My 2nd Annual Epic Weekend!

Long time readers of this blog will recall my post back in May that reviewed the release of Epic Brewing’s Son of a Baptist, a non barrel aged version of Big Bad Baptist brewed with a assortment of local coffee beans.  Here in North Carolina, we were treated to the version made with Larry’s Coffee.  That was a wonderful stout and a great weekend!

Fast forward to today…..the innovative brewmasters at Epic recently decided to add a couple of members to the Baptist family:
Double Barrel Big Bad Baptist, where the green coffee beans are aged in bourbon barrels for an added punch of bourbon depth and flavor

Big Bad Baptista, where Big Bad Baptist travels to Mexico and adds cinnamon, vanilla, special cacao nibs and Mexican coffee to complement the Big Bad Baptist Stout flavor

The good people at Epic (thanks Matthew!) provided me with an early preview of these relatives of Big Bad Baptist for which I am very thankful for.  I set aside this weekend to sample each and provide my feedback/thoughts.

Friday – Big Bad Baptist (release #73)

As always, Big Bad Baptist delivers an amazing taste experience.  This is a Stout that has 2016-12-02_17-21-18_857just the right flavor notes.  This release of BBB used the Guatemalan Blend of Blue Copper Coffee which provided a nice smoothness to the overall taste.  While there definitely is a barrel flavor to BBB, there is also a smoothness to it.  The coffee and the cocoa nibs really help to balance the taste.  As I’ve said before, Big Bad Baptist is one of my go to Stouts, as I can always count on it’s amazing taste and consistency.   It’s one of my baseline standard Stouts and is one that I can count on when I just need that reset as to what a barrel aged Stout should taste like.

Saturday – Big Bad Baptista (release #1)

Not sure what to expect, but after tasting and savoring the spices and flavors, this is my clear favorite.  I must admit to having a bias toward Stouts with some flavor and spice to 2016-12-03_15-39-44_970them so it’s not altogether surprising that Baptista had me at hello.  From the first sip to the final swallow, I was mesmerized.  Cinnamon, vanilla, cocoa nibs and coffee notes took over and really captured all of my senses.  Baptista hit all of the right notes for me and I can’t wait to open another bottle!  This was the best of the weekend.

Sunday – Double Barrel Big Bad Baptist (release #1)

After Baptista, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  DBBBB 2016-12-04_15-10-24_906differentiates itself by using coffee beans that were aged in bourbon barrels, adding additional complexity and depth.  I wasn’t sure whether I would be able to differentiate DBBBB from BBB, but indeed I could.  It’s tough to explain, but DBBBB had a bit more “woodiness” to it versus BBB.  It was quite enjoyable to savor this on a Sunday afternoon watching NFL RedZone.   DBBBB engaged me and is a worthy relative of BBB!

After taste testing all three, it was clear that they are all different from each other and hit different taste profiles.  For me, Big Bad Baptista was the clear winner, but I could also understand how others would be attracted to Double Barrel Big Bad Baptist or Big Bad Baptist, as each are complex and have taste profiles and characteristics that are attractive.

That’s the beauty about the art and science of brewing Stouts.  The variations of coffee, cocoa nibs, malts, and other added variants can make such an incredible difference in the nose and taste of a Stout.  Throw in the variations of barrel aging – the type of barrel (bourbon, scotch, rum, wine, tequila), the distiller and the time spent in the barrel all also impact the depth of flavor and the taste.  Some have a wonderful smoothness to them, others have a bit of a bite to them which tend to mellow over time.

The brewmasters at Epic certainly seem to have the recipe down….they stay true to what makes Big Bad Baptist so successful yet are willing to venture out and introduce us to others in the Baptist family.  Usually there are some bad apples in every family, but as far as I’m concerned, every Epic Baptist Stout is one that I would seek out!

Thanks to the good people at Epic Brewing, I’ve been baptized again!  Thanks again for the early release and keep up the incredible work!!  I’m already looking forward to my next Epic weekend!!

 

The Thrill of the Bourbon County Chase!

It’s an annual event for us Stout lovers….the Black Friday release of Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout along with the variants that accompany it.  This year, Chicago based Goose released the original basic stout (BCBS),  a coffee variant (BCBCS), a Barleywine, and the Chicago only release of Proprietor’s Stout.  There was a Maple Rye variant that was deemed not ready – not sure if it will ever be released but it sounds wonderful!

The 2016 chase was a lot harder than in years past.  The story making the rounds is that Goose Island had to pour a significant amount of BCBS down the drain due to quality issues.  Now I’m not on the inside but something had to have happened because the North Carolina market received only BCBS and the word is that NC only received 40 cases to cover the entire state!!  This is significantly below past allocations so I would not be surprised if they disposed of some BCBS that wasn’t worthy of release.  What I do find interesting are the stories within North Carolina about the differing and varied releases by bars and bottleshops ranging from early releases of BCBS the week prior to Black Friday all the way to being able to reserve/buy entire cases of BCBS.  Those examples are certainly the exception as the usual distribution method was either first come, first serve or a raffle.

