 2018-02-24_15-47-54_788Mississippi River via UPS and FedEx via the lively trading community.  One brewery that I’ve kept my eye on has been Smog City Brewing out of Torrance, California (just outside of Los Angeles).  Through social media, I would see posts praising Infinite Wishes, their Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout and The Nothing, a Double Chocolate Imperial Stout.   After doing a bit of research on their website, I became a fan.  They started in 2011 by brewing using another brewery’s excess capacity.  Business took off and they opened a brewery/taproom in 2013 and haven’t looked back!  A couple other reasons that attracted me to Smog City – the owners are Jonathan and Laurie Porter (Porter, get it?) , they refer to their annual releases as “vintages” like I do, and they have a Barrel Whisperer on their staff!   Yes, on their website, Cesar Alfaro’s title is Barrel Whisperer!  Any brewery with a Barrel Whisperer on their staff is a fan of the Stoutwhisperer!

I reached out to Smog City via an Instagram Direct Message (DM) and who but Laurie Porter responded!  A few emails back and forth and before I knew it, a bottle each of Infinite Wishes and The Nothing made the cross-country trip from Torrance to Raleigh!  I usually plan my tasting and blogging schedule for the next month, but when I saw these bottles at my doorstep, I knew my schedule would change!

Infinite Wishes is an Imperial Stout aged for a year in bourbon barrels and it’s annual release has become a highly anticipated event for Smog City and Infinite Wishes fans!  2018-03-03_15-30-13_386For the 2018 vintage, Smog City bottled approximately 1900 bottles which is about 800 less than last years vintage.  What’s new this year is that they are releasing two variants, Cinnamon Vanilla Infinite Wishes and Hazelnut and Cocoa Nibs Infinite Wishes!  After tasting Infinite Wishes, I can only imagine how incredible these two variants taste!

My time with Infinite Wishes was too short… started as it poured beautifully into my Stoutwhisperer tulip glass.  The first aroma notes were intoxicating scents of bourbon, vanilla, and chocolate.  The taste was sublime….rather than overriding the stout, the bourbon notes complimented the stout.  That takes a keen sense of brewing skill and barrel whispering!  The swallow was smooth and clean, with no burn or heat that some BA Stouts can give.  I finished it too soon and I wanted more….a great recommendation in itself!  Just count me a member of the Infinite Wishes fan club!

2018-03-04_15-06-37_591 (2018-03-05T01_18_55.304) After my Infinite Wishes experience, I couldn’t wait to dive into The Nothing, Smog City’s Double Chocolate Imperial Stout.  I enjoy dark chocolate and the label descriptions and the reviews really intrigued me.   Upon opening The Nothing, the escaping aroma was one of dark chocolate cocoa – not the sweet sugary kind, but the wonderful scent of dark unsweetened cocoa.   Brewed with “darkly roasted chocolate malts” and 2 types of cacao nibs, The Nothing is the darkest, blackest Stout I’ve ever seen.  The pour of The Nothing is a sight to behold!  The taste closely followed the
2018-03-04_15-08-32_964aroma, as the chocolate flavors really come forward from both the cacao nibs and the malts.   The Nothing is really something!  The Imperial Stout base with the chocolate malts combined with the cacao nibs create a luscious, alluring, black as night elixir that the Smog City Brewmasters should be proud of.  As the phrase on the label states, “Don’t be afraid of the Dark!”

After tasting Infinite Wishes and The Nothing, I’m a Smog City fan!  Those living in the LA/Torrance area, you have a gem of a brewery in your backyard and you need to patronize this brewery and their taproom.  For people like me on the other side of the country, I’ll have to settle for the occasional #beermail from the west coast…..but I’m applying to be the Smog City brand ambassador for Stouts in North Carolina, so when Smog City begins to distribute to the east coast, I’ll be in a prime position for Infinite Wishes and The Nothing deliveries!  How about it, Smog City?

Have a great Stout week!





Love that Maple!


I’m a big fan of maple syrup….the smell, the taste, the romanticism about tapping a tree and letting the sap drain into a bucket.  All in all, it’s quite a wonderful nectar of nature.
2018-01-15_14-50-46_783Not surprisingly, maple has become the adjunct du jour in the Stout world, and frankly, I’m thrilled.  The addition of maple syrup to an Imperial Stout adds taste, complexity,  a bit of sweetness and an amazing amount of aroma.  It is very complementary to the traditional flavors you find in a Stout – and even complements the other popular adjuncts out there today – vanilla, coffee, cocoa, cinnamon, and even peppers!

Probably the first real maple Stout was the first release of Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout (affectionately known as CBS).  CBS was first released in 2011 and 2017-12-24_16-59-46_523became a cult classic.  Founder’s released it again in 2014 in a very limited release,  but reintroduced it this past fall worldwide to incredible fanfare.  Another stout that pushed the maple envelope was Toppling Goliath’s Mornin’ Delight.  First introduced in 2013, MD was one of the Stouts that has made Decorah, Iowa (home of Toppling Goliath) a must visit destination for any Stout lover.  Others have quickly followed…can’t name them all, but maple has become a more frequent addition to the Stout world.

