Is size important?

Standard

The Stout world seems to be confused about size.  If you go to your favorite bottleshop or taproom, you’ll see Stouts in 12oz cans, 16oz cans, 19oz cans (BA TENFIDY), 11.2 oz bottles,  12 oz bottles, 16oz bottles, 500ml bottles, 22oz bombers and 750ml bottles, and in rare cases, 1 liter bottles (yes, Rogue I’m talking about Rolling Thunder).   Consistent we’re not.

2017-03-25_13-45-37_490Why is size important?  Well, in the Stout world it’s important because the other critical variable is %ABV or how potent the beverage is in terms of alcohol content.  While there is a trend toward “session” Stouts, the average Stout weighs in somewhere between 9 and 15% ABV.  Now I know there are others on the lower and higher sides, but most are in that ABV window.  A 22oz
12% bomber is not only filling, the normal person feels pretty loose after consuming an entire bottle.   Some might say that a 22oz bomber is the right size for sharing , but in many situations, sharing isn’t part of the equation.  Putting a bottle stopper on and saving it like a wine isn’t really an option, so drinking the entire bottle becomes the task for the day.  I really like the strategy that Founder’s Brewing is taking this year with their 2017 release of KBS.  They are releasing KBS in both 750ml (25.4oz) bottles and 4 packs of 12 oz bottles!  That certainly gives us Stout lovers the option on how we want to enjoy our KBS!

The most recent release I’m not sure I understand (other than it being a novelty) is Rogue’s 2016 release of Rolling Thunder Imperial Stout.  As you can see below, it was 2017-03-25_13-48-34_891released in a 1 Liter (33.8 oz) bottle which can be restoppered.  I’m not sure about you, but I’ve never thought beers really stay the same after they are stoppered.  You lose carbonation and once you open it, oxidization starts.  That’s why I’m not a fan of 32 or 64oz growlers.

Why all of the different sizes and shapes?  There are a few reasons.  One is cost.
Depending on the amount of Stout, some brewers choose a larger capacity bottle which means less bottles.  That leads me to the next reason – marketing.  Scarce supply can create a higher demand for the beer and a heightened interest in the brewery.   For me, an example of this is the offerings from Ram Brewing just outside of Chicago (Schaumburg to be exact).  To be frank, I never heard of Ram until I read about them on various online boards and just how great their Stouts are.  When Ram announced their releases online, lines formed and the trading started.   The 2017 version of Chaos is in great demand on the trading boards.  Small breweries can make great beer and create quite a buzz through low volumes and high demand!

The other part of marketing is brewery only releases versus distribution.  Brewery only releases accomplishes a couple of things: it takes care of your primary customers (those local to the brewery) and allows the brewer to control the distribution.  Brewery only releases is a topic better left for another blog post…so stay tuned!

Another decision is can vs. bottle….there is a clear trend toward canning Stouts and there is an economic as well as quality aspect to this.  Cans allow no light in (obviously) and therefore the beer has a longer shelf life.  Glass allows light in and exposure to light 2017-03-25_13-47-05_782over time breaks down the beer.  That’s why one of the rules of successfully aging Stouts is to keep them in a dark area.

Back to the size of the Stout….I’d like to see some consistency in approach.  If a Stout is 12% or higher ABV, I’d like to have an option for a 12oz. bottle.  I really have to commend Founder’s – I’m not sure of the economics, but as a Stout consumer, I really like having the option and in my world, I would opt for the 4 pack of 12oz. bottles.  That gives me 4 opportunities to enjoy the Stout, whereas if I bought the similar quantity in 750ml bottles, I would only have 2 chances.  I also believe taste sensitivity begins to diminish after 16oz or so (no science behind this, just personal observation) and when quality is more important than quantity, I’d rather have my full complement of taste buds and be left with wanting more!

Marketing, economics, quantity, distribution, even tradition – all these determine the size, shape, and type of vessel for our wonderful Stouts!  What do you think about the various bottle/can sizes for Stouts?  Do you have a preference?  Leave a comment and let me know your thoughts!

Cheers!

Stout and about…..