In the Raleigh-Durham area, there were three “official” release events, meaning there would be representatives from Goose Island and the local distributor on hand.  Many other bars and bottleshops made the decision to not participate in a BCBS release and instead focused on other local Stout releases.  They felt that having a single case allocation of BCBS would disappoint more patrons than not, so they chose to have “alternate 2016-11-23_17-02-14_879programming” on Black Friday.   Back to Bourbon County…. the first event was a pre-release party on Wednesday, November 23 at The Player’s Retreat in Raleigh.  Tyler, the local Goose Island rep and Joe, the local R.A. Jeffreys rep were on hand to host and welcome everyone.  They were gracious and happy to talk about the Bourbon County line and helped to raffle off bottles of BCBS, some T-Shirts and Bourbon County tulip glasses.  Mrs. Stoutwhisperer and I attended and I was able to enjoy a side by side tasting of 2015 and 2016 BCBS!  While we 2016-11-23_17-07-36_642-2016-11-27t19_28_53-802weren’t fortunate enough to win anything in the raffle, I was happy to be able to start the chase with that tasting.   As an aside, we both really enjoyed the meal at The Player’s Retreat and Mrs. S. said that her burger was one of the best she has ever had!!  The Player’s Retreat is highly recommended!

Thanksgiving gave us a chance to rest, recover and be thankful for all that we have….and to plan for Black Friday, when the other two “official” events at The Glass Jug in Durham and at Wine and Beer 101 in Raleigh would be held.

As we were out on our annual tradition of early morning Black Friday shopping, I stopped by Total Wine to see if I could pick up a quick bottle of BCBS.  As would be the case in most places, only one case (12 bottles) would be available.  TW did the first come, first serve process and we weren’t one of the first 12 to receive bottles when the store opened at 9am so we quickly left.  After that, the oldest son of Stoutwhisperer traveled with me to The Glass Jug in Durham to see if we could win a bottle of BCBS.  Tyler from Goose Island was there 2016-11-25_11-49-22_901again to welcome everyone. There were about 200 or so people there in line when the doors opened at noon and we all had the chance to get 2014, 2015, and 2016 BCBS on tap.  Many sampled a flight of all three….so many that they ran out of clean flight glasses!  I had the chance to taste the 2014 and 2016 vintages while the raffle took place.  Unfortunately, we didn’t win a bottle (only 12 bottles were raffled), but we did win a BCBS Tulip Glass that I am adding to the glassware collection.

Later on Friday, both sons of the Stoutwhisperer accompanied me to Wine and Beer 101 in Raleigh to try one last time to win a bottle in their raffle.  While there were three of us and a lot less people than at The Glass Jug, we still didn’t win any black gold….but I did get one last opportunity for the day to sample 2016 2016-11-25_17-39-41_966BCBS on tap.  Tyler and Joe were there again representing Goose Island and R.A. Jeffreys respectively, and while it may have seemed I was stalking them,  I was only stalking the elusive Bourbon County Brand Stout!

While I may have struck out for the day, all was not lost.  In anticipation of not winning anything, I was working my backchannels and I was able to secure one bottle of BCBS from my good friends at House of Hops and I hopefully will be able to get another bottle soon from the team at BrewPublik!  On top of that, I am working the beer trading circuit and am very close to a deal for BCBCS and a Prop!!  I can promise you that once I complete the deal, you will see them on my Instagram and Twitter accounts (@stoutwhisperer)!

The Bourbon County brand has certainly become a very contentious topic since Goose Island was bought by AB InBev and especially since last year’s infection of certain bottling dates of BCBS and BCBCS.   My perspective is that a good stout is a good stout and that BCBS is an excellent stout and that I will continue to seek out their offerings.  I was fortunate to not have been impacted by last year’s infection and my 2015 BCBS were very tasty.  I was interested in tasting the 2016 vintage to see if it would hold its own…..and it does and then some!

My thanks go out to The Player’s Retreat, The Glass Jug, and Wine and Beer 101 for hosting these events and especially to Tyler from Goose Island and Joe from R.A. Jeffreys for their hospitality and willingness to chat about Bourbon County.  I hope to tap into their knowledge and learn more about the behind the scenes planning and logistics for the annual Bourbon County release on Black Friday and plan to make that a blog post sometime soon.

Lastly, a big shout out to Gabriela at House of Hops and Charlie at BrewPublik for covering my back for BCBS and to Patrick in Illinois for the BCBCS/Prop trade!!

