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Dragon’s Milk Reserve – New Holland Brewing

May 14, 2016 – I’ve heard good things about Dragon’s Milk, so when I saw their Reserve batch hit the shelves, I took the plunge. Dragon’s Milk is a well-known, year round Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout and their Reserve adds Coffee and Chocolate to the mix…..hmm BBA Stout with Coffee and Chocolate? Sound like KBS and a number of other good, quality Stouts. Let’s see how Dragon’s Milk Reserve measures up…..

It poured nice and black, with a thin tan foamy head.   The first aroma brings bourbon and nothing else. Thinking I missed the coffee and chocolate, I went in for another smell…..nope only bourbon.   OK, perhaps it’s there in the taste. First sip….nice stout taste, medium mouthfeel, some bourbon undertones, and the aftertaste is smooth with no real burn…..but nothing that announces coffee or chocolate. Continuing to sip, I continue to seek anything that resembles notes of chocolate or coffee, but fail to do so. While disappointed in not finding the coffee and chocolate that are noted on the label, I find myself enjoying this bourbon barrel aged stout! The bourbon was not overpowering which added to the curiosity of not sensing any coffee or chocolate.

It almost seemed as if this was a regular Dragon’s Milk in a 12 oz. Dragon’s Milk Reserve bottle! Good Stout but since I don’t get anything resembling coffee or chocolate, it moves down a few slots.

Stout of this World rating: 3.75 bombers

Birthday BOMB! – Prairie Artisan Ales

MAY 15, 2106 – Thanks to my favorite bottleshop, House of Hops, I was able to procure a bottle of Birthday BOMB!. It looks like all of the bottleshops in the area received a couple of cases each and they all were rationing them at 1 bottle/person.   Prairie adverstised this release as a celebration of the 3rd birthday of BOMB! and they added homemade caramel to the BOMB! stout to make up Birthday BOMB!

Birthday poured like all of its sibling BOMB!’s, a nice, thick, black liquid with a thin head that quickly dissipated. The aroma gave me coffee and a hint of the caramel. The first sip was a tongue coating, reminiscent of all of the BOMB!’s and the aftertaste gave me the spiciness of the chili pepper. As I tasted this elixir, I was able to get notes of sweetness (chocolate, caramel), some heat (pepper), and some bitterness (coffee). Quite complex, quite layered!

I quickly worked my way to the bottom of the glass…..the incredible balance of sweet and spice and heat with the additional layer of caramel made me want to celebrate a birthday!! I’m ready for another one!

Stout of this World rating: 4.25 bombers

Mexican Speedway Stout – Alesmith Brewing

May 21, 2016 – I was very interested in diving into the Mexican Speedway from Alesmith Brewing that I recently purchased and proxied from my new San Diego friend (thanks Michael!).  Mexican Speedway is base Speedway Stout aged in Tequila barrels with coffee, cinnamon, and chocolate.  A Stout version of Mexican Hot Chocolate!  It sounded great so I was ready to give it a taste.

2016-05-21_195003975_6546D_iOSAfter my requisite hour long wait gradually warming it, I popped the top. It poured jet black with a nice foamy cream colored head. I caught notes of the tequila, some coffee, and perhaps some sweetness from the chocolate and cinnamon.  The first sip was a bit different that what I expected…the tequila aging imparted a flavor that wasn’t what I would consider smooth. It wasn’t bad mind you, just different.   The mouthfeel was medium to thick and the aftertaste had a bit of an edge to it. It took a few tastes to get acclimated to the flavor, but once I did, I began to enjoy it.   This was my first exposure to a tequila-aged stout, so it took a few sips to get used to it.  I must admit that I was a bit disappointed – I love Speedway Stout and my expectations were high – but I just wasn’t expecting the tequila to have the impact that it did.  I really enjoyed a snifter of Hammerhead Speedway Stout recently and that may have helped to raise the expectation bar a few more notches!   But as I said, I got used to the taste after a few sips, so all was not lost.

The remainder of the bottle was nice and tasty and I quite enjoyed it. I have a few more bottles that are in my beer fridge and I’ll be very curious to see how aging affects Mexican Speedway. I would expect that it would smooth out the tequila, but time will tell.
Stout of this World rating: 4.0 bombers

Stone Xocoveza – Stone Brewing

May 22, 2016 – I was looking for something non-BA, something with a little spice in it, and something I hadn’t had in awhile. Looking through my stout fridge, there tucked in the back was a couple of bottles of Stone Xocovexa!   Bingo! That fit all of my objectives, so I pulled a bottle out and let it warm a bit.   When I opened it, it poured a beautiful black with 2016-05-22_200018391_C310E_iOSa nice foamy head.   The aroma was wonderful – notes of coffee, cinnamon, vanilla, and nutmeg – and the taste matched the aroma.   A deep complex stout with a medium mouthfeel and a nice bite of pepper in the aftertaste. It’s better than I remembered……what a nice surprise! As it warmed, the aromas brightened and the tastes were beautifully layered, with the smooth heat in the swallow. My snifter was empty quicker than I had hoped!

When I first had Xocoveza around the holidays, I don’t recall this level of complexity or the balance of spices…..it seems like a few months of aging has done it wonders! I’m looking forward to enjoying another bottle soon!

Stout of this World rating: 4.25 bombers

Prairie Artisan Ales – Christmas BOMB!

May 8, 2016 – If you’ve read any of my previous reviews, you’ll note that I’m a BOMB! fan.  I’m really taken by the thickness of this Stout as well as the spice palette and the heat at the end.  I’ll cut to the chase – I’m still a BOMB! fan.  The good people at Prairie didn’t do anything to change my mind and more probably reinforced their genius – at least in my opinion!

I took out my bottle of Christmas BOMB! and let it set out for an hour to warm a bit.  As 2016-05-08_193403872_03514_iOSyou can see, it poured a nice black with a small liner of a foamy head that dissipated
quickly.  The aromas brought me back to the first Christmas BOMB! I had back during the holidays….a good strong whiff of spices.  The first sip was nice and thick and I knew then I was enjoying a BOMB!  The Stout coated my tongue and the aftertaste had a bit of heat to it, another telltale sign of BOMB!  The spices added a layer of complexity to this already complex Stout.   This is a great Stout for those who like to have their taste buds bombarded!  As I
neared the bottom of my glass, I thought back to the other BOMB!s that I have had the pleasure of tasting and realized that Prairie has quite the BOMB! lineup!  Truth be told, however, I do believe Pirate BOMB! is the best of the lot (at least of the lot that I’ve had the privilege of tasting!).  I really commend the creativity and innovation of the brew team at Prairie.  I hope to be lucky enough to taste a Birthday BOMB! and see how the caramel impacts the overall flavor.   Happy Birthday BOMB!

Stout of this World rating: 4.25 bombers

Epic Brewing Company – Big Bad Baptist

April 30, 2016 – I’ve had this bottle in my beer cellar for about 6 months now. I’m not altogether sure what I was waiting for but with the release of Son of a Baptist, I thought it was high time to break this Bourbon barrel-aged Big Bad boy open and see if all of the positive online reviews are merited.  Epic makes BBB in various “releases” using different dark roasted coffee; I had the privilege of tasting release #61, which was brewed with Caffe Ibis coffee in February, 2015 and packed in October, 2015. This release came in at 12.1%ABV and is bottled in a 22oz. bomber.

2016-04-30_202852000_A7E8D_iOSAfter taking it out of the fridge and letting it sit for an hour to bring it to around 50-55 degrees, I opened it and let it pour. It BBB was a beautiful jet black with a nice foamy head. Once the photo opp was over, I lifted the glass to my nose and was bombarded with some amazing aromas.   Usually there is one scent that dominates and overwhelms; Big Bad Baptist provided me with equal notes of coffee, chocolate, and bourbon! Each aroma was incredibly layered and I could detect each scent, which I must say is a first from all of my tastings.   Either my nose is better at differentiating scents or this is foreshadowing what’s to come.