Standard

A few random observations:

-I’m in the middle of my first beer trading “damaged shipment”.  I sent a full 6 shipper from North Carolina to California, had it refilled and it was sent back to NC by one of my good trading partners.  It made it all the way cross country back to western North Carolina and then I saw the dreaded “Damaged in Shipment – returning to Shipper” note on my FedEx app.  I called FedEx to see if they can redirect it back to me – after all, it made it 90% of the way – just deliver it to me and I’ll determine what was damaged.  Unfortunately, the shipper instructions called for a return if damaged, so FedEx couldn’t reroute it without a request from the shipper (my trading partner).  I reached out to my trading partner and he immediately called FedEx.  He requested that the delivery be completed to me…and that’s where we’re at.  The FedEx rep he spoke to didn’t seem real confident that it will be redirected to me, so it may very well wind up back in California for my trading partner to take stock of what happened.   Tough to determine what happened, especially since we were using a good styrofoam 6-shipper.   Putting it all in perspective, this is my first damaged shipment among many trades and also….it’s only beer.  Even though I would love to be sipping on some Nibs and Beans Speedway Stout right now, no one got hurt and I’ll survive!  We’ll see where this goes….anyone have any good “damaged in shipment” stories to share?  For all I know, we had a thirsty FedEx person who perhaps heard some sloshing and decided to check it out!   I’ll let you know what happens in a future blogpost!

-My wonderful bride, Mrs. Stoutwhisperer, made me a stout glass with my logo.  It looked really great but when I poured a Stout in it, the logo disappeared!  I don’t know 2017-02-26_15-44-56_759the technical details of glass making but apparently the etching wasn’t deep enough.  Not to be deterred, she went to her Etsy network and found someone who made two Stoutwhisperer glasses for me!  I was thrilled to get these logo glasses and you can expect to see them in my photos going forward next to any brewery glassware I’ve procured.  The logo looks great with a nice dark Stout as a background!  Hope you think so as well!

-I just returned from a business trip to the land of Mickey Mouse – Orlando, Florida.  After the important work was finished, I tried to find some time to check out the craft beer scene in Orlando.  Unfortunately, that turned into “whatever you can do in a two 2017-02-20_19-31-28_597hour window on your way to the airport heading home”.  I used the intelligence I gathered from my friends at Beer Advocate and headed to Knightly Liquors on Orange Blossom Boulevard.  Yes, it’s in a sketchy area, but they have a great assortment of Stouts!  After talking with them, I found out about their “behind the counter” selection and I was able to bring home a couple of bottles of Funky Buddha’s Maple Bacon Coffee Porter!  I’m really excited about cracking open a bottle next weekend and seeing if MBCP lives up to the hype!  I also picked up a couple of Stouts from Canada I’ve heard about but haven’t had the chance to taste – Aphrodite and Peche Mortel from Brasserie Dieu du 2017-02-24_19-25-56_000Ciel in Quebec.  Knightly has a great beer selection….I highly recommend you check them out if you are in Orlando….they are in the SeaWorld area.  Friendly knowledgeable people and great selection…what else can you ask for?

-We’re wrapping up the Stout Month of February….so that means my world will slow down for just a bit.  The only real Stout event coming up is the annual KBS release!  Founder’s is having all of their release events around Grand Rapids and Michigan during the month of March – and everyone else will be able to taste the elixir that is KBS in April.  I’m especially looking forward to the 2017 release as that will complete my 5 year KBS vertical..starting with 2013..14..15..16..and now 17!  I’m looking forward to doing some tastings across the years!   That also means my Stout Cellar is at it’s maximum capacity.  That means it’s time to take inventory and open the cellar for some trading!  I’m more about trying new Stouts and trying to trade for Whales!  There are so many brewers creating amazing Stouts that it’s difficult to keep up…but the quest continues!

If you are reading this and think I need to know about a specific Stout, please let me know!  If you are local to a brewery and a Stout that deserves more love, have them send me a bottle or two so I can taste it and review it!  I love to sample new Stouts!

That’s it for now….thanks for checking me out!   See you next time!

Hope you have a Stoutstanding week!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brewpublik

Standard

Brewpublik is a new business venture that has entered the Raleigh market within the past few months.  They cut their teeth in Charlotte, then have expanded into Raleigh.  Brewpublik provides a customized craft beer delivery service based on a taste profile you 2016-04-26_230339982_6E14C_iOScreate on their website.  Based on your profile, they then select craft beers that match your profile and deliver it to your doorstep every month!  I was intrigued by the concept so I reached out to them and after understanding their business model, I decided to sign up.  As you might expect, my taste profile is “all Stouts all the time” and the more we talked, I decided to sign up for their concierge plan.  It’s their most personalized plan (with the highest monthly cost) but it seemed like the way to go for me.  The beauty is that it is a month to month subscription, so I can freeze my account during the summer when Stouts are in hibernation.  You can even specify when (day and time) to have your Brewpublik crate delivered!   On the day of my delivery, they texted me with a link that tracked my delivery all the way to my house!  I met my delivery person as they were driving up the street, he dropped off my crate, I signed off on the delivery, and away he went to his next delivery!
Another feature of the Brewpublik service is that you have the ability to preview your crate so you can swap out any bottles you may not like before you get your delivery.   The BrewPublik team were very easy to deal with and very responsive to my many questions upfront. The Stouts I received in my concierge delivery were:

-1 bottle of Founders KBS2016-04-23_224300576_11E31_iOS

-1 bottle of Prairie Artisan Ales Pirate BOMB!