While I’m glad to have been able to get my hands on at least one bottle of BCBS, I just as much enjoyed the journey…..meeting good people, sampling good Stouts, and enjoying the holiday and the search with my family.

Do you have any stories about your quests for that elusive beer?  Feel free to share your stories with us!

 

Aviator Brewing Night Jump release

For North Carolina locals, Aviator Brewing Company is one of the “older” breweries in the Raleigh area – they’ve been around for about 8 years!  Last year they released a bourbon barrel aged (13% abv) Stout called Night Jump.  Oh, and the other thing about Aviator is that they are a can only brewery, so a 13% barrel aged stout in a can is not your normal 2016-11-19_17-38-44_784release.  Oh, and the other, most important thing?  It tasted great!  Once word started getting around about this amazing stout, Night Jump disappeared off the shelves.   I have a feeling that the interest and demand for Night Jump took Aviator by surprise – obviously in a good way.

Once word started to spread that Aviator was releasing the 2016 vintage of Night Jump, I made a mental note to make my way out to Fuquay-Varina for the release.  Once the release event was announced for November 19, I circled the date on the calendar…..and then I found out that the wife of a fellow board member for a local non-profit I’m privileged to be associated with works at Aviator and could arrange for tickets for me and Mrs. Stoutwhisperer – thanks John and Michelle!!

Aviator called the event the Night-Night party – it was a dual release of Night Jump and Devil’s Nightmare, a 15% abv Belgium Imperial Tripel Ale!   Yesterday was a beautiful day – probably the last beautiful day of the year – so Aviator must be doing something right!  Aviator is located in a rural industrial park (like so many other breweries) and it took us about 45 minutes to get to Fuquay from Raleigh, but it was a pleasant drive.  They timed their tickets in order to avoid lines and Mrs. S. and I showed up around 2:30pm or so (it started at 12:00 noon).   As we were walking in, we were welcomed by John and Michelle who gave us the rundown for the day.  We circled around to the back lot and as we checked in (no 2016-11-19_14-49-44_648lines), we were handed our Night-Night goblet for the day and we were introduced to Buddy the CFO and were welcomed again!  There was a band playing, a couple of food trucks open for business,  some intense cornhole contests going on, and taps galore with the entire line of Aviator’s drafts were flowing.

Mrs. S. opted for Mad Beach, a tasty wheat ale.  Not unexpectedly, I made a beeline for the Night Jump tap and had my goblet filled with the pitch black elixir.  About the only constructive comment I will make about the entire day is right here – and it’s not specific to Aviator – everyone serves Stouts on tap TOO COLD!!   Stouts should be served around 50-60 degrees which allows the complex flavors and tastes to emerge.  Serve a stout too cold and those flavors stay hidden forever.  2016-11-19_14-43-37_72713% Stouts are to be sipped and savored and shouldn’t be in the same category as a 5% Ale, which should be served cold.  OK, enough of my ongoing quest for warmer draft Stouts!!  I spent about 10 minutes cupping my Night Jump trying to warm it up a bit, which helped.
The flavors I didn’t taste when I first sipped it started to come out….the sweet flavors of chocolate and vanilla from the cocoa nibs and bourbon barrel aging and the smoothness on the swallow.  That was the Night Jump I remember from last year – in fact, perhaps even better!!

We were fortunate to be able to take a tour of the Aviator facility with Chris, who provided an excellent overview of the past, present, and future of Aviator!!  Some snippets:

-Mike, the founder/owner, is a pilot and started brewing in the hangar where he kept his plane….thus the Aviator 2016-11-19_14-43-58_485name and the aviation motif (their tap handles are half propellers)

-the barrels they use for aging are from Smooth Ambler, a West Virginia distillery.  Chris 2016-11-19_15-13-51_267told us a good story about how they came to get these barrels.  Seems like another brewery backed out of a deal and they stopped by Aviator and asked if they were interested in some barrels.  The rest, they say, is history.

-they recently purchased a new canning line and when it is fully operational, it will be the largest craft beer canning line on the East Coast.  It is a fully refurbished line once 2016-11-19_15-18-01_146used by RC Cola and has 72 filling heads.  I must tell you, it looks pretty impressive and I would love to see it when it comes on line!

Chris did a great job entertaining us and telling the Aviator story and was happy to spend a few extra minutes with me after the tour.  After the tour, we spent some more time walking around the premises watching some of the college football that were on the big screen TVs scattered around the taproom.  The place had a very easy going vibe – everyone was clearly having a good time!!

