2016 – a Stoutstanding year!

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The end of every calendar year brings a certain amount of rear view mirror reflection and windshield resolutions.  This year is no different.  I tend to look back, take stock of successes, failures, and learnings, and commit to improvement during the coming year.  As I look back at my stout life in 2016, this was the year where I started to walk the talk. This blog, my social media presence, trades, first release events – really just making an overall commitment to being the Stoutwhisperer!  It also enabled me to meet many great people who share the same passion for craftbeer and stouts that I have…..and it has allowed me to taste and review more than my fair share of amazing Stouts!

As I look back on the Stouts I’ve had the privilege to enjoy and taste in 2016, it’s fairly easy to separate those that have really made an impression on me……and those are the Stouts I’d like to recognize on this blogpost.  Before we go any further, I clearly realize that I’ve barely scratched the stout surface as there are so many I didn’t taste this year and there are some that are in my cellar that I haven’t opened…..and that’s a function of my tasting schedule!  I’ll get to them in due time – and the beauty of being the Stoutwhisperer is that aging Stouts isn’t a bad thing!   Now if I were the IPAwhisperer, I’d be in trouble!!

On to the awards:

Best Stout Pour:

Oskar Blues TENFIDY, Raleigh Brewing BA The Miller’s Toll, Southern Tier Choklat Oranj, Alesmith Speedway Stout, Westbrook Siberian Black Magic Panther and any Stout on Nitro!

I happen to like a bit of a foamy head on my Stouts, so when I pour my Stouts, I try and aim for around 1/2 to 3/4 inch of head on the pour.   I think that helps the various aromas contained in the Stout to be released and savored (see Best Aroma award above).  Some Stouts just pour better than others and when they pour well and create a nice foamy head, it’s a beautiful thing…and it photographs well!  This award recognizes those Stouts that had an especially nice pour and retained a nice foamy head.  I also included all Stouts on Nitro because I love watching all of the tiny nitrogen bubbles rise to the top!!

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Best Aroma:  

Prairie Paradise (draft),  Buxton/Omnipollo Yellow Belly, Big Boss Brewing Root Beer Stout2016-12-31_20-25-32_000

After the Pour, the next thing I go for is the aroma.  What does it smell like?  What flavor notes can I pick up?  These three really stand out from all the others I’ve had this year.  Amazing Vanilla on the Paradise, Butterfinger (Peanut and Biscuit) on the Yellow Belly, and true Root Beer on the Root Beer Stout…I could have smelled these and been very happy!  Glad I was able to enjoy the liquid as well…and had a great ice cream float with the Big Boss Root Beer Stout!

Surprise Stouts:

Stillwater On Fleek, Birdsong Brewing MexiCali Stout, Twin Leaf Brewery MDXXI, Blue Mountain Dark Hollow, Alchemist Beelzebub, Lagunitas High West-ified Stout

Each of these were pleasant surprises in their own way…either through my not knowing the brewery, or having low expectations.  In each case, these Stouts made me seek out more and that’s a good thing.  Give them a try!

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Best Beercation location: Asheville, NC

Asheville is an wonderful place to visit, even without the incredible number of craft beer breweries!  Located in the mountains of western North Carolina, it’s a beautiful place to wander around and get lost in their various neighborhoods.  Add their vibrant craft beer scene and it becomes a must visit for any craft beer lover.  Read my blogpost from a couple of months ago that provides a nice overview of the long weekend my two sons and I had in Asheville – Oskar Blues, New Belgium, Sierra Nevada, Burial, Wicked Weed and many others too numerous to mention.  The food is amazing as well – make sure and stop by Vortex Doughnuts in the morning and Buxton Hall BBQ in the evening – they are both in the South Slope area of Asheville!

Most Stoutstanding Breweries:  

In my opinion, these two Breweries seemed to separate themselves from the pack for their creativity and innovation and should be recognized!

Prairie Artisan Ales

Prairie took their Bomb! and Noir lineups to another level in 2016….wonderful flavors and spices  – Vanilla, Coffee, Pirate, Prairie, and Christmas.  Add an innovative barrel aging program – Apple Brandy Barrel, Sherry Barrel, Oak Barrel, Bourbon Barrel, Rum Barrel….and the combination of flavors and barrels make for an impressive and highly in demand lineup!  Of special note was the one brewery only draft release that I was fortunate to get a 16oz. growler of – Cinnamon Pecan Bomb!  That was one of the highlights of the year for me….incredible flavor palate which I was very fortunate to taste!  Special thanks to Michael of Tulsa for the extra effort in getting and shipping that growler to me!!  Lastly, I hear that Paradise (Vanilla) is coming off the line soon and will be available in bottles!  Can’t wait for that one!