-2 bottles of Wicked Weed Dark Age

-2 bottles of Mikkeller Black Hole

-2 bottles of Anderson Valley Huge Arker

I was certainly pleased with my selection!  Imagine having KBS and Pirate BOMB! delivered to you!  Now mind you, I did purchase their premium monthly service (but did get a generous new customer discount).  I suspect that not all Stout deliveries will have KBS or Pirate BOMB!, but if that is any indication of future deliveries, I’ll be a happy Stoutwhisperer!

Brewpublik is starting to expand beyond Charlotte and Raleigh into San Francisco and Charleston, SC.  I am hopeful that the more they expand, the greater and varied their Stout selection will be!  It would be great to be able to get some of those west coast Stouts to taste and review!

If first impressions are any indication, I think Brewpublik might have something here. They have bent over backwards to insure I was happy with my delivery and I’m looking forward to what they have in store (or in stock) for the future!  If you are interested as well, visit their website and make sure you tell them the Stoutwhisperer sent you!

NC Beer Month and the KBS Quest

Standard

April has been selected as North Carolina Beer Month and all of the local bottleshops and breweries have special events to highlight local North Carolina beers.  My contribution to NC Beer Month for this week is tasting and reviewing Wicked Weed’s Dark Age and tasting Trophy Brewing’s El Hombre.  Additionally, I was on the prowl for KBS and I’ll share with you the results of my hunt.

This past Friday, I went to Trophy Brewing with Mrs. Stoutwhisperer and my son to give their highly regarded pizza a try.  I also wanted to taste their El Hombre, an Horchata Stout that came highly recommended.  Unfortunately for us,  Trophy has a great following and they were packed at 6pm.  We were really hungry so we weren’t going to wait, but before we left, I wanted to sample El Hombre.  My son (21 year old) and I each got a chalice of this Horchata Stout, but surprisingly (to me at least), it was served as cold as all of their other beers and I really didn’t get a taste of how good El Hombre could be.  I’m not sure why Trophy (or any other brewery for that matter) wouldn’t serve their beers at the best temperature for the style of beer.  Breweries should educate their clientele on how best to serve and drink their various offerings.  A cold stout hides the flavors that the brewmaster works so hard to develop.  I plan on revisiting Trophy soon to try their pizza and will order another El Hombre but will let it warm a bit so I can actually taste the flavors of the Stout that the brewmasters intended!

As I noted in my last post, this past week the elusive KBS from Founders Brewing in Grand Rapids, Michigan made its annual migration into North Carolina.  It surfaced briefly on tap at Bull McCabe’s in Durham on April 1, but the rare 4 pack didn’t make an appearance until a few days later.   All of the traditional hunting grounds (i.e. bottleshops) had different ways to handle the demand. Some created priority lists for their best clients, some used social media to trumpet the arrival, and others are taking the lottery route.  Most were rationing one or two bottles of KBS per person to get it in the hands of more Stout lovers. Rare were those sellers who allowed the 4 pack to be sold!   I was really looking for a 4 pack, as I wanted to add to my KBS vertical, have one now, and put a couple in the beer cellar for special occasions down the road.

Fortunately, the good people at House of Hops (Twitter: @houseofhops1) in Raleigh came to the rescue and are worthy of the Stoutwhisperer’s praise!   They were taking names for their KBS list and my persistence wore them down. I really like the vibe at House of Hops and gallery_14_20141021_1683440087enjoy talking to the folks there.   They are very friendly and helpful. When I picked up my KBS, I had a chance to chat with Gabriela and Jesse about KBS and Stouts in general. Jesse and I first ran into each other sampling the Root Beer Stout at the Big Boss Brewing event a few weeks back, so I know he’s got good taste!  I was thrilled to walk out with a 4 pack and thought my quest was complete.  I highly recommend visiting House of Hops if you are ever in Raleigh….tell them the Stoutwhisperer sent you!