My first exposure to maple was with a brewery out of  St. Albans, Vermont named 2015-12-05_210031113_CE10D_iOS14th Star Brewing Co. with their Maple Breakfast Stout using Vermont Maple Syrup.  I was impressed with how the maple syrup added to the complexity of the Stout and was hooked.  Then I was able to pick up a Maple Bacon Coffee Porter from the good people at Funky Buddha in Florida and I was absolutely floored with 2017-03-03_17-10-22_536how much maple was packed into their bottles…not to mention the BA version of MBCP, Morning Wood!  Just wonderful! Add Michgan Maple Jesus from Evil Twin Brewing and I was on a maple mission!  Fast forward to Mikkeller Maple Vanilla Shake and the maple aroma and taste were simply amazing……next came Maple Bourbon Double Negative from Grimm Artisan 2017-10-14_15-40-06_312Ales, then the 2017 vintage of Founders CBS which added to the maple mystique,  and then getting a rare opportunity to enjoy a Mornin’ Delight from Toppling Goliath just took my maple journey to another level!2018-01-13_15-29-19_697 (2018-01-14T17_21_54.834)

What’s next?  My good trading friend from the UK, The Bristolian Stout, sent me an Omnipollo/Buxton collaboration, Original Maple Truffle Ice Cream Waffle Stout and I’m really looking forward to diving into that one!  I hear Parish Brewing has a great one called Maple Shade…hoping to find one in a trade!  And I would really like to taste a Fayston Maple Imperial Stout from Lawson’s Finest Liquids out of Warren, Vermont….and I hear that Jackie O’s has some very tasty maple Stouts!

What’s your favorite Maple Stout?  Let me know…..leave me a comment!  I want to find those incredible off the charts Maple Stouts that I should be tasting!

Visiting Richmond, VA


2017-12-15_19-23-13_027Every once in a while, I get to leave the confines of my office and hit the road.  I had to head up to Richmond, VA last week for a couple of days of meetings.  Once I locked in my travel plans, I took a look at the numerous Richmond breweries and bottleshops.   Richmond is quite a hotbed of craft beer these days, so there were many more places than I could visit during the little free time I would have during my time there.  I mapped out the few on my must visit list that appeared to be on the way to north Richmond – Veil, Hardywood, and The Answer.    On top of that, fortune was smiling upon me – Veil was releasing a new batch of Oreo Hornswoggler Chocolate Milk Stout on the Tuesday I would be driving up there.  I was able to get a couple of cans of Peanut Butter Oreo Horns a few months ago and really enjoyed them.  So having a release of Oreo Horns while I’m there was great news.

The drive up was uneventful and I arrived in Richmond around 5:30pm.  Fighting rush hour traffic, I found Veil located on a side street just off the main drag in Richmond (Broad St.).  I also found a long, long line snaking outside of the building.  I expected a line, but this was a LINE.  I was in no mood to wait, so disappointingly I headed to my hotel to get a good night’s sleep to be ready for my meetings.

After a solid day of productive meetings, I checked Facebook and again luck was on my side – Oreo Horns were still available!  I had about 2 hours before dinner so I
headed to Veil.  This time the line was about 5 people long – my kind of line!  I was in 2017-12-16_16-29-31_238and out of Veil in 15 minutes with my Oreo Horns.  The only downside was that I didn’t get a special token to get a limited edition Hornswoggler glass! (Note to the good people at Veil – I still would like a glass…).  Since the visit was so efficient, I decided to head over to Hardywood, which is about a 10 minute drive from Veil.  As it was with Veil, Hardywood was busy, but I was able to walk right to the counter and get a bottle of Christmas Morning, a bottle of Rum Barrel Gingerbread Stout and a nice matching Hardwood GBS 2017-12-16_16-12-41_185glass.  I was hoping to find Kentucky Christmas Morning, but they sold out of bottles a day or two prior…..and although they had KCM on tap, I passed and headed back to meet my dinner commitments.

On my way back to dinner, I passed The Answer and a Total Wine….unfortunately, not enough time to stop at either.  Why Total Wine?  I like to visit Total Wines as they provide insight into the local craft beer market and what is available in the market they serve.

My last day in Richmond wrapped a bit earlier than expected, so as I was heading out, I took the opportunity to stop at that Total Wine.  I walked around a bit and while I didn’t buy anything, the most interesting takeaway 2017-12-14_15-59-05_984was the picture on the left.  There you see Bell’s Black Note Stout in quantity!  Here in Raleigh, Black Note was a hot commodity at release, usually with a 1 per person allocation.  Here in Richmond, it sits.