When we decided to leave, we found John and Michelle again.  I purchased some Night 2016-11-20_10-35-43_306Jump cans to go and also picked up a cool T-Shirt – I’ll be a walking Night Jump billboard!  We had a great time at Aviator and it won’t take us another release party to return!  Thanks to all of the good people at Aviator!  The Night-Night release party was a success!

One other note about Aviator – they have quite a presence in Fuquay-Varina.  Besides the brewery, they have a taproom/restaurant, a smokehouse, and a bottleshop all in the downtown district in Fuquay….and when we drove by, the outside patio of the taproom was packed!!  It’s amazing how craft beer breweries can impact a local economy – Aviator is a wonderful example of playing a key role in revitalizing an area.  Another example is the South Slope area of Asheville – see my previous post about our Asheville Stoutcation!

As an aside, Mrs. S. and I had dinner at City Barbecue in Cary – highly recommended!!  Go for their Brisket and their Potato Salad is fantastic as well!

What has been your favorite release event?  Leave a comment and share!

 

 

The Asheville Stoutcation!

As I wrote about in an earlier post, the 2 sons of the Stoutwhisperer and I traveled to Asheville for a 21st birthday weekend beercation (albeit a year late!).  We even had the blessing of Mrs. Stoutwhisperer!   One son rode with me and the other met us in Asheville as he was coming from Greenville, SC.  We met at our hotel around 4pm on Friday and immediately called for Uber to take us to Oskar Blues.  We all agreed that we were going to 2016-11-04_20-24-11_000Uber all weekend; no reason to take any chances.  We took the 25 minute ride to Brevard, NC which is the east coast home of Oskar Blues Brewery.  It’s in an industrial area off the beaten path so I’m glad we were with someone who knew where it was!   We were very fortunate in our planning because it just happened to coincide with the release party for BA TENFIDY and Java BA TENFIDY!  When we got to OB, it was already buzzing and most everyone was walking around with a glass of TENFIDY, BA TENFIDY or Java BA 2016-11-04_17-25-02_553TENFIDY.  Those who didn’t have a glass were walking around carrying their take home cases of BA and Java BA.  Apparently  the no limits on take home quantities caused issues, although I really didn’t see anyone with more than 2, maybe 3 cases (36 cans).  I 2016-11-04_18-24-13_003bought 2 cases (3 sixers of Java BA and 1 sixer of BA).  We enjoyed the cool evening meeting new people, enjoying the TENFIDY and having dinner at the OB CHUBwagon.   I had a smoked pork sandwich with 2016-11-04_18-09-55_677barbecue sauce made with TENFIDY and a bread bowl of French Onion soup also made with TENFIDY!  It was a TENFIDY evening!

Once we decided to head back to the hotel, we found out that Uber will take us to Brevard, but there weren’t any local Uberer’s that would take us back to Asheville!   Apparently that’s a known fact that our Uber driver neglected to tell us.  We had to call a local Brevard taxi service who was more than willing to take us back to Asheville for over 4X the amount we paid to get to Brevard!  We didn’t have much of a choice so we took it and the cab driver stopped at an ATM along the way because it was cash only!  He was a real character….and I’ll bet he’s laughing all the way to the bank on people like us!    We made it back to the hotel safely and turned in for the evening knowing we had a full Saturday of fun ahead of us!

Saturday started early with an Uber ride to the South Slope district of Asheville, home to the Wicked Weed Funkatorium, Burial Beer, Green Man, Twin Leaf, and Buxton Hall BBQ and our first stop of the day, Vortex Doughnuts.  I read about Vortex as I was planning for 2016-11-05_08-49-55_314the trip and knew we had to pay a visit.  Homemade doughnuts with some creative flavors was right up our alley.  We each had a couple of doughnuts and a beverage…..very tasty and a great way to start a cool Saturday!

We had a few hours to kill before the breweries opened (11am), so we decided to walk to the River Arts district, home of some amazing artists, and a couple of breweries, Wedge and New Belgium.   The artist studios were just opening up and so we stepped in and started to look around.  We came upon one artist, Stephen Lange, who was more than happy to spend some time with us and talk about his craft.  I really thought that the time we spent with him was the surprise of the weekend!  He spoke to us about his technique, his business, and his client base.  It was really neat to hear the passion in his voice about his work.  Take a look at his website!