My first sip confirmed it – this is a Stout that is smooth, balanced, and complex! I could taste the coffee blended with the chocolate, along with the slight booziness of the bourbon. The mouthfeel was medium and the aftertaste was smooth. As I continued my taste journey, I marveled at the attention to detail that is required to get this Stout so balanced and smooth.   This is a Stout that deserves every bit of recognition and praise that it gets!  I enjoyed every single sip of Big Bad Baptist and it delivered that smooth, balanced taste all the way to the bottom of the glass!!  Kudos to the Epic Brewmaster!

I guarantee that Big Bad Baptist will always have a place in my Stout House and that is one of the highest compliments I can pay a Stout!

Stout of this World rating: 4.5 bombers

Epic Brewing Company – Son of a Baptist

May 1, 2016 – Coming off of my Big Bad Baptist experience the day before, I had to reset my expectations for Son of a Baptist.  Son of a Baptist is a relative of BBB in that it is the same base Stout but with two significant differences: Son is not Bourbon barrel-aged and that Son has about 14 variants.  Epic was able to partner with about 14 different coffee roasters across the country and used their recommended beans to create Stouts such that each variation has a different flavor profile.  The outcome shows how different coffee beans can influence the ultimate flavor of the Stout.  Pretty unique and an incredible labor of love!  It must have been quite a job first to source out different coffee roasters then brew different batches highlighting the flavors and notes from the coffee!

I was able to taste the Larry’s Coffee version at the release party last Wednesday.  I found it to be quite good and thought the coffee was very complementary to the Stout and it 2016-05-03_001557000_52A6A_iOSworked well!  I was hoping for a similar experience when I opened a bottle of Son using coffee from Portola Coffee Lab, a Southern California roaster. This version clocked in at 7.9%ABV in its 22oz. bomber.

As with BBB, I took Son out of the fridge and let it sit for an hour before I opened it. The pour was similar to Big Bad Baptist as it was a jet black pour and a nice foamy head that hung in there for quite some time. The aroma was pure coffee – didn’t get any chocolate scent in Son.   The first sip was quite tasty, with some nice coffee notes, not overwhelming with a medium mouthfeel. The aftertaste was smooth and went down easy. Subsequent tastes mirrored the first with the only difference was that as it warmed, the mouthfeel got a bit thicker – which I like – though it never got to the “tongue coating” stage.

I really enjoyed Son of a Baptist – I appreciate the creativity and effort the Epic Brewing team put forth in this “series” of a single Stout.   With the lower ABV, I could easily see myself savoring this on a summer evening.

Current plans call for Epic to release these variations in 12oz. cans later this year – great idea!  One recommendation would be to take a page from the Terrapin playbook and release mixed 4 packs, so we can taste and sample the differences across the various coffees.  I’m happy to support Larry’s Coffee as my local roaster, but tasting the different flavor profiles is a good way to showcase the Son of a Baptist series!

Stout of this World rating: 4.0 bombers

Goose Island Brewing Co. – 2015 Bourbon County Brand Stout (BCBS)

April 16, 2016 – I hadn’t planned on reviewing BCBS this weekend; however, one of my Instagram friends (@barrelagedbarry) who always seems to be drinking the Stouts on my want list, reported that the BCBS that he just had was infected, as it had a metallic sour aroma and flavor. The label on his bottle was dated 04Nov15.  I checked my stock and they are all 11Nov15 so I thought it would be worthwhile to perform a “quality check” on at least one of them.

I took it out of the fridge and let it sit for an hour to warm a bit. I opened it and gave it a 2016-04-16_202147454_9A4E3_iOSpour, nice and black, with a small head that almost immediately disappeared. It had a nice bourbon nose. The first sip was wonderful.  It was as if my tongue was painted with BCBS!  Nice and thick with a nice smooth bourbon layer.  The aftertaste was smooth and full of a bourbon taste.   This is a big boy Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout!  It is a 14.3%ABV Stout that doesn’t really hide it, as it is nice and warming and gets more complex as it warms. The Goose Island brewers, for all the unfortunate quality issues that have bedeviled them in 2015, got this one right!

Stout of this World rating: 4.5 bombers

Southern Tier Brewing – Chokolat Oranj

April 17, 2016 – I’ve had Southern Tier’s Choklat on tap and was impressed both with the amazing chocolate aroma and the good taste. When I saw Choklat Oranj go on sale, I made a beeline to the Stout shelf, picked one up and looked forward to another pleasant tasting experience.

After resting in the kitchen for an hour to warm it, I opened it and gave it a pour. A good 2016-04-17_195940579_420B2_iOSjet black pour with a good solid head that remained. The aroma was all chocolate, with a hint of citrus. So far, so good. The first sip was thin and not what I expected.   Another sip, same thought. Every time I take a drink, my nose gets a great aroma and my mouth gets a thin, nondescript stout where I struggled to find either Chocolate or Orange.  I continued to drink hoping to find a point where the taste matched the nose, but unfortunately, I was never able to find that spot that brought me back to my Choklat experience. Certainly not bad, but I was hoping for a much better tasting experience than I had. The aroma was the winner here, but unfortunately, this review is much about taste, which was a solid average.
Stout of this World bomber: 3.75 bombers

Wicked Weed Brewing – Dark Age

April 9, 2016 – Wicked Weed is an Asheville brewing institution known primarily for their Sours, but every once in a while they go the Stout route. Dark Age is a Bourbon barrel aged imperial stout that is being bottled for the first time. While I must admit I was underwhelmed by their Milk and Cookies Stout and haven’t yet had El Paradiso, I’ve heard good things about Dark Age.   This 12%ABV 12.7oz bottle was released a couple of weeks ago to much fanfare (at least in the Carolinas) and seemed to saturate the Triangle market, as 2016-04-09_214558669_83B9C_iOSeveryone seemed to get a large delivery of this release. Since April is North Carolina Beer month, I decided to do my part and give Dark Age a try…..

This Stout pours a nice black waterfall with a decent tan foamy head. It has a straight on bourbon aroma – not trying to hide anything, that’s for sure!   The first sip is smooth and while there is bourbon throughout the taste, it’s not overwhelming. The mouthfeel is thin to medium and the aftertaste is smooth as well.   A decent down the middle bourbon barrel imperial stout!  This strikes me as an excellent introduction to the world of BBA Stouts……no variants, smooth taste from the sip to the swallow, with a consistent hint of bourbon. Not the best I’ve had, but also far, far from the worst. I’m going to age another bottle of Dark Age for a while to see if the flavor profile changes at all.   All in all, a decent BBA Stout from our friends at Wicked Weed!

Stout of this World rating: 4.0 bombers

Founders Brewing – Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS) 2016 vintage

April 10, 2016 – Since my recent KBS trials and tribulations have been documented in recent posts, I felt a need to see if the destination was worth the journey, so I took some time to open a fresh bottle of the 2016 vintage of KBS. I’ve read many of the reviews from others and while many were very complimentary, there were those who felt it needed a bit more aging.   Jason at Whole Foods felt that Founders was one of the few breweries who actually ages their beer to be at its peak aging when sold – rather than rely on the customer to age it a bit more. So going into the review, I wasn’t sure what side of the barrel I would fall on.

