#ProperGlassware

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!

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…..

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stout Beer….and Ice Cream?

When I wrote the Brews to Beans article for BrewStuds, I was particularly intrigued with the local collaboration between Braxton Brewing of Covington, Kentucky and Graeter’s Ice Cream of Cincinnati, Ohio.  Braxton and Graeter’s worked together and recently 2017-02-12_18-27-28_942released Braxton’s Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip Milk Stout.  I reached out to Jonathan Gandolf, chief of marketing for Braxton Brewing, and he gave me the scoop (pun intended) on the collaboration.  Both Braxton’s and Graeter’s are family owned companies and while they knew of each other and admired their work from afar, the thought to connect was never raised….until a mutual connection brought them together.    From there, the concept was born.  According to Gandolf,  “The test batching process took place over approximately 6 months and we had three different test batches. We sat down with the Graeter’s family on every batch until we knew what we wanted. It’s been a blast to work with them and we hope it’s the beginning of even more collaboration.”

From the Braxton website:

The one-of-a-kind Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip Milk Stout is a creatively crafted beverage inspired by one of Graeter’s oldest traditional flavors. Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip is an ice cream featuring black raspberries from Oregon’s Willamette Valley and gourmet bittersweet chocolate chips. With Graeter’s exclusive black raspberry puree, Braxton Brewing Co. crafted this one-of-a-kind milk stout, a dark brew with notes of roasted barley and a creamy texture.

I can tell you that from my own taste tests, the Graeter’s Ice Cream is simply amazing.  At our local ice cream shoppe in Raleigh, I tend to order a Vanilla “concrete” with Raspberry and Chocolate Chips mixed in, so I had a feeling that I would enjoy the Graeter’s….and I was right!   Then tasting the Braxton Stout, I detected some sweetness from Graeter’s raspberry puree and some chocolate flavor notes to complement the sweetness.  I can understand why Graeter’s and Braxton Brewing are excited about the final product!

Beer and ice cream collaborations are not yet mainstream, but are becoming more common.  Ben and Jerry’s partnered with New Belgium on a Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ale….which smelled exactly like Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough!  The taste even had a bit of a sweet, chocolate flavor to it.  I don’t know how well it sold or whether the Ben & Jerry/New Belgium partnership will continue, but I’ll bet they were pleased with the outcome.

Another twist on a Stout/Ice Cream collaboration was conceived by Big Boss Brewing of Raleigh, NC.  They brewed a Root Beer Stout that, I kid you not, smelled just like the 2016-03-27_230507625_0B4D6_iOSA&W Root Beer that I used to love and enjoy as a kid.  Low ABV and a bit sweeter than your average stout, Big Boss promoted it locally by partnering with a local ice cream vendor and sold Root Beer Stout floats at their taproom!  I made a Root Beer Stout float on my own and it was really good!

Back to Braxton….they produced a video to tell the story about the collaboration.  Take a couple of minutes to watch it….but come on back!

While I’m not sure if the Stout/Ice Cream partnership is a fad, a trend, or has the staying power that a Stout/Coffee partnership has had (Bean to Brew anyone?), but I do think it’s a neat way to showcase different flavors, to partner with local companies and frankly, to try new things, push the envelope and be innovative.  From my perspective,  those are all good things and I hope it’s here to stay….

 

 

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

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

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

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!

 

 

My new Stout toys: Eagle Cap-Off and Fizzics!

The holidays have come and gone…..and it’s now time to introduce you to the new toys I received for Christmas….well, actually I bought for myself!    They are…the Eagle Cap-Off and Fizzics Waytap!

Truth be told, I bought the Eagle Cap-Off back in 2015.  It was a Kickstarter initiative and I thought it was cool, so I was one of the first 50 “investors” to buy one.  Apparently this was an old fashioned design of a bottle opener from the 1940’s that two entrepreneurs brought back to life and turned to the Kickstarter audience to fund their dream.  The campaign was a success and they went to work sourcing materials, getting the parts made, assembling the final product, and getting it to every investor.    Frankly, I had forgotten about it, so in mid-December when I received a small package in the mail, imagine my surprise when a fully functioning Eagle Cap-Off was inside!  My Kickstarter investment had arrived!   Pretty simple operation….put it on the top of the bottle, squeeze the handles together and the cap comes off!

Now I know you may be saying that a good old regular bottle opener works just fine, I would agree.  However, for something a little bit different, the Eagle Cap-Off would be a neat gift for any Stout lover…or craftbeer drinker for that matter.  It’s also a neat conversation starter…..over a couple of Stouts!   Head over to their website for more information, some history, and to order….and tell them the Stoutwhisperer sent you!!

Now that my bottle is open, it’s time for the pour and that’s where the Fizzics comes in!