After the cultural portion of our weekend ended, we wandered over to New Belgium Brewery, 2016-11-05_10-50-02_912hung out by the river, and waited for them to open up.  Right at the stroke of 11, they swung their doors open and a group of about 20 of us walked in.  Each of us selected a flight of 4 tasters to sample the various New Belgium offerings.  New Belgium really doesn’t have a Stout program, so I wasn’t expecting anything to floor me.  I was wrong.  2016-11-05_11-15-16_078My 4 tasters were: Ben & Jerry Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ale, 1554 Black Lager, Anne Francoise Spiced Dark Ale, and a Cherry Felix Sour.   The Ben & Jerry Ale really did smell like Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough but didn’t really taste anything special, the 1554 and Anne-Francoise didn’t do much for me, and the Felix Sour…..well let’s just say that Sours are an acquired taste that I won’t be acquiring anytime soon!   Wow!  Just as others probably can’t handle Stouts, I’ll never be able to drink a Sour.  That’s the beauty of craft beer – a taste and style for everyone!    If anything, our time at New Belgium reinforced my love for Stouts!   The people at New Belgium couldn’t have been more nice and their tasting room and patio overlooking the river is a beautiful place to sit, drink, and talk.  The boys had their flights and they enjoyed sampling the different styles and tastes that New Belgium has to offer.  I plan on visiting New Belgium again, but more for the location and the people!

After New Belgium we headed back to the South Slope where we spent the rest of the day.  We went to Buxton Hall BBQ for lunch.  Buxton Hall has been recognized by Bon Appetit 2016-11-05_12-42-33_5572016-11-05_12-59-28_769magazine in their September 2016 issue as one of the top new restaurants of 2016 in the USA!  Since it is located right in the middle of the South Slope area that made our lunch decision an easy one!  All the tables were taken, so we took our seats at the bar and ordered up!  A couple of us ordered smoked pork and the birthday son ordered their other specialty, a fried chicken sandwich.  We all really enjoyed our meals and will certainly return again!  But a 1:30 brewery tour at Burial beckoned, so off we went to Burial Beer.

Burial was right around the corner from Buxton Hall and their patio was crowded with locals.  We entered the combined taproom/brewery and were pointed to a long table where the tour would start.  At 1:30, Tim our guide started the tour and it turned out 2016-11-05_14-42-47_019that we were the only ones there!  So we had a personal tour of Burial!  Now granted, it’s a rather small brewery, but Tim did a great job giving us the history of Burial, walking us around the facility, talking about the future plans of Burial, answering our many questions, and allowing us to sample the offerings that Burial had on tap that day!  We all really enjoyed the visit to Burial and we’ll definitely keep an eye out for their releases.  I was already a fan of Burial through their limited Skillet Donut Stout release but the boys are now fans as well!

After Burial, we walked around the area, stopping by Green Man and Hi-Wire.  Unfortunately, one place I wanted to go to, Twin Leaf, was closed for a private event.  So we continued across the street to Wicked Weed’s Funkatorium, their hallowed location 2016-11-05_15-10-02_848for their Barrel-Aging programs.  Not surprisingly, I stayed away from their Sours, but I grabbed a sample of their Dark Arts Espresso stout.   It was much, much sweeter than I expected!  Definitely a sipping desert drink!  I also bought a couple of bottles of Dark Arts to go.   The boys wanted  to visit the “original” Wicked Weed, so we walked the half 2016-11-05_15-30-42_894mile or so to the taproom.  It was really crowded but we were able to get through the line quickly.  I got a glass of Dark Ages and was able to wash away the last remnants of my earlier Sour and quench my stout thirst and we watched college football on the multiple screens.  After that, we Ubered back to our hotel to freshen up, drop off our purchases from the day, and then took the hotel shuttle to Sierra Nevada for the evening.

Sierra Nevada is the Taj Majal of breweries in the Asheville area.  It is a huge facility near the Asheville airport and similar to New Belgium, it is their east coast brewing location.   They have a full brewing facility, a large restaurant, a 2016-11-05_17-15-51_398separate taproom, a huge ‘backyard’ with a large firepit and chairs all around, a few large conference facilities…oh, and a very large gift shop.  In short, an entertainment complex for the craft beer aficionado!

I attempted to register online for a Sierra Nevada brewery tour a couple of weeks prior to our trip but they were sold out far in advance.  Word of advice, if you are planning a visit to SN and want to tour their facility, check their online scheduler first.

Once we entered, we walked around in amazement.  The 2016-11-05_19-13-23_424copper tanks, the fire pit, everything just overwhelmed us in comparison to what we saw earlier in the day in the South Slope.  There was a Master Brewer’s conference being held there, so it was perhaps more crowded than normal.  I enjoyed (perhaps too much) a 2016-11-05_17-31-13_305-2016-11-06t23_46_59-236couple of glasses of Sierra Nevada’s signature Stout, Narwhal, and then we grabbed a great dinner there.  We then spent some time around the fire pit watching the flames flicker in the dark, and then we called the shuttle to return us to our 2016-11-05_19-40-57_110hotel.  A full day of the Asheville craft beer scene in our heads and a satisfying combination of great beer and great food in our bellies!

