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!

All about the Stout!

So the annual celebration of Stout has come and gone….Thursday, November 2 was International Stout Day2017-11-02_18-39-30_168…..and as Mrs. Stoutwhisperer so appropriately asked, “Why is it on a Thursday?”  Good question….wouldn’t a celebration of Stout be more appropriate on a Friday or Saturday?  As I write this, I’m enjoying a 2016 Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout…..which is a 14.3% ABV Stout.  That’s best savored on the weekend, wouldn’t you agree?  Well, no matter the day of the week,  I think it’s great that the Craft Beer community comes together for one day to salute the Stout and give this amazing style of beer the due that it deserves.

2017-11-04_15-11-57_164While we’re talking about saluting the Stout, when in the heck are we going to get a Stout emoji?  The good people at Guinness have tried to start a movement on social media to influence the emoji makers to create a Stout emoji.   Apple just released an update that included 70 new emojis…..but no Stout emoji.  Really, how hard is it?  Take a tulip glass and put a dark liquid in it….and you have a Stout emoji.  C’mon, let’s get a Stout emoji!!!

As you may have noticed, it’s Stout season.  As I comb through social media, I see a lot of Stout releases in the coming weeks…’s great to see!!  For a Stout devotee like me, it’s a wonderful thing….I wish I could get a bottle of every release!  That would cover me for the entire year – even during the warm summer months when there is a “Stout Drought”!

That’s my quest for the rest of the year….I’m looking for those local breweries who release those amazing under the radar Stouts!  Send me your Stouts and I’ll determine if you stack up!  Reach out to me – comment on this blog or contact me via my social media outlets (@stoutwhisperer) and we can work out the details.  Some breweries have already agreed to send me their Stouts….but I’m looking for more!!

If you are a brewer of Stouts, I want you to send me your Stouts and let me give them the Stoutwhisperer review!  How does it pour?  How does it smell…I love the aroma of Stouts!  How does it taste?  What about the swallow?  Is it smooth?  Does the taste change as it warms?

If you are a homebrewer or a larger brewery, I want to taste, smell and enjoy your Stout!!   Reach out to me!!  If you earn it, I’ll give you the love you deserve!

Make your week at Stoutstanding one!



Hitting the Road to Italy and I need your help!!

Haven’t posted in some time….but I’ve been updating my picture page, so check out what I’ve been enjoying lately!  This time, I’ve got a request of my stoutstanding readers….I’m heading to Italy next Sunday for 12 days and will be visiting Florence, Assisi, and Rome!  While I’m looking forward to enjoying Italy’s finest grapes, I’ll also be on the lookout for the best craft beer places in those locales.  I’ve done my online research on Beer Advocate and other forums but I still need your help….if you have any suggestions for craft beer places to visit – and any incredible off the beaten path places to eat – in Florence, Assisi and Rome, please send me a comment and I’ll be sure and check it out!  I’d like to check out the Stout scene, but I’m also interested in trying new styles while I’m there, especially lambics!  I’m hoping to bring a few items home, so the most helpful and impactful comment will be the recipient of one of the items I bring home.  I can’t promise what that will be, but I’m hoping to find some loons to bring through customs!!  Don’t be shy – I know many of you are world travelers, so give me your thoughts and suggestions!  I’ll do my best to post from Italy and let you know how the journey is going.  Also keep a watch on my Instagram and Twitter accounts (@stoutwhisperer) for more real time updates!!

Let me know where I need to go for good craft beer and amazing food in Rome, Florence, and Assisi!!!  Thanks!



Wrapping up the weekend with Big Bad Baptista, a wonderful complex Stout from the good people at @epicbrewing! Love the layers of vanilla, cinnamon, coffee, chocolate and the hint of barrel aging! It works so well together! It’s a winner in my book – so glad I had the chance to enjoy this Stoutstanding elixir!

via Instagram

My Brush with the Dark Arts

The signs were there….last November, I went to Asheville with my two sons for a weekend Stoutcation.  We made the rounds to many of the local breweries and had a fantastic time.  Check out my blogpost for a review of that weekend.  In fact, I’m hopeful that Stoutcation II can happen later this year!  One of the 2016-11-05_15-10-02_848breweries we visited was Wicked Weed.  Actually we visited both WW locations – fortunately, they are within walking distance of each other 🙂  I enjoyed a snifter of Dark Age and also ordered a small taster of Espresso Dark Arts that they had on tap (at left).  The sample of Dark Arts was really super sweet and frankly, so cloyingly sweet, I couldn’t taste anything beyond the sweetness.  I think my tastebuds went into diabetic shock!  Since I knew Dark Arts was a such a sought after Stout with great reviews, I just chalked up my initial experience to a weekend of tasting different beers.   I bought a bottle of Dark Arts (and the proper glassware) to bring back home to give it a fair shot.  Dark Arts is a strong 15% ABV Rum barrel aged Stout fermented with Brettanomyces.  It’s bottled in a 500ml bottle and has a beautiful golden wax dip to show off it’s rarity.  I wanted to give it a few months to age a bit and then I would be able to sit back and enjoy this highly acclaimed Stout.