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Epic Brewing

Epic Brewing took their Big Bad Baptist program and created an entire family!  They started with Son of a Baptist by engaging local coffee roasters all across the country to create 12 separate versions of Son of a Baptist, a non barrel aged coffee Stout.  More recently, they aged their coffee beans in whiskey barrels and added it to BBB, creating Double Barrel Big Bad Baptist.  Next, they went south of the border and brewed Big Bad Baptista, a relative of BBB but using Mexican coffee, cinnamon, and vanilla.  Finally, they just released Son of a Baptist in 12oz cans….again using different local coffee roasters to create regional variants of SoB!  The Epic team was indeed busy this year and their creativity and innovation has paid off!

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2016 Stout of this World All-Stout Team

As I look back at my various tastings over 2016, these are the ones that really made me take notice or made me want more.  They challenged all of my senses and expectations and happily and easily surpassed them…..

Prairie Artisan Ales Pirate Bomb!2016-03-18_210739939_544F9_iOS

2016-12-02_17-21-18_857Epic Brewing Big Bad Baptist

Epic Brewing Big Bad Baptista2016-12-03_15-39-47_927

2016-11-13_15-36-52_718Bell’s Brewery Black Note Stout

Prairie Artisan Ales Cinnamon Pecan Bomb!2016-10-07_17-04-46_338

2016-03-26_202511511_CBE20_iOSRaleigh Brewing Double BA The Miller’s Toll

Southern Pines Drunken Vigils2016-10-23_15-41-41_515

2016-07-16_192807305_60953_iOSGoose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout

Dark Horse Plead the 5th2016-01-09_205936305_E6A42_iOS

2016-11-20_15-06-32_390Westbrook Siberian Black Magic Panther

Prairie Artisan Ales Pirate Paradise2016-10-22_15-45-47_525

2016-11-12_15-44-03_506-2016-11-13t00_44_53-408Oskar Blues Java Barrel Aged TENFIDY

 

That puts a wrap on 2016!

Love to get your comments on any of these!  That’s the beauty of Stouts – everyone’s taste is different!  Help me select my Stout list for 2017 – share your favorite Stouts with us.  Looking to expand my horizons and need your input!

I’m looking forward to a Stoutstanding year and I’ll be sure to bring you along for the journey.   Follow me on Instagram and Twitter (both @Stoutwhisperer) and keep reading my blogposts!!

Happy New Year and with apologies to the Star Wars fans out there….

May the Stout be with you!

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St. Patrick’s Day and the coming Stout Drought!

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Another St. Patrick’s Day has come and gone.  If you could get past the wall to wall Guinness advertisements from “How to pour the perfect pint” to #GuinnessTache to their own @Untappd badge and wrapping up with their #stoutmoji campaign (which I happen to support by the way!) – I think that just about every craft brewery tapped their own version of a dry Irish Stout.  Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing, but to me St. Patrick’s Day is always bittersweet.  In my mind, March 17 signals the end of Stout season.  Yes, I know that the nationwide release of Founders KBS is in early April, but for the most part, we’re moving into the Spring/Summer rotation of IPAs, DIPAs, and Lagers.

If you are a Stout guy like me, you’ve been replenishing your beer fridge for the stout drought of Spring and Summer and buying those stouts you want to enjoy after a hard day at the office or on holiday at the beach (love those canned stouts!).    I know my beer fridge is bursting at the seams so I think I’m ready for the off-season, but I’m also aging a number of bottles for enjoyment in a year or so.

One downside that I experienced on March 17- I had a bottle of Guinness that I opened up to enjoy before the traditional Irish meal of Corned Beef and Cabbage (prepared by Mrs. Stoutwhisperer!).  I knew something was amiss when it didn’t smell right and there was no head to the pour.  A few sips and I knew it wasn’t right, so I participated in the rare but well-known tactic of the “Drain Pour”.  Too bad, but life is too short and my inventory is too large to suffer through a bad beer.   Not sure what happened, but don’t worry Guinness, I’ll be back!

My replacement choice was somewhat odd – Hitachino Nest Espresso Stout!   See below for my review of that beer and my others from the weekend!   All in all, it was a very enjoyable Stout weekend!  Hope you enjoyed St. Patrick’s Day and are thinking ahead on how you will make it through the impending Stout Drought!

Hitachino Nest – Espresso Stout

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!

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

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

Oskar Blues Brewing – TENFIDY

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

 

 

 

Weekend Tastings

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December 27, 2015

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

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