The next morning was an early wake up call as an English Premier League soccer match between Arsenal and Tottenham was on.  For the uninformed, Arsenal and Tottenham are fierce London rivals as their stadiums are very close to each other.  No matter their records, it’s always a contentious soccer match.  We were hoping to watch it at a local establishment or hook up with the local Arsenal fan club (the Asheville Gooners), but we weren’t able to find anywhere that would open for a 7am kickoff.  So we grabbed breakfast at the hotel and watched the game in our room.

Once the game finished, we checked out and headed back to Raleigh and Greenville to enjoy our Sunday afternoon and get ready for the week ahead.  Many thanks to our Uber drivers, the Clarion Inn-Asheville Airport, and our many acquaintances and new friends at the breweries and eateries we visited.  I know we had a great time in Asheville and are planning a return visit sooner than later.  If anyone is interested in learning more about our visit or would like some additional recommendations….or if you have any recommendations about our next visit,  drop me a comment and I’ll be sure to reach out to you.

Until next time……

International Stout Day!

Today is International Stout Day. Now why it’s November 3, I can’t tell you but I can tell you that the Stout season is upon us. If you look at the various social media accounts related to craftbeer, it’s clear the tide has turned from the summer IPA season (also referred to as the “Stout Drought”) to the cooler seasonal Stout releases. Now for me, everyday is Stout Day, but I do appreciate the focus that having a day to celebrate Stouts can bring to the greater craftbeer population. Most of the local bottleshops and breweries are having some type of event to celebrate the day, from Tap Takeovers to special tappings to special releases. The only downside of the day is that it’s on a Thursday…..it’s tough to fully and appropriately celebrate International Stout Day when there is a work day right in front of you! (Note to self – take Friday off next year!). 

Take a moment today and celebrate the Stout, either by enjoying one today or delaying your enjoyment by 24 hours as you head into the weekend! I’ll be celebrating it all weekend, as I am headed to Asheville with my 2 sons to visit the best that Asheville’s brewing community has to offer……starting with the BA TENFIDY release event at Oskar Blues on Friday evening! It should be a great weekend! Watch this space for some pictures and a full write up of our journey in the coming days!!

In the meantime, Happy International Stout Day!

Planning a Stoutcation to Asheville, NC!

My youngest son turned 21 last year and he wanted to go to Asheville for a birthday present with his older brother and me.  Unfortunately, our schedules didn’t align and it never happened.  Well, he recently celebrated his 22nd birthday and we have been able to find time on our calendars during the weekend of November 4-6 to celebrate his birthday, where we will 2016-03-20_193601943_CB164_iOShead to Asheville and enjoy the sights, sounds, and tastes of the Asheville brewery scene.

Our tentative schedule will take us to Oskar Blues in Brevard, Sierra Nevada in Mills River, and Burial, Twin Leaf, Wicked Weed, and Hi-Wire in the Asheville South Slope district.  I hope to show the boys that craft beer is more about quality than quantity and to teach them that the breweries put their heart and soul into brewing a beverage that is to be savored and enjoyed rather than chugged.  I am especially excited to visit Oskar Blues,
where we will be attending their BA Ten Fidy release party!  I will certainly be picking up some stovepipe cans to bring back home!!2016-09-11_193500051_76a0c_ios

It will be a fun weekend.  I enjoy the company of my two boys and getting together for a weekend in Asheville should be a good time.  Asheville is a laid back place and it’s a great place to people watch.  I hope to park the car and Uber to all of our locations so we won’t need to worry about driving.  I’d rather spend some money to get us around the area than a lot of money dealing with a court case!

I hope to speak to as many of the brewmasters as I can about their Stout offerings and will share their thoughts in a future blog.  I’m looking forward to the weekend and I’d like any and all recommendations or insights you would be willing to share about Asheville and their craft beer community.  What did you do in Asheville that we should do?

 

No time like the present!

I have a few Stouts in my inventory that I would consider “baby whales”….not the KBBS or Morning Delight type of whales, but Stouts that I own that I consider tough to get.   Many of these are probably easy to get for others – depending on where you live – but they aren’t available locally and I had to make a trade to put them in my Stout fridge.  The Abyss, Parabola, BCBS Rare, and Pirate Paradise are examples of what I consider tough to get.  For those wondering, a “whale” in craft beer vernacular are those beers that for some reason are incredibly difficult to get, whether through a limited bottle release, a brewery only release, or a small distribution area.  People wait in lines for these beers, buy tickets to get these “whales”, or make trades to get their hands on these rare bottles.