Well, this past weekend was that time.  April has been designated as North Carolina Beer Month and as such, I decided to celebrate the local Stouts of North Carolina during the month.  Saturday was Dark Arts day, so I followed my process of taking my Stout out of the Stout fridge about an hour before tasting to allow it to warm a bit.  I 2017-04-22_15-57-11_867cut back the wax, cracked it open, poured it in the Dark Arts snifter, and took a taste…..and the super sweet taste that I endured in Asheville came back to visit.  I couldn’t blame this overly sweet taste on anything, as it was my first Stout of the day.  I just wasn’t enjoying it.

I tried to analyze it and figure out why I wasn’t enjoying Dark Arts.  I’ve never really had a Stout that I just couldn’t drink.  I’ve had thin Stouts, over carbonated Stouts, and Stouts that just don’t live up to their billing – but they’ve always been drinkable.  I’ve had infected beers that were drain pours – but there was a reason for the drain pour.  In this case, there wasn’t anything wrong with Dark Arts – it’s just not my glass of Stout!

In my research on Dark Arts, I’ve read that this is a wonderful dessert Stout that is meant to be sipped – and that makes perfect sense.  Dark Arts is like a port wine, a cognac or a small (4-6 oz.) glass of bourbon meant to be sipped and savored after a wonderful meal.  Perhaps that’s where I went astray.  My normal Stout tasting occurs in the mid-afternoon, prior to a meal.  Opening Dark Arts at that point was probably a tactical error on my part.

That being said, enjoying Dark Arts in small quantities might just be the way to go.  But how to keep it fresh over a weekend?  Open bottles of Stout when stoppered or recapped just don’t taste the same the next day.  Lost carbonation, oxidation, whatever it is, it just doesn’t taste the same.  Based on that, my modus operandi is to consume the entire Stout over the course of a couple hours.  That was my mindset with Dark Arts.  When I had those first few sips, I knew there was no way I was going to be able to finish a 500ml bottle in a couple of hours…..and I’ve always said that if I didn’t like a Stout, I wouldn’t force it down.

I finally came to grips with the notion that I’m not going to like every Stout that I taste.  There will be some that I love, some that are OK, some that I’m glad I tried, and some that I won’t like…..and that’s OK, even if others find the same Stout irresistible.   Granted, there have been only a couple of Stouts over the past couple of years that just don’t agree with my palate, but this really is the first where I feel like I’m swimming upstream and my dislike is at odds with the majority.

Now that I’ve been able to think it through and write about it, I’m much more at peace with my tastebuds.  Some may not like the vanilla, coconut, coffee, and pepper variants that I tend to gravitate to and that’s just fine.   I also really appreciate a straight down the middle Imperial Stout.  In fact, a good, solid Imperial Stout is sometimes more difficult to brew as there are no other flavors to hide any imperfections.  But everyone has different like and dislikes.  To each is own.   At last count, there are 204 breweries in NC and thousands more across the country.  There are different styles of beer, different variants, different types of barrel aging, and even different types of glassware to have your favorite beverage served in.  We’re all different with differing tastes….and that’s what makes this journey so unpredictable and enjoyable!

Lastly, to the good people at Wicked Weed:  I appreciate your entire Stout program and I especially enjoy Dark Age – but Dark Arts just isn’t for me.  I’m looking forward to my next visit to Asheville and won’t hesitate to stop by for a Stout!

Have you ever had a Stout (or a beer) that just didn’t agree with your palate?  Leave a comment and share your story!

North Carolina Beer (Stout) Month!

This past Friday, April 7, was National Beer Day….as if one needs a “Day” to enjoy a Stout!   Not quite sure how this happened, but while Beer gets only a day, the entire month of April has been proclaimed North Carolina Beer Month! It’s a local celebration of all of the wonderful breweries and their liquid creations that are scattered across the state from the coast to the mountains.

This special month gives me the opportunity to focus my weekend tastings on North Carolina Stouts and as I’ve curated my lineup for the month, I’ve come to the realization that there are some really good Stouts brewed here in North Carolina!  Follow me on Twitter and Instagram (@stoutwhisperer for both) on my Stout tour across North Carolina!  It promises to be a mix of old friends and new acquaintances!  I’ll provide a more in depth write up on my journey of North Carolina Stouts soon!