I wore my KBS t-shirt to commemorate the event and poured it into the 2016 KBS glass – 2016-04-10_200330304_D09B4_iOSbig kudos to Founders Brewing for the 17oz. size!! This is a perfect size as it allows me to give a good pour and get some foamy head without worrying about spillage!   KBS isn’t the most heady beer, but I was able to get a decent head from the pour! The aroma was an alluring combination of bourbon, chocolate, and a hint of coffee. Would the taste match the aroma?   The first sip answered the question….unequivocally yes!

The smoothness of the 2016 vintage is unsurpassed. Notes of coffee and chocolate infused with a smooth layer of bourbon creates a taste that leaves one wanting another.   The mouthfeel is nice as it coats the tongue and there is absolutely no bite in the aftertaste. As I write this, I realized that I didn’t get this level of complexity when I had it on tap at Bull McCabe’s for the release party……it was quite good there but in a more controlled environment (my house) it’s at another level.   I’ll note once again, that the temperature of the Stout is so critical to the emergence of the flavors.   I had refrigerated my bottle of KBS but took it out a full hour before I opened it to gradually warm to 50 degrees or so. Drinking KBS (or most Stouts) cold will rob you out of enjoying the full range of scents and flavors……so do yourself a favor and give it time to rest and warm….even 30 minutes will work.

I think Jason is right….this doesn’t need any aging. This is an amazing Stout right now. Find it and drink it!

Stout of this World rating: 4.5 bombers

Evil Twin Brewing – Aun Mas Todo Jesus

April 3, 2016 –

I’ve seen the Evil Twin line of Stouts for quite some time and none have never found their way into my 6 pack holder for whatever reason….until now.  I decided to pick up a couple of 12oz. bottles of Aun Mas Todo Jesus – a 12%ABV Stout with Cinnamon, Cocoa Nibs, Coffee and Chili Peppers.  This combination seems to interest me as I tend to 2016-04-03_195504465_8BAAE_iOSenjoy the back end bite of the pepper.  I also appreciate the 12oz. size as I always don’t have the time nor desire to polish off an entire 22 oz. bottle.   The pour was a nice black one, with little to no head.  The aroma was a hint of coffee with some malty chocolate notes in there….the mouthfeel was medium to thick and the aftertaste was a nice bite of pepper….not too much, but you know it’s there!   These type of Stouts really come alive when they are around 55-57 degrees.  The flavors really emerge and at these temperatures you can best appreciate the work of the brewmaster!

I really enjoyed this offering from Evil Twin Brewing; I’ll not be as uncertain in the future when I see their interestingly named Stouts…..they seem to be a very creative brewery!

A side note: One area that I really haven’t ventured into yet is the partnership between Stouts and Food.  I happened to be preparing a nice London Broil for dinner last night and found that Aun Mas Todo Jesus was an excellent pairing with the steak!   More to follow on this…..I’d be interested in hearing more about good Stout/Food pairings!!

Stout of this World rating: 4.0 bombers

Raleigh Brewing – Double Barrel Aged Miller’s Toll

March 26, 2016 – I’m a big fan of Miller’s Toll from Raleigh Brewing (see my review in the Recent Reviews).  They took it a step further and bottled a Bourbon Barrel aged version (which is also in my beer fridge yet to be opened). In preparation for their Anniversary Party on March 5, the good people at Raleigh Brewing set aside some BAMT and aged it in Rum Barrels for 3 months. They put 400 bottles on sale the day of the party (which went quickly) and I was fortunate enough to get 2. I’ve been patiently waiting to open one and decided today was the day.

It was double waxed to indicate the special release – red for the Bourbon Barrel Aging, with the white wax for the Rum Barrel Aging. Once the wax was removed, the pour was simply 2016-03-26_202517057_830B3_iOSbeautiful, with a jet black liquid followed by the nice tan foamy head. The aroma was slightly bourbon with a bit of a sweeter scent than normal – I think that was the rum barrels making their presence known! The first sip was nice and smooth…medium mouthfeel….nice balanced bourbon taste but not overpowering at all. Just enough bourbon taste to remind me where this lived for 9 months.   The aftertaste was pure Miller’s Toll stout.   Raleigh Brewing, this can’t be a one-time release!   This is really tasty!   I like the impact Rum Barrels have on Stouts….Rum Barrel aging seems to smooth out any “rough edges” a Stout may have. Prairie Artisan Ales Pirate Bomb! is another recent winner that was aged in Rum Barrels.

I was a bit surprised that this clocked in at only 10.5%ABV, as I had expected a higher ABV. No matter, this was a layered treat….malt, some elements of chocolate, bourbon, some sweetness….a lot going on but it all combined to present an amazingly complex Stout! I’m not sure how many of the 400 bottles are left to enjoy (I suspect Raleigh Brewing have a few more in their cellar!), but if you see one in the wild, by all means, go for it!

Stout of this World rating: 4.5 bombers

Highland Brewing – The Kinsman Project: Black Mocha Stout

March 27, 2016 – I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying Highland Brewing’s Black Mocha Stout in the past, so when I saw that their Black Mocha Stout (BMS from here on out) was going to be part of their specialty release program called The Kinsman Project, I was ready to buy. When I saw that they infused BMS with Cinnamon Sticks, Vanilla Beans, Cacao nibs and Chipotle Peppers, I was ready to drink!

Cracking open the 22oz. bomber and giving it a pour reminded me of a jet black waterfall. 2016-03-27_201635561_8270E_iOSA nice creamy foamy head completed the pour.   Aroma was a bit on the sweet side (Vanilla? Cinnamon?) but not really distinguishable. It was a bit on the cool side when I first poured it (around 45 degrees or so) and my first sip wasn’t much to write about. Thin mouthfeel, but no real flavor except for the chipotle pepper bite at the end.   I did like the heat of the peppers. Nothing crazy, just the fact that you knew there was some pepper in there.   I let it rest for a bit, sensing that the flavors would emerge as it warmed.   I was right….as it warmed, the flavors really released and I could taste the upfront flavors of vanilla, some cinnamon, some elements of chocolate…..and the back bite of the chipotle!   Now that is what I was hoping to taste!   The rest of the pour disappeared quickly as I really enjoyed the sweet/hot balance of each sip.   Note to self and others:   Drink this at around 55 degrees or you are cheating yourself out of a very tasty, complex stout!   The fact that it is only 5.6%ABV means you can enjoy the entire bomber in a long afternoon – and the second pour will be better than the first as it will have had a chance to sit and warm up a bit!  Just put your wine stopper in the bottle and leave it out to warm. Well done to the brew masters of Highland Brewing! There’s more Kinsman Project – Black Mocha Stout in my future!

Stout of this World rating: 4.0 bombers

Big Boss Brewing – Root Beer Stout 

March 27, 2106 – Coming into this weekend, I was looking forward to the Root Beer Stout (RBS) float I was going to make on Sunday evening.   Fast forward to Sunday evening…..I wanted to review RBS like all of the other Stouts but I also wanted to have a little fun and make a float….so I did both!

The Big Boss brewmasters worked a bit of magic on this one…..It pours nice and black with 2016-03-27_230127194_B92F1_iOSa bit of a creamy foamy head.  The aroma is pure Root Beer but the taste is pure Stout with no hint of Root Beer.   Not sure how they were able to pull it off, but they did.  The mouthfeel is rather thin, but for a 6.75%ABV Stout, that’s not altogether surprising.  There is a bit of a sweet aftertaste, but certainly nothing that would suggest Root Beer.  This was an enjoyable and very drinkable Stout which belies it’s perceived novelty of a Root Beer Stout.