I’ve always had the mentality that I should wait for something before I open my rare beers.   An important event in my life or something to celebrate.  I opened and enjoyed a bottle of Goose Island Bourbon County Coffee Stout at my daughter’s wedding and have a bottle of BCBS 2015 Rare waiting for the birth of my first grandchild.   Recently, I attended a funeral which caused me to reflect and ask myself why am I waiting for a special event?  Do I really need something special to crack open a special Stout?   Perhaps I split the difference – save a bottle of two for truly unique events (weddings, births) and enjoy the others when the 2016-10-09_16-06-38_118muse hits me.

I took advantage of my new thinking recently, when I opened my 2014 vintage of The Abyss from Deschutes Brewery in Oregon.   It tasted great and I savored every sip.  The incredible notes of molasses and licorice with a hint of the barrel aging told me that I had timed the aging well.   I truly enjoyed this stout and I am certainly seeking another bottle for my cellar!   I certainly was happy I chose  this “carpe diem” path!

When do you decide when to open your whales?  Anytime? Special events?  Share your thoughts!

Trading Stouts – Part 2

A follow up from my last post on my Pirate Paradise trade with my new Tulsa friend, Michael Holland.  I received my package as promised on Monday.  Michael took a lot of time and effort to wrap and pack each piece – a sign of an experienced trader!!  2016-10-03_15-41-34_413As I gingerly unwrapped each piece, I felt as I was unwrapping Christmas presents…..only to determine I didn’t receive what we had agreed on!  I took some photos and sent a note to Michael, who quickly responded, apologized, and said he would make everything good!  An honest mistake! My second shipment will be arriving tomorrow which will make the trade complete.  This was my first experience with receiving a growler.  Michael took extra care to wrap the growler and it arrived in perfect condition.  The contents of the growler was a brewery only special of Cinnamon Pecan BOMB!   When I opened the growler, it appeared to have lost a bit of carbonation, but regular BOMB! isn’t really all that carbonated to begin with, so it wasn’t a big deal.  What was a big deal was the incredible cinnamon and pecan notes of this amazing Stout.  I must say that this is easily one of the 2016-10-07_17-04-46_338top stouts of the year that I’ve had the privilege to taste!  An amazing and complex combination of sweet and heat.  The cinnamon and nutty tastes followed by the bit of heat that the base BOMB! provides made this Stout a memorable one.  As I was finishing the final couple of drops, I was sad knowing I may never get the chance to have this Prairie Artisan Ales elixir again.  Consider this my humble request to the Prairie brewmasters to consider brewing this again with a distribution to my house!    That said, I am looking forward to cracking open the Pirate Paradise and seeing if it will be as amazing as I expect it will!   Thanks to Michael Holland and the good people at Prairie Artisan Ales in Oklahoma for the opportunity to taste a Stout of this World beverage!

I also had an interesting online experience yesterday that I’d like to share and perhaps get your thoughts on.  Yesterday was Morning Delight Release Day.  Morning Delight is a legendary stout that is brewed on occasion by Toppling Goliath in Deborah, Iowa.  It is a brewery only release with no distribution and yesterday was the release of their 2016 vintage.  It is a very difficult Stout to get and Toppling Goliath deftly and wisely uses the various online beer trading networks as their distribution network (as they do for KBBS, Assassin,  and SR-71).  Toppling Goliath posted a welcome for those attending Release Day on their Facebook page and I took the opportunity to post a comment with a trade proposal (ISO:FT) for a bottle of Morning Delight.
Well, apparently I must have violated a few unwritten rules because I was the subject of ridicule from some – some mocking me for my apparent low ball trade offer, some admonishing me for making such an offer on Facebook, and some just piling on for the sake of piling on.  While I had a mind to respond in kind, I chose not to as it would not have been a productive use of anyone’s time.  My normal thinking is that if something doesn’t impact me or doesn’t interest me, I move on.   I was merely attempting to create some interest in a trade and to start a discussion with anyone that would be interested in what I had to offer….and I also added a “+” to my offer as an indication that I was willing to negotiate and add to my offer.   Unless you make your interest known, you will never make a trade, so you need to put your offer out there and hope someone is interested in what you have to offer….if there is no interest, then “crickets”.  If there is, we talk — see my previous post and my update at the top of this post!   Oh well, live and learn….by the way, I’m still interested in acquiring a bottle of Morning Delight – if you have a bottle of the 2016 vintage and would be willing to negotiate a trade, please reach out to me at rick@stoutwhisper.com.

Have a great Stout week!

Trading Stouts

The concept of beer trading is an interesting one.  While there are many online websites that discuss the how-to’s and enable trading, I want to spend a few minutes discussing the  emotions of a trade.  The basic premise to trading is to use your inventory to acquire beers that you otherwise couldn’t get, either because of geographical distribution, limited distribution, or you just want more of a specific beer.