The Fizzics is a system that pours your bottled or canned beer and then with a simple push of the tap handle, uses sound waves to create a wonderful creamy, foamy head to top off your beer!  The little micro 2017-01-08_17-11-24_275bubbles that make up beer foam have incredible aroma when they burst and can enhance the taste of the beer!  I bought mine via a Kickstarter campaign just like I did with the Eagle Cap-Off.  If you are Shark Tank fans, you may have seen the Fizzics founders on the show….and they received a nice investment from a couple of the Sharks!   My Fizzics was delivered the week before Christmas so I put it under the tree and patiently waited to open it.

Here’s how it works – I have the Waytap version – you put a 12 oz. bottle or up to a 25 oz. can in the cylinder and make sure the metal tube (see the metal tube in the picture below) is in the bottle or can.  Pull the taphandle and the beer begins to flow.  Once you have 2017-01-15_15-30-32_321most of the beer poured, you push the tap handle and the foam gets created using the remainder of the beer and the sound wave technology.  It takes a few beers to get the hang of it, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, is it?

The Fizzics Waytap is a portable item and runs on 4 AA batteries.  I think it’s a pretty neat invention and I appreciate the concept of a good foamy head increasing the overall taste and aroma experience, so I’m a big fan.  The only drawback to the Waytap is that it’s not big enough to handle bottles larger than 12 oz…..that job goes to the initial Fizzics model.   The OG Fizzics can handle up to and including 64 oz. Growlers!!  Head over to the Fizzics website and take a look!  A lot of good information and videos to interest you…..and perhaps entice you to buy one!

I encourage you to visit both the Eagle Cap-Off and Fizzics websites and check out their products.  I’m glad I did!

Until next time….have a Stoutstanding week!

 

 

2016 – a Stoutstanding year!

The end of every calendar year brings a certain amount of rear view mirror reflection and windshield resolutions.  This year is no different.  I tend to look back, take stock of successes, failures, and learnings, and commit to improvement during the coming year.  As I look back at my stout life in 2016, this was the year where I started to walk the talk. This blog, my social media presence, trades, first release events – really just making an overall commitment to being the Stoutwhisperer!  It also enabled me to meet many great people who share the same passion for craftbeer and stouts that I have…..and it has allowed me to taste and review more than my fair share of amazing Stouts!

As I look back on the Stouts I’ve had the privilege to enjoy and taste in 2016, it’s fairly easy to separate those that have really made an impression on me……and those are the Stouts I’d like to recognize on this blogpost.  Before we go any further, I clearly realize that I’ve barely scratched the stout surface as there are so many I didn’t taste this year and there are some that are in my cellar that I haven’t opened…..and that’s a function of my tasting schedule!  I’ll get to them in due time – and the beauty of being the Stoutwhisperer is that aging Stouts isn’t a bad thing!   Now if I were the IPAwhisperer, I’d be in trouble!!

On to the awards:

Best Stout Pour:

Oskar Blues TENFIDY, Raleigh Brewing BA The Miller’s Toll, Southern Tier Choklat Oranj, Alesmith Speedway Stout, Westbrook Siberian Black Magic Panther and any Stout on Nitro!

I happen to like a bit of a foamy head on my Stouts, so when I pour my Stouts, I try and aim for around 1/2 to 3/4 inch of head on the pour.   I think that helps the various aromas contained in the Stout to be released and savored (see Best Aroma award above).  Some Stouts just pour better than others and when they pour well and create a nice foamy head, it’s a beautiful thing…and it photographs well!  This award recognizes those Stouts that had an especially nice pour and retained a nice foamy head.  I also included all Stouts on Nitro because I love watching all of the tiny nitrogen bubbles rise to the top!!

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Best Aroma:  

Prairie Paradise (draft),  Buxton/Omnipollo Yellow Belly, Big Boss Brewing Root Beer Stout2016-12-31_20-25-32_000

After the Pour, the next thing I go for is the aroma.  What does it smell like?  What flavor notes can I pick up?  These three really stand out from all the others I’ve had this year.  Amazing Vanilla on the Paradise, Butterfinger (Peanut and Biscuit) on the Yellow Belly, and true Root Beer on the Root Beer Stout…I could have smelled these and been very happy!  Glad I was able to enjoy the liquid as well…and had a great ice cream float with the Big Boss Root Beer Stout!

Surprise Stouts:

Stillwater On Fleek, Birdsong Brewing MexiCali Stout, Twin Leaf Brewery MDXXI, Blue Mountain Dark Hollow, Alchemist Beelzebub, Lagunitas High West-ified Stout

Each of these were pleasant surprises in their own way…either through my not knowing the brewery, or having low expectations.  In each case, these Stouts made me seek out more and that’s a good thing.  Give them a try!