Next on the list was the real novelty…a Root Beer Stout float!  Simple enough, a couple of scoops of vanilla ice cream followed by a nice pour over of Root Beer Stout!  2016-03-27_230504290_90D9D_iOSThis is the match made in Big Boss heaven!  I was a bit unsure at first, but after a few sips, the vanilla ice cream began to melt and mix with the Stout….that’s when the magic occurred.  The taste was amazing and the rest of the float disappeared in record time.  The malt and touch of sweetness of the Root Beer Stout complemented the vanilla ice cream quite nicely which resulted in a float that wasn’t too sweet, wasn’t too stouty…..it was just right!
Good thing I bought a few bottles, because I plan on leaving them in my beer fridge and waiting for a hot summer day to have another Root Beer Stout float!

Well done, Big Boss Brewing!

Stout of this World rating: 4.25 bombers

Oskar Blues Brewing – TENFIDY

March 20, 2016 – While I’ve had the pleasure of drinking TENFIDY before, I’ve never put it through it’s paces in a review.  Now it’s time.  Oskar Blues is a brewing concern that has it’s origins in Colorado, expanded to western North Carolina, and is now expanding yet again to Austin, Texas.  They are one of the pioneers in canning craft beer; to be honest, I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen anything bottled from Oskar Blues.  TENFIDY is their stout offering, clocking in at….I’ll bet you can’t guess….yes, it’s 10.5% ABV.  It is a straight forward Imperial Stout; they make a Bourbon Barrel aged TENFIDY, but the BA variant is one of those rare ones that are usually sold 2016-03-20_193556363_E1A33_iOSonly at the brewery.

Regular TENFIDY is a beautiful sight; it’s an inky jet black pour with a nice tan foamy head that sticks around for awhile.  The aroma is very malty….you know it’s a stout, that’s for sure and after all of the barrel aged beers I’ve tasted lately, a straight malty stout aroma was more than welcome!  The first sip of TENFIDY was nice and smooth.  It has a thicker than average mouthfeel and the aftertaste is pure stout.  As it warmed, it developed more depth and became even smoother than the first few sips.  I began to sense some chocolate and perhaps some toffee notes.    This is an excellent example of an Imperial Stout!  I recommend letting it warm to 50-55 degrees to allow all of the flavor palette to develop and for maximum enjoyment.

TENFIDY is a seasonal release,  so as we start moving into the Stout Drought, it would be worthwhile to go get a 4 pack (or two!) so you can treat yourself during the summer.   Get some now before they sell out for the season!

Stout of this World rating: 4.25 bombers

Hitachino Nest – Espresso Stout

March 17, 2016 – I’ve heard about this Japanese brewery for a awhile and when I saw their lineup of beers at a local bottleshop, I knew I had to give one a try.  Espresso Stout called my name and so I bit.  It was a stubby bottle containing 11.2 oz (?) of a 7%ABV jet black beer.  It was a nice pour with a nice creamy head.  As you can see, since the bottle is only 11.2 ounces, it doesn’t quite 2016-03-17_200508903_7CA2C_iOSreach the top of the glass.   The aroma was coffee.   The first sip was smooth and was all about the coffee.  The mouthfeel was thin to average which was expected based on the pour.  Subsequent sips repeated the first one – basically this is a stout that give you a shot of espresso with each taste.  It’s a no nonsense, straight on coffee stout.  Personally, I like coffee stouts but I also believe that you can have too much of a good thing and that’s why I came to appreciate the 11.2 oz. bottle.  I finished the bottle right before I think I would have gone into coffee taste overload.  If coffee stouts are your go to beer, then I highly recommend Espresso Stout.   I probably would buy it if I saw it again, but it’s not one I would seek out.

Stout of this World rating: 3.75 bombers

Prairie Artisan Ales – Pirate BOMB!

March 18, 2016 – From previous ratings of PAA BOMB! and it’s variants, you know I’m a fan.  When I read that Pirate BOMB! was on the release schedule, I was hooked.  BOMB! in Rum Barrels?  Really?  So when it started appearing locally in bottleshops, I was on social media alert and 2016-03-18_210739939_544F9_iOSfortunately, luck was on my side when I saw a posting from my friends at House of Hops in Raleigh, NC (@HouseofHops1) and just happened to be in the area.  I was able to pick up a few bottles and it moved to the top of my review list.

It poured like all BOMB!s do…jet black with little head.  There was a nice aroma….I could smell the rum as well as the BOMB! spices.  The first sip just wrapped around my tongue and the rum barrel aging added some kick to the BOMB! but not as much as the Bourbon barrel aged BOMB! The taste was just about perfect……this clocks in at 14% ABV, so it’s a warm one, but it’s one of the best BOMB!s I’ve had!  I’m glad I bought more than one, because I know I’ll want to confirm how good this was a couple more times!!  To my friends at Prairie Artisan Ales, keep doing what you are doing!

Stout of this World rating: 4.5 bombers

Blue Mountain Barrel House – Dark Hollow

March 19, 2016 – I’ve had Dark Hollow in my beer fridge for quite some time, and when I was rearranging some bottles, I noticed the cork said “Best by July 2016”.   That meant try it now!  I liked the unique bottle shape and the cork/cage as the gatekeeper to the liquid….now that I popped the cork, how did it taste?2016-03-19_201458154_EBEA9_iOS

The pour was nice and black, with a very thin line of foam.  I could detect a bourbon in the aroma, but it was pleasant and not overpowering.  The first sip was a nice smooth one – I knew there was some bourbon barrel aging going on, but it was complimentary and really added to the depth of the stout.  Many bourbon barrel aged stouts are bourbon dominant and smooth out over time – perhaps this was what happened here, but it worked!  The mouthfeel was average to thick and the aftertaste was smooth.  As Dark Hollow warmed, the taste became a bit more complex; I really enjoyed this beer to the very last sip!  It clocks in at 10%ABV, but there was a depth and subtlety to this Stout which I didn’t expect!

When I review Stouts, I like to find and sample beers and breweries that aren’t yet “on the radar”.  Dark Hollow and Blue Mountain Barrel House are a perfect example of those wonderful surprises you can find in your Stout journey!  Go find a bottle and pop the cork – I think you’ll like what you taste!!

Stout of this World rating: 4.0 bombers

Founders Brewing – KBS (2015)

March 13, 2016 – I’ve been keeping KBS in my beer fridge for a while, but as I noted above, all of the 2016-03-13_200020070_52C1B_iOSactivities in Grand Rapids, MI have whetted my appetite for KBS, so I decided to open a 2015 KBS and see how it survived a year.   It poured nice, with a relatively thin head, but there was a nice smooth aroma of bourbon.  The first sip reinforced the bourbon aroma, but the taste was not too forward; rather, it was complimentary to the coffee and chocolate  that I could taste as well.  The mouthfeel was nice as it coated my tongue; not the thickest I’ve had, but it was nice.  The aftertaste was smoooooth….nice and warming, with none of the bourbon “bite” that sometimes accompanies bourbon barrel aged beers.  As it warmed, it improved in taste and I found myself wanting more….which at the end of the day, is a good thing!

This is a beer that tastes good fresh and also ages well.  I’ve got a vertical working from 2013, so I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to acquire a 2016 vintage!  I’ll be reaching out to my local bottleshops to get on their “special preferred” lists for limited beers like KBS!!

KBS is a highly rated beer that could easily ride on their reputation; however, thanks to the good people at Founders Brewing, they deliver!  Can’t wait for the 2016 vintage!