Fast forward to the next morning……there is a Whole Foods near me that has an excellent beer selection. Jason runs their beer shop and he traditionally sends out a Twitter message when new beers come into the store and from there, its first come, first serve. That’s how I was able to get my 2015 KBS last year, but I didn’t want to bank on my luck two years in a row.  Fortunately, the tweet came out early and I was able to scramble over and bag another 4 pack!   Jason a good old school guy and he doesn’t believe in rationing bottles so I was one of the lucky few.

While I was basking in my KBS success, I took a ride over to Taylor’s Wine Shop  at lunchtime.  Taylor’s is located inside a BP Gas Station and is known to have a pretty darn good craft beer selection.   Niki (aka “the Beer Lady”), was kind enough to talk to me and I happened to ask her about her KBS allotment.  Much to my surprise, she was expecting it to come in the next day and was just going to start her list!  She was rationing 2 bottles per person, but I was at the top of the list……and sure enough, I got a text message from Niki the next day that KBS was in and I could pick up my 2 bottles!

I also had the chance to get 2 more bottles from my local Total Wine (thanks Chase!!) but decided that 10 was enough.   Another bottleshop in the area is having a lottery this week for their KBS allocation, but I’ll pass on that as well.   The Stout Karma train doesn’t have many seats and I want to be sure I’m on it (I missed out on Mexican Cake last year)!   Through a little planning and a LOT of luck my KBS hunting season is complete and I bagged the limit.   This should last me through the Stout Drought…..now on to the reviews!

Wicked Weed Brewing – Dark Age

March 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

March 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

 

It’s KBS Time!!

Standard

As we move ever closer to the Stout Drought, one of the most anticipated releases of the Stout season is upon us.  Kentucky Breakfast Stout  (KBS to most of us) brewed by Founders Brewing, has been available in it’s home turf in Michigan for almost a month now.   Our friends from Founders Brewing gives KBS it’s own week in March with bottle releases and special tappings.  April brings the nationwide release of KBS.  I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the first North 2016-03-24_230611672_85F60_iOSCarolina tapping of 2016 KBS on Friday evening (April 1).  Bull McCabe’s in Durham, NC was given the honor because of their ongoing commitment to the Founders lineup and the fact that they were the volume leader for Founders in NC in 2015.  Mrs. Stoutwhisperer and I took the 30 minute drive to the Bull City to Bull McCabe’s.  It was crowded, but not mobbed.  They were pouring small (4 oz.?) snifters to insure everyone received an opportunity to sample this year’s vintage. I bellied up to the bar, ordered 2 KBS snifters for myself and a lager for Mrs. S (she isn’t a stout fan).   I ran into Jessie R., the Founders representative for North Carolina, who was greeting everyone and handing out Founders swag.  She commented on my KBS t-shirt (pictured above along with my KBS glasses) and we started talking about KBS, the hoopla around the release and how Bull McCabe’s got the honors as the first NC establishment to tap KBS.  She shared that a Charlotte location was tapping a keg on Sunday and that the bottle sales would begin on Tuesday.  Jessie was rightfully proud of all the excitement around the release and I congratulated her on a great event.

I sat back down and began to savor the first snifter.  As you can see in the picture, there 2016-04-01_211323885_0ADC7_iOSwasn’t much head in the pour, which was fine due to the size of the snifters.  I couldn’t get much aroma, but that was probably due to the fact that I was outside at a patio table where it was a bit breezy.  However, the taste was spot on!  A slight bourbon taste, some coffee and chocolate notes, a nice mouthfeel, and a smooth aftertaste told me that Founders had found just the right balance of stout and bourbon aging.  After I finished the first snifter, the second one affirmed my thoughts…..the 2016 KBS vintage is a winner!

Now comes the annual scramble for KBS bottles…..Tuesday apparently will be the first day in North Carolina where we all try and hope our timing aligns with the delivery of KBS.  Most stores will ration bottles to 1 or 2 bottles per person.  Some allow 4-packs to be purchased.  No matter the quantity, I wish everyone the best of luck in their KBS search and that everyone who wants KBS gets at least one bottle!  If you aren’t in the right place at the right time, I expect there will be special KBS release parties throughout April so you will get some additional chances to savor that special stout elixir called KBS!!

Special Stoutwhisperer thanks to the good people at Bull McCabe’s and to Jessie R. and the Founders Brewing team for their hospitality!  Mrs. Stoutwhisperer and I had a great time!

Note: For a really interesting article on how KBS is cellar aged, see this story by Robert Allen of the Detroit Free Press……great reading!!