I’ve traded a few times with some really good people whom I’ve never met.  California, Texas, Illinois, Oklahoma all are home to some great people who are also great beer traders.  I’ve been able to taste beers that I would otherwise never get to taste and hopefully my trading partners would be able to say the same.   The anatomy of a trade is an interesting one; since I’m not really what you would call an active trader or a known trader in the beer trading community, I’m usually the initiator when I want to make a trade.

For example, I’m in the middle of a trade with a good person in Oklahoma, Michael Holland.   The good people at Prairie Artisan Ales recently had a brewery only release of Pirate Paradise Stout…and I really wanted to get a couple of bottles.  If you’ve been reading 2016-08-18_213816124_15B6A_iOSany of my blog posts, tweets, or Instagram posts, you probably know that I am a big fan of any and all stouts that PAA releases.    I love Pirate Bomb! and I also loved the glass of 2016-06-25_194332518_27367_iOSParadise I was fortunate enough to taste at a local establishment, so I had to have Pirate Paradise!

I threw out a feeler on the PAA Facebook page and Mr. Holland kindly responded.  We went back and forth and quickly settled on the exchange.  I was willing to “overpay” since I was the initiator and Michael was pleased with the deal.  Now to turn the deal into reality.  I spent a good hour packing up the bottles and glassware to insure it would make it safely to Tulsa, Oklahoma.  Bubble wrap, bubble wrap, styrofoam noodles, and more bubble wrap. The last thing I would want is to have Michael open a box of broken glassware or to have a bottle break during the shipment.  I’ve read too many accounts of broken bottles or opened packages by the shipper so I tend to overpack.  My shipper of choice is UPS so my next stop is to the UPS Store to send it on it’s way.  It’s usually $20-30 to ship a box so it’s important to pack it well enough so it gets to it’s destination safely.

Well, my box of goodies made it to Tulsa in one piece and I am anxiously awaiting my delivery from Michael – it’s scheduled to be delivered tomorrow.  Part of my emotion is relief that my package made it safely so Michael can enjoy the contents and the other part is the anticipation of getting something in the mail that I am really excited about!   I’m looking forward to coming home from work tomorrow with a box on my doorstep!

Fortunately, I’ve not had a negative experience in any of my beer trades.  I’m not a frequent trader, but I do consider myself to be an experienced trader and I do my best to make sure my trading partners are happy.

Do you have any trading stories that you are willing to share?  Good, bad, or ugly?  Any tips you want to share with us?  Leave a comment so we can all learn….

 

 

 

 

 

Taking Stock of the Stout!

As we get ready to move into the best time of the year…Stout Season….I thought it was time to take an inventory of what is in the Stout Fridge and what is waiting to get into the Stout Fridge.    Taking inventory does a couple things – it is a good reminder of what is lurking in the back of the shelves and it also give you an opportunity to rotate your Stout Stock by moving some bottles/cans to the front of the line.  I’ve been guilty of sampling the most recent purchases when I could be enjoying some aged Stouts!

I found a few choice Stouts that I’ve moved to the front of the tasting line….and I’ve also realized that I need to enjoy some of the Stouts that I’ve been saving…Parabola, Abyss, even a Bourbon County Rare!  Now that I’ve updated my inventory list of what I have, I can plan my tastings and I can get back into the trading mode….

Have you taken inventory lately?

In other topics…this week was Raleigh Beer Week and aside from specials at all of the Raleigh based Breweries, most of the bottleshops are having specials – many are tappings of rare Stouts that don’t usually make it to Raleigh!!  I was fortunate to visit the Busy Bee Cafe in downtown Raleigh and was able to sample some of Terrapin Brewing’s finest – 2013 Wake-n-Bake as well as comparing Single Origin Stouts Sumatra and Guatemala.  Love the Wake-n-Bake!  There were a lot of enticing stout events this past week, kudos to the organizers and all of the participants of Raleigh Beer Week 2016!

Additionally, I received my monthly Premium Brewpublik delivery recently…..an amazing mix of local, national, and international Stouts!! 2016-09-17_171629343_7eead_ios Tasty Stouts from Twin Leaf Brewing in Asheville, NC, Double Negative from Grimm Artisan Ales (NY), 2016  WOOTStout, and a 3-fer of great 2016-09-10_203330000_02abe_iosStouts from DeMolen Brouwerij in the Netherlands.  The neat part of the DeMolen Stouts are that they are all dated from 2014…some great aging!  I already have enjoyed Cease and Desist this past week and really like everything I’ve had from DeMolen!   I also was pleasantly surprised at the MDXXI Mexican Chocolate Stout from Twin Leaf, a brewery out of Asheville, NC.  Very tasty and something I will seek out again!   Many thanks to my friends at Brewpublik – you too can get incredible beer of your choice delivered to your doorstep.  Give them a shout and let them know the Stoutwhisperer sent you!!