Stout of this World rating: 4.5 bombers

 

Left Hand Brewing – Hard Wired Nitro Coffee Porter2016-03-06_210014777_6C828_iOS

March 6, 2016 – Closing out this non-Stout weekend, I decided to open my recently purchased bottle of Hard Wired Nitro Coffee Porter from Left Hand Brewing.  As is with their Milk Stout Nitro, they recommend to serve it cold (about 45 degrees) and POUR HARD.  Following their instructions, I did just that and I must say, watching the nitrogen bubbles surface to the top is a sight to see.   It forms a nice thick creamy head (as seen in the picture).  The aroma is coffee…not just coffee, but COFFEE…..and the first sip confirmed that I was indeed drinking a COFFEE porter.  The thought ran through my head that this was the first coffee beer that I could actually see myself drinking at breakfast.  It’s really coffee forward, the mouthfeel was average and  the aftertaste is nice and smooth due to the creaminess of the beer.  However, a funny thing happened as I neared the end….I enjoyed it less and less and instead of wishing there was more (as I usually do), I was actually glad that I was done.   Not sure if my taste buds got fatigued or what…

I’m a bit torn over this one….I like coffee and enjoy stouts with coffee, but Hard Wired seemed to push the limits for me.  I want to give Left Hand the benefit of the doubt and I plan to give Hard Wired Nitro Coffee Porter another chance somewhere down the road, but in the meantime, I’ll go back to Stouts.

Stout of this World rating: 3.0 bombers

 

Bell’s Brewery – Hopslam Ale2016-03-06_193303319_122FC_iOS

March 6, 2016 – Yes, I know….I’m the Stoutwhisperer.  What am I doing reviewing a hoppy ale?  Perhaps I am out of my element, but I consider this sort of a “palate cleanser”.   That and it seems as if Hopslam has a bit of a cult following like some of our Stouts (think KBS or BCBS).  I was in my local bottleshop doing some window shopping for some new stouts and I just happened to be there when they had some cans of Hopslam in stock.  I enjoy the hoppy DIPAs from Vermont every now and then,  so I thought I’d take advantage of my good timing and pick up a couple cans and see how it compares.   The can states that is it “ale brewed with honey” so we’ll see what the honey brings to the party!

A nice clear pour with a thin white head, the strong hoppy aroma take me back to my taste test of Heady Topper, Second Fiddle, and Sip of Sunshine!  A sip gives me the nice hoppy taste but the aftertaste is pleasantly smooth…..I sense that it may be the honey that may smooth it out just a bit.   I really enjoyed this beer and I’m glad I bought two cans – although the theory is that these types of beers should be enjoyed when they are fresh, I think I’ll save the other can for a 100 degree day in the summer – I have a feeling it will be incredibly refreshing then!

No rating for a non-stout beer, but I did really enjoy Hopslam Ale and I now understand why it’s a highly sought after beer!  Well done, Bell’s – now please tell me there will be a 2016 release of Black Note Stout….please?  I’m also offering to review it, so feel free to contact me so we can work out the shipping arrangements!

 

Ballast Point Brewing – Victory At Sea2016-03-05_210902336_7134C_iOS

March 5, 2016 – I became a Ballast Point fan a couple of months ago when I went to a Tap Takeover at a local bottleshop.  I enjoyed a sample of Commodore, their American Stout and had a nice conversation with their local Ballast Point rep, Jenny.  When Victory At Sea was released, I picked up a bottle and put it in my lineup of beers to review.  It clocks in at a solid 10% ABV, seemingly on the high side for a Porter.  It was a beautiful night and I was out on our deck grilling chicken for dinner, so I thought it was a good time to crack it open and see what Victory At Sea is all about.

The pour was a smooth black pour with a relatively thin creamy head.  The aroma was all about coffee, with a slight sweet scent of vanilla.  The first sip was smoooooth…nice taste of the coffee and no bitter aftertaste….this is nice.  After a few more sips, it became clear to me that Victory At Sea is also a victory on land……very smooth, with a nice upfront coffee taste and just enough of the vanilla sweetness to balance out any bitterness.  If you asked me what the ABV was for this beer, there would be no way I would get close to 10%.  It is well hidden!   This is one smooth Porter!

Suffice it to say, I will be on the lookout for Victory At Sea and will be stocking up for the Stout/Porter off-season, which unfortunately is coming soon….but this year, I will be ready for the drought, as my Stout cellar is nearing capacity….with a few more spots available for Victory At Sea!

Stout of this World rating:  4.25 bombers

 

Weyerbacher Brewing – Sunday Morning Stout2016-02-28_210035452_3F69E_iOS

February 28, 2016 –  I was a Stout neophyte when I first sampled Sunday Morning Stout from our friends at Weyerbacher Brewing. I can still remember it today….a beautiful Spring Sunday afternoon, cooking something on the grill, soaking up the sun…..and drinking an SMS. Life was good that day.  Fast forward to today – I’m a bit more knowledgeable in the world of Stouts and a bit more critical on what makes a good Stout and what makes a great one.

When the 2016 vintage of SMS hit the market, I knew I needed to see if it stood up to my previous tasting.   I bought a 4-pack from my local battleship about a week or so ago and waited for the right day – today was the day.  I cracked one open and gave it a good pour. Nice jet black with an inch or so of a tan foamy head……picture perfect. The aroma was a nice stouty aroma with some bourbon notes, but the bourbon was complimentary and not overpowering. A good sign…..

The first sip was very refined as the stout taste took over and when it dissipated, a nice light bourbon taste took its place. Exactly as the aroma predicted.   Not overpowering or strong in any way, just a note that reminds you that this is a bourbon barrel aged Stout.   Nice.   Subsequent sips reaffirmed my first one.   As my Sunday Morning Stout warmed, the bourbon became a bit more pronounced, although still taking a back seat to the Stout.   The 11.3% ABV is well hidden throughout but I will commend Weyerbacher for selling it in 12 oz. bottles. That size is perfect…..no need for the 16.9 or 22 oz. bombers for this one!

I know I’m looking forward to working though the remaining 3 bottles…..probably enjoying them on sunny Sunday afternoons!  Nicely done, Weyerbacher Brewing!!

Stout of this World rating: 4.25 bombers

 

2016-02-27_205957633_5C29D_iOSGreat Divide Brewing – Yeti Imperial Stout

February 27, 2016 – I’ve read and heard good things about Yeti, so when I saw it in my favorite bottleshop in a 12oz. bottle, I couldn’t resist.  When I cracked it open and made the pour, it looked good, albeit a smaller head than I normally like to see.   The aroma wasn’t much to write about, but that’s OK.  It’s all about the taste, right?  The first sip, then the second, and the third…..this wasn’t your normal stout.  I either had a bad bottle or there was something I hadn’t picked up on, as there was a bitter taste to this one.  The mouthfeel was average, not watery thin, but not on the thick, chewy side either.  But that bitter taste……I’ve had this taste before, but where?  I picked up the bottle and read the label – “Yeti Imperial Stout is an onslaught of the senses…….Yeti gets it bold hop character from an enormous quantity of American hops.  It weighs in at a hefty 75 IBUs.”

THATS IT!  I’m drinking a hoppy stout!  It’s as if I’m drinking a combo of Heady Topper and   a straight down the middle Imperial Stout!  That was a taste I wasn’t expecting!  As it warmed, the bitterness subsided (but never left), but that was OK, because I started to appreciate the complexity of Yeti.  My range of thinking during the time it took me to drink this stout went from “this is bad…way too bitter for a stout” all the way to “wow, I’m really enjoying this” and as I neared the bottom of the glass, I was wishing there was more – and I was already looking forward to my next encounter with the Yeti!

Stout of this World rating:  4.0 bombers

 

Prairie Artisan Ales – Barrel Aged BOMB!2016-02-21_210252000_14D0A_iOS

February 21, 2016 – Since our friends at @StoutsandStillettos and Allagash Brewing decided today would be #drinkitnow day, I decided to pull out one of the recent purchase I had been planning to age a bit……Barrel Aged BOMB!  I’m a fan of BOMB! and it’s variants (and am looking forward to Pirate BOMB!), so I was torn between aging it and drinking it.  Thankfully, I bought two so I took the leap to give one a taste now (and I’ll age the other for a few months).  It clocks in at 11.2% ABV, so it’s surprisingly a little lower than regular BOMB! (which is 13% ABV).