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Best Beercation location: Asheville, NC

Asheville is an wonderful place to visit, even without the incredible number of craft beer breweries!  Located in the mountains of western North Carolina, it’s a beautiful place to wander around and get lost in their various neighborhoods.  Add their vibrant craft beer scene and it becomes a must visit for any craft beer lover.  Read my blogpost from a couple of months ago that provides a nice overview of the long weekend my two sons and I had in Asheville – Oskar Blues, New Belgium, Sierra Nevada, Burial, Wicked Weed and many others too numerous to mention.  The food is amazing as well – make sure and stop by Vortex Doughnuts in the morning and Buxton Hall BBQ in the evening – they are both in the South Slope area of Asheville!

Most Stoutstanding Breweries:  

In my opinion, these two Breweries seemed to separate themselves from the pack for their creativity and innovation and should be recognized!

Prairie Artisan Ales

Prairie took their Bomb! and Noir lineups to another level in 2016….wonderful flavors and spices  – Vanilla, Coffee, Pirate, Prairie, and Christmas.  Add an innovative barrel aging program – Apple Brandy Barrel, Sherry Barrel, Oak Barrel, Bourbon Barrel, Rum Barrel….and the combination of flavors and barrels make for an impressive and highly in demand lineup!  Of special note was the one brewery only draft release that I was fortunate to get a 16oz. growler of – Cinnamon Pecan Bomb!  That was one of the highlights of the year for me….incredible flavor palate which I was very fortunate to taste!  Special thanks to Michael of Tulsa for the extra effort in getting and shipping that growler to me!!  Lastly, I hear that Paradise (Vanilla) is coming off the line soon and will be available in bottles!  Can’t wait for that one!

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Epic Brewing

Epic Brewing took their Big Bad Baptist program and created an entire family!  They started with Son of a Baptist by engaging local coffee roasters all across the country to create 12 separate versions of Son of a Baptist, a non barrel aged coffee Stout.  More recently, they aged their coffee beans in whiskey barrels and added it to BBB, creating Double Barrel Big Bad Baptist.  Next, they went south of the border and brewed Big Bad Baptista, a relative of BBB but using Mexican coffee, cinnamon, and vanilla.  Finally, they just released Son of a Baptist in 12oz cans….again using different local coffee roasters to create regional variants of SoB!  The Epic team was indeed busy this year and their creativity and innovation has paid off!

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2016 Stout of this World All-Stout Team

As I look back at my various tastings over 2016, these are the ones that really made me take notice or made me want more.  They challenged all of my senses and expectations and happily and easily surpassed them…..

Prairie Artisan Ales Pirate Bomb!2016-03-18_210739939_544F9_iOS

2016-12-02_17-21-18_857Epic Brewing Big Bad Baptist

Epic Brewing Big Bad Baptista2016-12-03_15-39-47_927

2016-11-13_15-36-52_718Bell’s Brewery Black Note Stout

Prairie Artisan Ales Cinnamon Pecan Bomb!2016-10-07_17-04-46_338

2016-03-26_202511511_CBE20_iOSRaleigh Brewing Double BA The Miller’s Toll

Southern Pines Drunken Vigils2016-10-23_15-41-41_515

2016-07-16_192807305_60953_iOSGoose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout

Dark Horse Plead the 5th2016-01-09_205936305_E6A42_iOS

2016-11-20_15-06-32_390Westbrook Siberian Black Magic Panther

Prairie Artisan Ales Pirate Paradise2016-10-22_15-45-47_525

2016-11-12_15-44-03_506-2016-11-13t00_44_53-408Oskar Blues Java Barrel Aged TENFIDY

 

That puts a wrap on 2016!

Love to get your comments on any of these!  That’s the beauty of Stouts – everyone’s taste is different!  Help me select my Stout list for 2017 – share your favorite Stouts with us.  Looking to expand my horizons and need your input!

I’m looking forward to a Stoutstanding year and I’ll be sure to bring you along for the journey.   Follow me on Instagram and Twitter (both @Stoutwhisperer) and keep reading my blogposts!!

Happy New Year and with apologies to the Star Wars fans out there….

May the Stout be with you!

The Art of the Deal (Stout Trading)

While our President-elect may have written a best selling book about dealing, my guess is that he wasn’t talking about trading craft beer…..and this is the topic for today’s blogpost.   Trading beer is an art and a science;  it’s an art in the fact that one needs to know when to say yes (or no) and it’s a science in understanding what the current value is for the beer you are trading and the beer you are trading for.     Some beers have higher values due to their scarcity or newness; some have higher values due to their name/brand/reputation.