Heading back to Raleigh was another uneventful drive safely wrapping up a productive couple days of meetings and visits to a couple of local breweries.  Unfortunately, I didn’t visit The Answer; that will just have to wait until the next time I’m there.  I also want to visit the new Stone Brewing facility….and Lickinghole Creek (although that’s a bit of a drive from Richmond)….and a few others!

Are there any other breweries, bottleshops, or restaurants in Richmond that I should check out the next time I’m there?  Let me know…drop me a comment!

Until next time – have a Stoutstanding week!


A To-TOLL-y great time!


2017-12-10_14-55-00_467If anyone follows my Instagram or Twitter feeds, you’ll know that The Toll from Raleigh Brewing is one of my favorite local Stouts.  To celebrate all things Toll, the good people at Raleigh Brewing decided to hold a “Fireside Chat”.  For a nominal admission price, you could enjoy unlimited pours (within reason of course) of 7 different Tolls – 2014 through 2017 The Toll as well as Rum, Bourbon and Port barrel aged The Toll.2017-12-10_14-54-10_543  There was food for all participants and everyone from Raleigh Brewing was available to chat – the Owners, the Brewers, and many of the staff.

I was fortunate enough to attend and really enjoyed myself.  It was a well run event and everyone from Raleigh Brewing was very friendly and accommodating.  I was able to get a few minutes with the owner of Raleigh Brewing, Kristie Nystedt, and she shared with me the reason for holding this event.  Raleigh Brewing never has held a release event for The Toll so this was a way to celebrate this popular Stout and it’s dedicated fan base.

I also was able to spend some time with the Head Brewer, Scott Craddock and the 2017-12-03_19-10-39_777other Raleigh Brewing brewers.  I asked them about their plans for The Toll and where they were looking to take their franchise Stout.  Specifically, I asked whether we would see any adjuncts (Coffee, Cinnamon, Vanilla, Coconut, etc.) in any upcoming releases.  Scott’s focus on The Toll is to make it the best Stout they know how – no adjuncts.  It’s clear that they know what is happening in the Stout world and they have no interest in duplicating what is already in the market.  They want to standout and be a leader by focusing on their strengths.

They do like to experiment with barrel aging, however.  Raleigh Brewing releases an annual Bourbon Barrel Aged version of The Toll (the 2017 vintage was just released a few weeks ago) and had on tap at the event a Rum Barrel Aged version and a Port Barrel Aged version.  I really enjoyed the Rum Barrel Toll and the Bourbon Barrel Toll is always solid.  As for the Port Barrel Toll, I wasn’t a big fan.   I was able to get the grape flavoring from the barrel but didn’t really think that added to the overall 2017-12-03_19-23-47_174flavor profile.  That seemed to be a common theme in my discussions with other attendees.

I was also able to steal a few moments with the Amy Hanson, Raleigh Brewing’s Marketing and Events Manager.  She was gracious and welcoming to all of the attendees..  We talked about social media and how important it is to local craft brewers like Raleigh Brewing.  We also discussed the Triangle Craft Beer Alliance, which was formed to promote the local craft beer industry – brewers, bottle stores, basically anyone affiliated with craft beer in the Triangle.

Reflecting on the Fireside Chat, I thought Raleigh Brewing did a great job promoting not only The Toll but Raleigh Brewing as a local small business.  Getting to know the people behind the logo makes you more loyal to that logo.  Thanks to Kristie, Scott, Amy and the rest of the Raleigh Brewing staff for the well run event…..and for The Toll!

I scored an Epic Triple Double this weekend!


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!!




The Stout Hall of Fame – Nominees?


Saluting the wonderful Stout with an International Stout Day on November 2 made me start to think about a Stout Hall of Fame.  If we were to start a Stout Hall of Fame, what Stouts would be part of the initial class?  What do you think?  If I think about the rules for induction, this is what I come up with:

  1. The Stout has to be available for at least 5 years
  2. It has to be available at least regionally, if not nationally
  3. No brewery only releases…..for now!

As I consider what Stouts should be inducted, here are my top nominees…in no particular order:

  1. Founders Breakfast Stout
  2. Founders KBS
  3. Bell’s Expedition Stout
  4. Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout
  5. Firestone Walker Parabola
  6. Surly Darkness
  7. Perennial Abraxas
  8. Alesmith Speedway Stout
  9. Deschutes The Abyss
  10. Cigar City Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout
  11. Oskar Blues TENFIDY
  12. Guinness Draught
  13. Prairie Artisan Ales BOMB!
  14. Epic Brewing Big Bad Baptist
  15. Westbrook Mexican Cake
  16. Stone Russian Imperial Stout

I’m sure there are many that I didn’t include, but I tried to consider those Stouts that are considered the “standard” of their style.   I struggled a bit with not including brewery only releases, but I think for an inaugural class, the nominees should have some amount of distribution.

What do you think?  Who would be in your inaugural class of the Stout Hall of Fame?? What worthy Stouts did I omit?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!