The pour was jet black but with very little head, which was somewhat disappointing.  Nevertheless, the aroma was a nice combination of bourbon and the spiciness of BOMB!  I had taken it out for about an hour before I opened it, so it was at prime tasting and reviewing temperature.  My initial sips mimicked the aroma – a smoothness of the bourbon combined with the cacao nib/vanilla/chili aftertaste of BOMB! – which means there is a lot going on in that single taste!!  I didn’t experience any bourbon burn that I sometimes get in other BA Stouts, which is a good thing.    Subsequent tastes gave me the warmness of the bourbon and the bite of the spices.  This is a Stout to enjoy in front of a fire – it’s a very complex tasting beer with a lot of layers.  The mouthfeel is wonderful as it wraps itself around the tongue and allow you to savor each layer.

I must admit I was a bit uncertain as to what Bourbon Barrel Aging would add to the BOMB! recipe.  However, I enjoyed the partnership between the bourbon and the BOMB! spices.   The bourbon didn’t overwhelm; rather, it complemented and added a warmth that took it to another level.   Congrats to Prairie Artisan Ales for another winning member of the BOMB! lineup!  Looking forward to Pirate BOMB!

Stout of this World rating:  4.0 bombers

Founders Brewing – Imperial Stout2016-02-15_205717912_8C421_iOS

February 15, 2016 – Perhaps the red headed stepchild or certainly the least marketed of the Founders stout lineup, it is my opinion that Imperial Stout should take a back seat to no one.  Not Founders Breakfast Stout, not their Nitro Oatmeal Stout, and not even KBS.  They all should have a place in your Stout lineup.  Imperial Stout comes in a 12 oz. stubby bottle and checks in at 10.5% ABV.  The label recommends that you “serve this guy at cellar temperature”, so I took it out of the fridge to warm up for an hour before I cracked it open.   It was right around 55 degrees when the bottle cap came off.

The pour was a beautiful black with a nice tan foamy head.  The aroma was one of malt – one that screamed “I’m a STOUT!”  The first sip was smooth, with a medium mouthfeel, not chewy or thick, but certainly not thin.  The aftertaste was one of a solid Stout – I could tell I was back in my element as the Stoutwhisperer.  This is good.  No coffee, no fruit, no chocolate, no bourbon barrel, just a good solid stout.  I sometimes have the feeling that brewing a good solid stout is a lost art, then I come across a beer like Imperial Stout that restores my Stout faith!  Subsequent sips reaffirmed why I like Stouts.  Well done Founders!

Like many Stouts, Founders Imperial Stout is a seasonal brew.  If you want to sample this fine example of a Stout, be sure to find it in the next month or so.  I’ve picked up a few extra bottles to savor during the Stout “off-season”, which starts soon….and lasts for quite a while.   I recommend you do the same.

Stout of this World rating:  4.0 bombers

 

Big Boss Brewing – The Big Operator2016-02-14_201230449_DC6F3_iOS

February 14, 2016 – Since it’s Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d pull out a beer that is being marketed for the day.  The Big Operator by Big Boss Brewing is a black ale infused with raspberries and cacao nibs from Escazu Chocolates here in Raleigh.  It comes in 12oz. bottles and clocks in at 8% ABV.  It has been also identified as a stout in various circles, so I thought I would pick up a bottle and thought today would be a good day to review it.

It starts with a nice dark pour with little to no head.  There is a slight cocoa and fruity aroma which entices me to take a sip.  The first sip gives me a wave of raspberry with a thin mouthfeel as one would expect from an ale (and clearly differentiating it from a  stout). The aftertaste is nice and smooth.  I found myself wanting to take another sip right after the first one – a sign of a good beer.  As my beer warmed, I really didn’t taste any differences or changes in the flavors- more proof that this isn’t a stout.  No matter – I found The Big Operator to be a very tasty beer and a worthy one to share on Valentine’s Day or anytime of the year!

Since it’s really not a Stout, I’m not going to give it my “Stout of this World” rating…..but I did find it to be an enjoyable  beer and I wouldn’t mind having another one!

 

Grimm Maple Bourbon Barrel Double Negative2016-02-07_204925908_E33B0_iOS

February 9, 2016 – When I read that Grimm would be releasing Maple Bourbon Barrel Double Negative, I made it a point to find a way to get my hands on a bottle or two.   I missed the recent Double Negative release and I wasn’t going to make the same mistake again.  Fortunately, I saw the message from my local bottle shop that they had arrived and I was able to slip away at lunchtime to grab the limit of two bottles.   Around that same time, I was considering what beer I wanted to sample on Super Bowl Sunday – and when I walked out of the bottle shop I knew my answer.

Fast forward to today – Super Bowl Sunday.   The pour – jet black with a nice tan foamy head. The aroma – a slight maple scent but a more upfront bourbon smell. The taste – a nice bourbon bouquet inside a medium mouthfeel. The aftertaste – a much smoother swallow than I was expecting, with little to none of the bourbon burn that I was planning on.   As it warmed, everything became smoother and more refined. I think this one would benefit from a little aging as well as a 55-60 degree serving temperature from the start.  Not that it was bad mind you – it was very good today.   I just happen to think that it will present itself better in time. I’m glad I tried this one now and I’m also glad that I’ve got one to look forward to down the road.  My only disappointment is that I was hoping for a bit more involvement from the maple syrup.  I have a feeling that it was masked by the bourbon and that some quality quiet time in the beer fridge will mellow the bourbon and bring out the maple.

Stout of this World rating: 4.0 bombers with huge upside!

 

Samuel Adams Nitro Coffee Stout2016-02-06_210453149_4ECDF_iOS

February 7, 2016 – Last week I reviewed Left Hand Nitro Milk Stout (see below).  Unintentionally, I’m reviewing another Nitro Stout …..this time, it’s Samuel Adams Nitro Coffee Stout in a special can.  There is a small cylindrical nitrogen cartridge in the bottom of the can which activates when the can is opened……you can hear the nitrogen being released.  The pour is very similar to other nitro pours…..the incredible rise and release of the bubbles which turn into a creamy dense foamy head, which remains until the last sip.  It’s a beautiful process to watch and the contrast between the jet black stout and the creamy head is a sight to behold.

Similar to Left Hand, Samuel Adams recommends their stout be served cold (40-45 degrees).  While that’s a bit colder than I like my stouts, I followed their recommendation.  The taste was very smooth, somewhat middle in the mouthfeel, but there was a slight bitter aftertaste that I attributed to the coffee.  It dissipated quickly and before I knew it, I was taking another sip.  As the beer warmed, the aftertaste seemed to mellow out, so I’m not altogether sure why they recommend the cold temperature – unless it has something to do with the nitrogen, which I suspect it does.

All that said, this was an enjoyable beer and I like the nitro trend.  I am tempted to compare the Left Hand Nitro Milk Stout to the Samuel Adams Nitro Coffee Stout, but its somewhat of an unfair comparison.  The fact is that they are both winners and I’m definitely going to be returning to my local bottle shop for more Sam Adams Nitro Coffee Stout.

