The Stout of the Union!

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With all of the recent hubub about the State of the Union address here in the US,  I thought I’d share a few hundred words about the STOUT of the Union!  I’m pleased to tell you that it has never been better!  The variety, the quality and the selection is the best in stout history!  Also, stouts are available more during the entire year than ever before!  Let me expound on a few things that have been on my mind…

cropped-2015-11-08_112739000_71d9b_ios.jpgI’m not sure who the governing body is for all of these special “days” or “months” that we like to celebrate and commemorate but whoever decided that the shortest month of the year should be Stout month seriously miscalculated! All kidding aside, we’re nearing the end of February and what many would consider the end of Stout Season. Being the Stoutwhisperer, there is no such thing as Stout Season, unless you want to consider the entire year a “season”. In actuality, if you want to put an exclamation point on the busy part of the stout release season, I would submit to you that exclamation point is the annual Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS) release by Founders Brewing of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Whatever your2018-05-12_17-11-06_547 (2018-05-13T18_26_18.502) feelings are about Founders, KBS is one of the early bourbon barrel aged Stouts and deserves a place in the Stout Hall of Fame! The annual KBS release is in early March and Founders makes it an event, starting in it’s home state of Michigan and then rolling it out nationally. After the KBS release, things start to settle down and the brewer calendar starts to transition to the lighter colored brews……perhaps with one exception. The good people at Toppling Goliath are having their 2019 vintage Assassin release on March 30 this year. Stout lovers bought up all the tickets to the release in mere minutes and the migration to Decorah, Iowa will commence in late March.  Note: I wish I could show a picture of Assassin, but I’ve never been fortunate enough to see it in the wild, much less taste it on draught or from the bottle (that means ISO!)!

That all said, there will be Stout releases in April and May, perhaps at your local brewery. Stout releases tend to be few and far between in the summer months of June, July, and August…..but in September, things begin to crank back up and the Stouts begin to flow!

The increasing popularity of our favorite elixir (also known as the Stout) has broadened and widened the timeframes for releasing Stouts.  It’s an abundance of riches for us…..but it also makes me pause.  There are so many talented brewers out there creating incredible stouts and innovating with new and interesting ingredients.

Take for example, the team from Braxton Brewing in Covington, KY.  Their claim to stout fame is their tasty Dark Charge Stout, released annually in December.  Braxton 2019-02-17_14-56-31_226Labs is their small batch experimental laboratory where they try new things and see how they turn out.  I was fortunate enough to sample their Dark Charge with Pineapple and smoked Poblano Peppers.  I was intrigued, as I felt it could be really tasty but I also thought it could be a train wreck if it wasn’t executed well.  My fears were unfounded, as the sweetness and flavor profile from the pineapple shone through and the notes of smokiness and heat from the Poblanos tempered the pineapple to create a wonderful balanced stout.  It worked and I’m so glad I had the opportunity to enjoy it!

All in all, the State of the Stout Union is incredible.  We have more creative and innovative brewers than ever, which translates to more amazing and jaw dropping Stouts!  There are more choices, adjuncts, and flavor choices than ever, which makes it an exciting time for us!

Let me know your favorite adjunct and the Stout which does the best job of showing it!

Until next time….never doubt a stout!

 

Stout Beer….and Ice Cream?

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

From the Braxton website:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Guest Blogging at Brew Studs

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I’ve found that part of the fun and enjoyment of the craft beer experience is learning.  Learning takes various styles and forms – tasting and sampling different Stouts is one of them! – but another is reading about the world of craft beer and keeping up with new releases, industry trends, regulatory news, and other beer related news.  That puts me in front of my computer screen reading the numerous beer blogs that my peers write on a regular basis.  There are many quality blogs out there focused on the craft beer scene.  One of them, Brew Studs, is a great compendium of news, information, feature stories, reviews and opinion about the craft beer industry.  The neat part about Brew Studs is that it is a very collaborative blog.  Jeremy Fultz, the editor/publisher, encourages and welcomes contributions from the community of readers and craft beer aficionados.   My good fortune has given me the opportunity to write two blogposts for Brew Studs- one about aging and cellaring beer which I wrote in April 2016 and the one that just got posted yesterday about local sourcing and collaboration between Ohio-based Breweries and Coffee Roasters – the “Bean to Brew” trend!

It was a great article to write, as I learned much about the Ohio beer and coffee scene.  I spoke with John Haggerty, Brewmaster of Warped Wing, who gave me some amazing insights16230605_711576212354571_7366109581132431360_n into the world of brewing, the partnership with Press Coffee Bar and their upcoming release of Pirogue, a Belgian Black Tripel which uses Press’s WoodBurl coffee.  John also shared some of the future plans he has up his sleeve (I promised not to tell, but the craft beer fans in Dayton will be pleased!).  I also gained some good perspective from the other side of the Ohio River in Kentucky from Braxton Brewing and their custom Starter coffee collaboration with Carabello Coffee.  I also exchanged emails with other Ohio breweries and coffee roasters, such as Six Shooter Coffee and Twisted River Coffee Roaster, who shared with me their ideas and opinions about collaborating with local brewers and others in their local communities.  It really is a vibrant scene in Ohio, which surely is replicated all over the country in small towns and big cities.  I also braxton-small-craft-beer-brewery-cincinnatiwrote about Epic Brewing and their local/national release of Son of a Baptist, a coffee stout made in partnership with 12 local/regional coffee roasters.  They took a local idea and are applying it at a national level.  The version that just hit the North Carolina market uses coffee from Dynamite Roasting Co.in Black Mountain, NC.   These wonderful examples of craft beer breweries and coffee craft-beer-epic-son-of-a-baptist-cansroaster collaborations made me realize and appreciate the hard work, passion, and commitment these artisans have for their work….and that we need to patronize these local establishments whenever we can. They put in long hours at odd times to bring us the highest quality brews possible- coffee or beer – and we should show our support by the cup or glass!

I urge you to head over to Brew Studs, peruse the website, give the Bean to Brew article a read and learn more about local sourcing and collaboration in practice through the eyes of those Ohio brewers and coffee roasters!

After you are done, come on back and share your local craft beer/coffee collaborations that you think are worthy of recognition!!