Something different….

I’m usually all about Stouts, but my business travels have taken me to Burlington, Vermont over the past couple of years.  Aside from being an incredibly beautiful place, Vermont is also a beer mecca and Burlington is right in the middle of the action.  I was able to visit the hallowed Beverage Warehouse in Winooski, where I spent considerable time roaming the aisles.  Thanks to the Bevvy, I can now proudly state that I have stood in line for Heady Topper there – I was able to buy a case – and proceeded to pack it carefully in my suitcase for the trip home.  Thankfully, my friends at Delta didn’t search my luggage that day!

Thanks to my travels to Burlington, I now have a connection (thanks Darren!).  I recently traded some excellent North Carolina stouts and IPAs for some Heady Topper, Second Fiddle, and a can of the elusive Lawson’s Sip of Sunshine, as well as some local Vermont stouts.  Since I had three of the best IPAs around, I took the opportunity to conduct a blind taste test along with my 2 sons.  My wife was our bartender and she each gave us a small glass of Heady, Second Fiddle, and SoS.   I know our friends at The Alchemist counsel us to drink Heady straight from the can, but that would have compromised the blind part of the test, don’t you think?

I must say that I was surprised at the results.  Out of the three, I had only tasted Heady Topper before, so I was feeling confident that I would be able to pick Heady out of the three.  Boy was I ever wrong!   My sons and I compared and contrasted the three – the aroma, the taste, the aftertaste, the color, the mouthfeel- and each of us wrote down our preferences in order.  Trying to find fault in these three beers is near to impossible – it was more about taste preferences and being closer to perfection than finding fault.  But doing a side by side by side taste test requires you to rate and rank the beers.

To the Fiddlehead team – congrats!  Second Fiddle was the winner, followed closely by Lawson’s Sip of Sunshine and Heady Topper.  Not exactly what I expected!  All three of them are incredible beers.  After sending my boys back to South Carolina and college (respectively) each with a can of Second Fiddle and a can of Heady, I’m looking forward to enjoying my last can of Second Fiddle!    When summer comes, I’m going to find a way to add a bottle of Pliny the Elder to the taste test!

A couple of takeaways from the sampling:

  1. I really enjoyed doing this with my two boys (both of legal drinking age for the record).  I tried to convey the concept of tasting and sampling beer for enjoyment versus drinking beer to drink beer.  That’s one of the reasons I like stout beer so much – more on that in a future post!
  2. Comparing like beers is not an easy task!  It really takes some concentration to consider the all of the tasting parameters.  It was really fun (and eye-opening) to see that my expectations were blown away.

Have you ever been surprised by a blind taste test?  Tell us about your experience!2016-01-01_010027874_B1D53_iOS




Weekend Tastings

December 27, 2015

This long holiday weekend was quite enjoyable.  Aside from celebrating Christmas with family, I was able to sample a couple of new stouts as well as visit some old “friends”.    I was able to bookend Terrapin’s Wake-n-Bake and Aviator’s Night Jump with a couple of Saturday morning Guinness stouts that were beautifully poured by Darren at the London Bridge pub in Raleigh, NC.  We watched Liverpool play (and defeat) Leicester City in English Premier League action (soccer).  The London Bridge Pub is the local home for the Raleigh chapter of the Liverpool Fan Club.2015-12-26_154923230_28E3B_iOS  It was a great environment to watch the match, as there were 50-60 Liverpool fans rooting for their team.  I also realized that while Guinness was my introduction to the world of stout beer, it made me realize that I’ve moved on and I concluded that I drink stouts to sample the various styles and flavors, not to get buzzed or drunk.  I enjoy the entire experience – the pour, the smell, the way it feels in my mouth, the taste and aftertaste, and the way stouts can change in taste as they warm.   The Guinness didn’t give me the satisfaction that Wake-n-Bake or Night Jump did this weekend.   Especially unfortunate was the fact that the restaurant that we ate lunch at had a couple of stouts that I would have loved to sample, but after 2 Guinness’s, my palate was a bit dulled and I couldn’t justify more beer.

How about you?  Have you had similar experiences?  I’d love to hear your stories?


Christmas Bomb!