Stout of this World rating: 4.0 bombers

 

Left Hand Brewing Nitro Milk Stout2016-01-31_214431636_98B25_iOS

February 6, 2016 – Left Hand Nitro is perhaps the one single Stout that put me on the Stout path.  This is an incredibly smooth, creamy beer.  The label says “Pour Hard” to allow the Nitrogen to activate.  It pours to a cream colored foamy head.  The mouthfeel is a bit on the thin side, but the smoothness of the entire experience is memorable.  They recommend drinking it cold (40-45 degrees) and while it’s a winner at that temperature, it certainly seems to get even smoother as it warms…..but this is a beer that is so smooth, it usually won’t last long enough to get warm!  Extra credit for it’s year round availability and it’s price point (it’s an excellent value)!  It’s always a treat when I come back to my stout roots and pour hard!

Nitro Milk Stout just got a sibling; I noticed that Left Hand just released a Nitro Coffee Porter.  I’ll be sampling that when it hits our area!

Stout of this World rating: 4.25 bombers

Boulevard Brewing Dark Truth Stout2016-01-30_215755842_1ADD7_iOS

January 31, 2016 – Dark Truth Stout from Boulevard Brewing in Kansas City was one of those beers that I passed by on numerous occasions.  I am aware of Boulevard Brewing and their great reputation but I never felt incented to sample their Dark Truth Stout.  Bad choice on my part.  I finally picked up a bottle for a couple of reasons – first I was looking for a 12 oz. stout and I just happened to like the bottle style.  It’s a bit different than most bottles, so I gave it a shot.  As you can see in the picture, it’s a beautiful pour – nice and black with a wonderful ivory foam head.  The aroma was a tough one – I smelled some type of a smoky dark fruit but couldn’t put my finger on it.   I took a look at the label and saw it – plum.   A first taste was nice and smoky with a medium mouthfeel.  It was cold when I poured it, and my instinct told me to let it warm for a bit.   20 minutes later when I came back, I was rewarded.  The flavor palate changed considerably.   The flavors were much deeper and the aftertaste was smooth.  This is a deep stout!  I wish I had picked this one up sooner.  I’ll be back for more of the Dark Truth!  Nice work, Boulevard Brewing!

Stout of this World rating:  4.0 bombers

The Unknown Brewing Company Silverback Stout2016-01-24_205356070_0D584_iOS

January 24, 2016 – In honor of National Beer Can Appreciation Day and the fact that the Charlotte Panthers are playing in the NFC Championship today, I have chosen to sample a canned offering from a Charlotte brewery.  Silverback Stout is a seasonal American Stout offering from The Unknown Brewing company.  When it showed up on shelves a couple of weeks ago, I remembered it from last year and thought I’d give it a try.  This 6.5%ABV brew poured nice and black and as I watched the bubbles move up the side of the tulip glass forming a thin creamy head, I thought that we might have something here.  The smell test brought me to your traditional stout aroma – you know the smell.  The taste was, well, your traditional stout taste.  No surprises, no off tastes, no bitterness.  A medium mouthfeel with a very clean stout aftertaste.   It delivers as advertised.  A straight down the middle of the fairway stout.

Now the question that I continue to wrestle with is how to score such a beer.  As I noted, it delivered what it promised – an American Stout.  No barrel aging, no coffee, no cocoa, no spices, no fruit……and I’m perfectly fine with that.  The more variables in a  the more opportunity for a memorable beer and the more opportunity to miss the mark.  This one hit the mark and I need to give them credit for that.  Would I buy it again?  Yes I would and at the end of the day, that’s the mark of a good stout.  Well done, Unknown, well done.

Stout of this World rating:  4.0 bombers

Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout2016-01-23_214448838_5D29A_iOS

January 23, 2016 – There was a lot of anticipation for me when this came out this year.  I missed out on last year’s release and I was not going to miss out this time.  I am a coffee stout lover so I was glad to move this up the testing list so I could give it a try.   Nice jet black pour with a nice creamy, almost white foamy head.  Definitely a coffee aroma – almost a burnt coffee smell, but definitely coffee.  Giving it a taste was where I was somewhat disappointed.  Make no doubt this is a coffee stout, but the burnt coffee smell translated into a slightly bitter taste upfront.  A bit thin on the mouthfeel but the aftertaste was pleasant.  All in all, an OK taste.  As usual, I feel its important to sample the beer as it warms, so I was hopeful that the taste would improve as it moved to room temperature.  I do believe that some of the upfront bitterness disappeared as it warmed, but the overall experience didn’t really improve.

I really wanted to like this offering from Lagunitas and I believe I gave their Cappuccino Stout every chance to shine and show it’s best side, but I couldn’t coax it out of the bottle.  What is most amazing about this beverage is that it is only $4.99 for a 22 oz. bomber!  The value rating for this is off the charts and for that reason I’ve added a bit to my overall rating, but for pure taste, I would put it in the middle of the pack.  I would like to get a chance to sample it on tap somewhere down the road and give it another chance….

Stout of this World rating:  3.5 bombers

Prairie Artisan Ales BOMB!2016-01-22_213642115_077B9_iOS

When I was an apprentice Stoutwhisperer, I had the opportunity to taste BOMB! and it left quite an impression on me.  Time has passed and I wanted to give BOMB! a more critical pass.   Full disclosure – I did have their Christmas BOMB! during the holiday season and found it quite enjoyable so I was fully expecting a similar experience.   That being said, I dove right in….it pours nice and black but as the picture shows, not much of a foamy head.  I believe that a foamy head helps to bring out the aroma of a beer, so when I pour, I  intentionally aim for a 1/2 to an inch head of foam.  Obviously, I wasn’t successful here although the beer itself did offer a slight sweet smell of cocoa with hints of vanilla and I did detect a bit of a coffee scent.  Nothing really strong, but did give me an indication of what was to come.

As I took a sip, the mouthfeel was nice and thick.  I tasted the coffee/cocoa/vanilla and then the spices kicked in on the aftertaste – it was then that I knew I had a BOMB!  As it warmed, the flavors intensified and I sat back, watched the sleet come down outside, and savored each sip.  It should be said that the 13% ABV sneaks up on you, not in a mean way, but more of a warming wave.  This is an excellent beer.

Taste aside, this isn’t a cheap date.  In the Raleigh area, BOMB! is available at a $9.99 price point.  Is it worth it?  Absolutely – although I don’t have any in my beer fridge aging, as I have a feeling BOMB! is best fresh.  I’ll pick up a bottle or two every now and then when I’m in the mood for something to wake my mouth up – which makes the name of the beer altogether appropriate!!

Stout of this World rating:  4.5 bombers

Red Brick Brewing Divine Bovine Chai Tea Stout2016-01-16_204117716_504CE_iOS

When I saw this on the shelf of my local bottleshop, I passed.  I passed the next time as well.  The third time I bit.  I just didn’t know if this idea would translate well.  I’ll give our friends from Red Brick Brewing in Atlanta credit, it does work……as an every once in a while taste.  It pours with a nice black body and a light tan foamy head, which dissipated fairly quickly.  The unique chai aftertaste is there which surprisingly complements the rest of the flavor palate.  I didn’t notice any significant flavor variations as it warmed.

Would it be part of my regular Stout rotation?   Is it somewhat of a novelty?  Yes.  Would a chai tea drinker enjoy this?  Most Certainly.  I’m glad I finally bought this Red Brick offering, as they changed my thinking on a Chai Tea Stout….

Stout of this World rating:  3.5 bombers

Green Man Brewery – The Forester Stout2016-01-18_212205968_04F8F_iOS

I’m a fan of sampling the local (in-state) offerings.  Sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised (see Miller’s Toll below) and sometimes I’m not.  The Forester Stout from Asheville’s Green Man Brewery falls into the “not” category.   Not to be mean, but in the world of stouts, this isn’t in the team picture.  This is a lager that looks like a stout…a stout on training wheels or in name only.  With a thin, watery mouthfeel and a high level of carbonation for a stout, it just doesn’t fit.  If I were blindfolded, I believe I would be hard pressed to call this a stout.