Readers of my blog know I recently took a trip to Asheville with my two sons.  I was fortunate enough to come home with some Oskar Blues Barrel Aged TENFIDY, Java Barrel Aged TENFIDY, and some Wicked Weed Dark Arts. 2016-11-08_18-40-47_072 While I knew these were quality Stouts, I also knew they would be good Stout Currency in the world of trading, as these were relatively rare due to their quantity and availability.

Over the course of the last 3 weeks, I have been able to turn 11 Java BA TENFIDY, 11 BA TENFIDY, and 2 bottles of Dark Arts into:

  • 4 Bell’s Black Note Stout (2016)
  • 1 Oddsides Ales Hazels Nuts2016-12-10_12-51-57_081
  • 1 Oddsides Ales Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Mayan Mocha
  • 2016-12-10_12-54-04_4872016 Dark Lord
  • Perennial Abraxas
  • Firestone Walker Parabajava
  • Cigar City Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout
  • 2016-12-10_12-52-57_113Cigar City Caffe Americano
  • Cigar City Vanilla Hazelnut Marshall Zhukov
  • The Bruery Black Tuesday2016-12-10_12-56-29_309
  • Lawson’s Apple Brandy Fayston Maple Imperial Stout
  • Long Trail Barrel Aged Unearthed Stout
  • Hill Farmstead Twilight of the Idols
  • Bourbon Barrel Dark Horse Plead the 5th
  • Westbrook Tequila Mexican Cake
  • Prairie Sherry Barrel  Noir
  • 2016-12-10_12-54-58_960Prairie BA Christmas Bomb!2016-12-10_12-55-29_629

and with some additional help from my inventory, I was also able to acquire:

  • Goose Island Bourbon County Proprietor’s Stout2016-12-10_12-57-30_240
  • Goose Island Bourbon County Coffee Stout
  • 2 Alchemist Heady Topper
  • 4 Alchemist Focal Banger
  • 2016-12-10_12-59-56_5864 Alchemist Beelzebub
  • 1 Fiddlehead Second Fiddle
  • 1 Lawson’s Sip of Sunshine

 

 

 

 

Needless to say, I’m really pleased as to what I’ve been able to acquire and I believe my trading partners have been pleased as to what they’ve received from me!  I’m a big believer of dollar for dollar trading (known as “$4$” in the trading world), meaning that the trade should be equivalent in terms of money spent.  The only caviat to that is knowing what stouts are more rare or are in high demand – which may require a bit more to close the deal.  That’s where the art comes in….knowing when to add a bit more to seal the deal and knowing when to walk away from a trade when someone is asking too much for the trade.  I’ve walked away from trades and I’ve also knowingly overpaid because I really wanted to acquire a Stout that’s been on my want list for a long time!  But that’s OK….it’s only beer!

In fact, I just closed two additional trades today:

  • 4 2016 KBS for a 2016 Surly Darkness
  • 3 Prairie AB Noir and a Birthday Bomb for a 2016 Hardywood Kentucky Christmas Morning and a Gingerbread Stout

As in any trade or negotiation, there is the thrill of the chase and the excitement of closing the deal.  However, once the deal is sealed, reality sinks in and the downside of trading rears it’s ugly head.  Besides having to pack the beer well enough to withstand a nuclear blast, the cost of shipping…..whether it’s UPS or FedEx, shipping is not cheap.   I guess I rationalize the cost knowing that it’s usually close to a wash between what I pay for shipping and what my trading partner has to pay.   That being said, shipping costs do add up after a few trades and one must consider whether it’s worth it.  In fact, I’m leaning toward more in-person (IP) trades moving forward.   A couple of these trades were in person and it was great to not deal with packing and the shipping costs and I got to meet some other local craft beer traders.  It’s just a matter of finding local trading partners who have access to those non-local or rare Stouts that I am seeking.

How does one get into trading?  The number of online trading forums are many; I lean toward the Beer Advocate forum but there are many others – Reddit, TalkBeer, and on Facebook, there is the Rare Beer Seekers page along with a good number of local craftbeer pages that encourage and facilitate in person trading.  It’s a pretty straightforward process – you either post your wants (ISO=In Search Of) and what you are willing to trade (FT=For Trade) or you scour the posts to see if there is something you can accommodate.  Then you either receive a DM (Direct Message) or you initiate one to start the trading dance.  Then it’s all about time and patience…..and it either consummates in a deal or you move on to other opportunities!

I will continue to chase the trade; I have a lot of Stouts that I think others may find appealing so I will continue to chase my whales (Toppling Goliath’s Mornin’ Delight and Funky Buddha’s Morning Wood are at the top of my list) and hope others will find my inventory appealing and worth trading for!

Do you have any trading tips?  What’s your best or worst trade?  Any horror stories that you would like to share?  We would all like to learn so if you have anything to share, please do so!