My tastings this weekend turned out to be perfect examples of why stouts are amazing.  Saturday I enjoyed Milk and Cookies from Wicked Weed – a good stout, nothing over the top, but enjoyable nonetheless.  Tonight, I cracked open Christmas Bomb! from Prairie Artisan Ales….I’ve had Bomb! before and hoped that PAA’s Christmas offering would meet the high standards.  Well, I think they did one better!  What an amazing beer!  The thickness as it coats the tongue, the smell and tastes of the spices and the traditional kick of Bomb!

One way I like to determine my like for a beer is repeatability – that is, after I finish, would I want to buy it again.  Many times it has been no (and while Milk and Cookies was good, I’m not sure I would seek it out again) but Christmas Bomb! is something I could enjoy year round.  I will certainly be on the outlook to buy any remaining bottles of this seasonal beer!!  Highly Recommended!

Anyone else have opinions on Milk and Cookies or Christmas Bomb!?  Feel free to share with me and the rest of our audience!


The Holiday Season!

Since this is the Holiday season, it must also be Stout season.  There is at least one new stout release every single day and while it seems like a lot right now, it helps when the dog days of IPA (I mean summer) are here and you have stocked up on stouts  now!  Tonight I enjoyed Milk & Cookies, a release from our friends in Asheville, NC – Wicked Weed!  Enjoyable yes, memorable no- although I wouldn’t mind these Milk & Cookies on Christmas Eve!  It had a nice flavor palate but seemed a bit thin in the mouth.  I like my stouts with a bit more thickness to them.

My beer cooler is packed to the gills with Stouts (and a stray Heady Topper and Second Fiddle), so I best get back to making some room for more stouts.  I am assembling my year end awards, so check back in a week or two and we can let the debates begin!

Happy Holidays!


The Busy Season

October 19, 2015

Today’s post will be rather brief.  This is becoming the busy season for Stout releases.  We’ve just seen the annual release of Founder’s Breakfast Stout and many of the local breweries are hopping on the Stout release train – Lonerider with “Pistols at Dawn”, Fullsteam with IGOR, Son of IGOR, and Señor IGOR, and Burial with their tasty Skillet Donut Stout.  I’m also seeing some great new releases in the coming days/weeks – Oskar Blues will be releasing a BA version of TENFIDY in 16oz. cans.  The BA TENFIDY looks to be a very limited release, mostly out of their Colorado brewing outpost.  All indications are that the NC brewery will not see any…..but things can always change.  OB will also be releasing “Death by Coconut” porter in November; thankfully, this will see a much wider distribution!  Wicked Weed will be having their Dark Arts bottle release this coming weekend in Asheville, NC.  Those fortunate enough to have bought tickets will get a combo of Dark Arts plus Dark Arts w/Espresso!

If you want to share a release of a favorite Stout, drop me a note from the Comments page and I’ll make sure I include it in my next post!  Thanks!

Why Stouts?

October 15, 20152015-04-19_194851108_6F439_iOS

Welcome to the Stoutwhisperer….a blog devoted primarily to the world of Stout beers, sometimes Porters, and every so often a dalliance into other beer types.  Why Stout beers you ask?  Well, aside from the fact that Stouts are the best beer type known to man (sorry, it’s my blog), there is a physiological reasons for me at least.  I seem to be able to drink Stouts (within reason) without much effect, whereas other beer types seem to give me the dreaded morning after headache.   So Stout beer it is!

I also like big, bold tastes – give me notes of coffee, chocolate, and toffee and I’m a happy guy.   Throw the fruit and spice layers in – cherry, coconut, cinnamon, and all the variations of coffee types.  Finally add the layer of barrel aged variants, and things go to another level. Let’s put it this way….when you’ve had a really good stout, it stays with you for a long time.

I started with the training wheels, I sampled Guinness Stout (and sampled again..and again).  That led me to branch out and try other Stouts…which has given me the love to concentrate on this one type of beer.  I like to stray every now and then (Heady Topper, Pliny the Elder come to mind), but I always come back to my beloved Stouts.

What will I write about?  The entire process – brewing to drinking and all things in between.  Special releases to off the shelf treasures.  Reviews and interviews.  Glassware and labels.  The art and science of Stouts. Stout vs. Porter.  Cellaring and aging Stouts. Truth be told, there are enough topics to keep me writing for quite some time!  Lastly, I hope to interact with those who read these words and choose to contribute your own thoughts and ideas on Stouts.

So welcome…..pour a glass/snifter/chalice of your favorite stout and give my blog a read.  If you are so inclined, feel free to share your thoughts on the Comments page.  I welcome your participation!