I’ll stop there…..no need to go further.  There are many, many better options for your mouth if you want a Stout.

Stout of this World rating: 2 bombers

Raleigh Brewing – Miller’s Toll2016-01-17_202724095_62749_iOS

This local brewery has “the recipe”.  Miller’s Toll is a treat.  Incredible black pour, beautiful tan foamy head, wonderful mouthfeel, low carbonation, and an aftertaste that says “you are drinking a STOUT”.  To be totally honest, I didn’t expect much from this GABF Bronze medal brew……boy was I wrong!  This is a beer that I could sip and enjoy for quite a while as it traverses the various flavors while it warms.  I also have the BA version and look forward to cracking that one open sometime soon.  But for now, I’ll savor Miller’s Toll and delight in the fact that this fantastic stout originates in my backyard!

Stout of this World rating:  4.5 bombers!!

Bell’s Brewery – Special Double Cream Stout2016-01-10_203433714_21EC2_iOS

A real time review…..nice black pour with a light tan foamy head that sustains.  I think a foamy head really brings the aroma out so I appreciate that.  A middle of the road mouthfeel with a bitter aftertaste….not what I expected.   Then as the beer warmed, the aftertaste went away and became more of the traditional stout aftertaste I know.  It’s amazing how temperature can detract or enhance the flavors….I like to taste beer as it progresses through the various temperature ranges – and assess how the flavor palate evolves.  Some don’t evolve at all, but some, like the Special Double Cream Stout, evolve and for the better.

A good stout, but not sure I’ll be back for more.

Stout of this World rating:  3.25 bombers

Dark Horse Brewery –  Plead the 5th (Marshall, MI)2016-01-09_205944151_1DA53_iOS

The 2014 vintage left quite an impression with me and I was anxiously awaiting this years model.  As soon as my local bottleshop announced it’s delivery, I was there and it quickly moved to the front of the line for a taste.  As I opened the bottle and gave it a pour, I knew I would be rewarded.  The pour was jet black and the tan foamy head was a keeper.  The aroma was Stout – pure Stout.  The taste was exactly as I had remembered – a nice even taste with a thick mouthfeel.  A nice aftertaste made me want more.  As the beer warmed, the flavors really blossomed and I started to smile.  Our friends from Dark Horse have the recipe.

I know the buzz around PT5 is usually their Barrel Aged version and some day I hope to give that a taste, but for now, I’m perfectly content with PT5.   Time to head back to my local bottle shop to buy more before they sell out…….

Stout of this World rating:  4.5 bombers

Great Lakes Brewing – Blackout Stout (Cleveland, OH)2016-01-01_204639246_B07EB_iOS

I’m hitting a streak of straight down the middle Stouts and Blackout Stout is right in the middle of the team picture!  A beautiful black pour with a creamy foamy head, it looks fantastic.  The quintessential Stout aroma accompanies this beverage and the taste doesn’t disappoint!  A middle of the road mouthfeel gives it that Stout taste.

For all of the variations that are out there, it’s good to have some choices when it comes to a straight forward no frills Stout.  Blackout Stout from Great Lakes fills the bill quite nicely and it’s one I plan on returning to!

Stout of this World rating: 4.25 bombers

Aces and Ates – Big Boss Brewing (Raleigh, NC)2015-12-31_215416413_D9499_iOS

I was looking forward to the 2015 version of Aces and Ates.  Big Boss is a local Raleigh brewery which consistently turns out fine brews.  The 2014 model was a tasty one and the 2015 model doesn’t vary from the success of past years.  A wonderful dark pour with a lovely foamy head, Aces and Ates   has the taste and mouthfeel right up there with any of the top Stouts….and it’s right around the corner from me!  Thankfully, Big Boss bottles it in 12oz. bottles so I can buy some for consumption in those leaner stout months (March-October).    I’ll be back for more!

Stout of this World rating:  4.0 bombers

Juxtaposition – Burlington Brewing Co. (Vermont)2016-01-02_212239297_B5D32_iOS

Juxtaposition is a “blonde stout” with cocoa nibs and coffee.  I was intrigued by the concept of a blonde stout, so I dove right in.  Um, no.  Perhaps the brewing method is stout-like, but I would be hard pressed to put that in any category close to a stout.   The aroma is fine but there was nothing memorable about this beer other than it advertised itself as a blonde stout.  Is it drinkable?  Certainly.  However, I can almost guarantee that given the choices I have as a consumer, I can’t imagine a scenario where I would find myself drinking another Juxtaposition (or any other “blonde stout” for that matter).  Nice try Burlington Brewing, but I would focus your efforts elsewhere.

Stout of this World rating: 2 bombers

Aviator Brewing Co – Night Jump2015-12-27_202742092_A31A2_iOS

This local brewery, based in Fuquay-Varina, NC, has consistently produced some excellent beer.  Night Jump is no exception.  It is a Stout aged in whiskey barrels with cacao nibs added for some additional flavor.  It comes in 12oz. cans and drinks at a healthy 13% abv.  It pours beautifully, with a wonderful foamy head.  The whiskey aroma is prominent but not overpowering.  It has a nice thick mouthfeel to it.  There is a nice whiskey element to the taste but is nicely balanced.  It makes it obvious that it is a barrel aged stout.  I found it to be quite tasty and it paired quite nicely with the chili I had tonight.  Nothing fancy about this beer….a barrel aged stout that delivers.

Stout of this World rating: 3.75 bombers

Terrapin Wake-N-Bake2015-12-25_194646307_1D7F2_iOS

I must admit that I had forgotten how much I enjoyed last year’s version, so when I decided to sample the 2015 vintage, I didn’t have high hopes.  Perhaps it was the good, but not amazing Milk & Cookies that put me in that mindset.  Thankfully, the Terrapin team set me straight!  This was a pleasant surprise – heavy on the coffee (which I like), thick on the tongue and an overall great tasting stout.  I know the Cinnamon Roll variant is around; I’ll be looking for it – hope I’m not too late!

Stout of this World rating:  4.0 bombers

Lonerider “Pistols at Dawn” 2015-10-17_205614082_019CF_iOS

I’ve been anxiously awaiting this release since I heard about it, as the Lonerider brewery is about 10 minutes away.  I wanted to sample this in a can before I visited their taproom, so I’ve been patiently waiting.  I picked up a couple of cans at Bottle Revolution and am I glad I did!  I’m happy to say that a local brewery can hold its own against the big boys!  Nice color and foamy head…….scents of chocolate and coffee…..taste is right down the middle for a stout, goes down smooth.  Glad a bought a couple of cans and even happier I can now head over to the “Hideout” and hopefully sample this on tap!  Well done Lonerider!!

Bell’s 30th Anniversary Ale2015-10-10_201436679_DB855_iOS

I was able to get my hands on a couple of bottles of this stout to commemorate the 30th Anniversary of Bell’s Brewery.  They are a Michigan based brewery well known for their stouts.  I found their 30th Anniversary Ale to be quite tasty.  Excellent black color with a nice tan foamy head…..a nice thick taste with a complex flavor profile.  I’m glad I bought more than one – but hope to find more!  Nice work Bell’s!!!

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This will be the page where I truly share my thoughts and opinions on the various beverages I consume.  It will become  a source for agreement or a cause for discussion – because the wonderful thing about people is that we can drink the same beer and all have differing views – and they are all right!

I will be creating a “Stout of this World” rating system which will help guide me (and you) in understanding my likes and dislike and what I truly will go out of my way to find!  Stay tuned!

As I sample new Stouts and revisit old friends, I will be chronicling my journey on this page, noting my likes and dislikes. Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comments page…..I enjoy hearing and reading others who may (or may not) taste something different.

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