It’s the most wonderful time of the year…..

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Now for many of you, this is a seasonal holiday song made popular by both Andy Williams and Johnny Mathis  However, for the Stoutwhisperer and many other Stout lovers, the most wonderful time of the year is now.  It’s Stout season and we will raise our Stout glass this Thursday, November 1, by StoutDay-Untappd-2018celebrating International Stout Day!.  The traditional beer calendar associates Fall with cooler temperatures and the transition to darker, stronger, more warming beers….and that’s the obvious sweet spot of Stouts!  Stouts from every brewery are either brewed or, if they are barrel aged, they are awakened from their boozy slumber to be bottled, canned, or kegged.  Stouts are being released almost every day of the week….and Stout lovers are standing in lines for those hard to get releases.  For some, entire “Days” (or weekends) are being held – take a look at Surly Brewing and their Darkness Day extravaganza!  Perhaps the most2018-09-29_15-14-32_068 well known release is yet to come, with Goose Island releasing their Bourbon Country Brand Stout and variants being released on Black Friday!

For me, it’s a time to celebrate the Stout!  I may be biased, but I think Stout lovers are the most ardent and dedicated devotees of any style of beer!  Tell me what you will be doing to celebrate International Stout Day!  I believe I will have a Stout to salute and honor the most Stoutstanding style of beer!  Go to your local brewery or bottleshop and enjoy your favorite Stout!  Leave me a comment and let me know what you will be drinking to celebrate International Stout Day!

 

The Thrill of the Bourbon County Chase!

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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!

 

Back from the summer Stout Drought!

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It’s been awhile since I’ve posted….sometimes life gets in the way!  I think I had my own “stout drought” with this blog!  With the release of Founder’s Breakfast Stout, I took the opportunity to rededicate myself to posting on a more regular basis, which should be easier with stout season soon to be upon us.  A few observations from the last couple of months:

  • Prairie Artisan Ales is putting out the most interesting and tasty stouts.  Aside from their franchise BOMB!, recent releases of Pirate BOMB!, Apple Brandy Barrel Noir, and most recently Paradise are all worthy of your wallet, no matter the cost.  I was especially surprised at Paradise, which is a draught/draft/tap only release.  Paradise is the most forward vanilla stout I have ever tasted.  I’m a big vanilla fan and I’m 2016-08-23_225552000_28B55_iOSusually disappointed when a brewery touts a stout with vanilla notes – but PAA delivered with Paradise!  Just smelling this stout was worth the price of the pour but the liquid delivered as well…..and I just read a blog post that PAA will be selling a brewery only release of Pirate Paradise!   No way I can make it to Krebs, OK, but if they are able to get this right, Pirate Paradise could the Stout of the Year.  Just wish I had a way to get my hands on one (perhaps if someone from Prairie is reading this….)!
  • Brewpublik, the beer delivery startup, is the real deal!  I signed up for their premium concierge plan and I’ve been getting some amazing stouts delivered to my 2016-04-23_224300576_11E31_iOShouse!  I’m able to select my “crate” and also take advantage of their Instagram flash sales of more scarce beers as well (see bp_reserve).  If you are in their coverage areas (Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham, Charleston, San Francisco), I highly recommend them.  If you aren’t, keep an eye on them (or drop them a note), as they are rapidly expanding into more markets.

 

 

 

  • I enjoy visiting some old friends during the Stout Drought summer months and have reaffirmed my affinity for
    • Founders Breakfast Stout
    • Goose Island Bourbon County Stout (I was lucky – no infections)
    • Oskar Blues Ten Fidy
    • Dark Horse Brewing Plead the Fifth
    • Raleigh Brewing Miller’s Toll
    • Epic Brewing Big Bad Baptist
  • I’ve been intrigued by Stouts from overseas.  I’ve enjoyed some great Stouts from 2016-09-02_212354485_904B3_iOSIceland, Denmark, and Norway!  In fact last night I had Garun from Borg Brugghus in
    Iceland, which had the most licorice taste in any stout I’ve had.  Really interesting taste which I liked in a 12oz. bottle…..any more and it would have been too much!  If you are looking for some variety in your stouts, I would recommend looking across the pond and giving some foreign stouts some love…..

 

 

 

That’s about all for now….about to head into a Labor Day weekend.  I’ll be back soon with some more news and musings about Stouts!

Migration Week

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This week was the Raleigh invasion of Goose Island, appropriately called Migration Week. The Goose Island team visited various locations and hosted various events throughout the Raleigh area and brought along some beer that aren’t usually seen outside of Chicago.  For Stout lovers like me, I was drawn to the various tap lineups including 2013, 2014, and 2015 Bourbon County Stout, 2014 Bourbon County Coffee Stout, 2013 Bourbon County Barleywine, and 2014 Bourbon County Proprietors Stout.  The 2014 Bourbon County Prop is a Stout that I’ve always wanted to taste and really didn’t think I’d ever have an opportunity so I was looking forward to the week.  Unfortunately, life gets in the way and I wasn’t able to follow the Goose Island migration except for one event.   2016-05-19_221048336_64E43_iOSRidgewood Wine and Beer hosted a late afternoon session that featured the ’14 Prop.   The event started at 4:30 and I arrived at 4:37 to a line about 60 people deep. I had a brief chat with the Ridgewood people and was told that there was no chance I would get even a whiff of the Prop let alone a taste.  They only had a 1/6 barrel and that many already in line wouldn’t get it either.  Full 12 oz. tastes were being poured and while you could argue that smaller pours would give more people a chance to sample a rather rare Stout, I applaud the fact that a full 12 oz. pour really gives those lucky ones a chance to savor it.  I departed with a Goose Island key chain bottle opener and a reminder to myself that the craft beer scene in Raleigh is alive and well!  Thanks for coming to Raleigh, Goose Island – hope to see you next year – and I’ll make sure I plan better!

The weekly reviews:

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

Aging and Reviewing Stouts

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This past week I was given the opportunity to contribute to the BrewStuds blog (wearebrewstuds.com) to discuss the topic of aging and cellaring beers….with a heavy emphasis on Stouts! Mark from Digital Third Coast marketing developed an infographic about Aging and Cellaring beers and I wrote a blog post about aging Stouts that accompanied the Infographic. You can read the entire article here.  I hope to guest blog at times and hopefully have others guest blog here as well!   It was a great opportunity and I was happy to do it!   I’d love to hear about your experiences about aging Stouts with a nod towards those Stouts that seem to age well!   I have a few in the Stout House (aka my beer fridge) that are over a year old and ready to sample!  Since we’re moving into the Stout Drought, I’ll have time to pull some of the older ones out and give them a review! Looking forward to that!!

On to the weekly reviews:

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