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!

The Art of the Deal (Stout Trading)

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While our President-elect may have written a best selling book about dealing, my guess is that he wasn’t talking about trading craft beer…..and this is the topic for today’s blogpost.   Trading beer is an art and a science;  it’s an art in the fact that one needs to know when to say yes (or no) and it’s a science in understanding what the current value is for the beer you are trading and the beer you are trading for.     Some beers have higher values due to their scarcity or newness; some have higher values due to their name/brand/reputation.

Readers of my blog know I recently took a trip to Asheville with my two sons.  I was fortunate enough to come home with some Oskar Blues Barrel Aged TENFIDY, Java Barrel Aged TENFIDY, and some Wicked Weed Dark Arts. 2016-11-08_18-40-47_072 While I knew these were quality Stouts, I also knew they would be good Stout Currency in the world of trading, as these were relatively rare due to their quantity and availability.

Over the course of the last 3 weeks, I have been able to turn 11 Java BA TENFIDY, 11 BA TENFIDY, and 2 bottles of Dark Arts into:

  • 4 Bell’s Black Note Stout (2016)
  • 1 Oddsides Ales Hazels Nuts2016-12-10_12-51-57_081
  • 1 Oddsides Ales Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Mayan Mocha
  • 2016-12-10_12-54-04_4872016 Dark Lord
  • Perennial Abraxas
  • Firestone Walker Parabajava
  • Cigar City Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout
  • 2016-12-10_12-52-57_113Cigar City Caffe Americano
  • Cigar City Vanilla Hazelnut Marshall Zhukov
  • The Bruery Black Tuesday2016-12-10_12-56-29_309
  • Lawson’s Apple Brandy Fayston Maple Imperial Stout
  • Long Trail Barrel Aged Unearthed Stout
  • Hill Farmstead Twilight of the Idols
  • Bourbon Barrel Dark Horse Plead the 5th
  • Westbrook Tequila Mexican Cake
  • Prairie Sherry Barrel  Noir
  • 2016-12-10_12-54-58_960Prairie BA Christmas Bomb!2016-12-10_12-55-29_629

and with some additional help from my inventory, I was also able to acquire:

  • Goose Island Bourbon County Proprietor’s Stout2016-12-10_12-57-30_240
  • Goose Island Bourbon County Coffee Stout
  • 2 Alchemist Heady Topper
  • 4 Alchemist Focal Banger
  • 2016-12-10_12-59-56_5864 Alchemist Beelzebub
  • 1 Fiddlehead Second Fiddle
  • 1 Lawson’s Sip of Sunshine

 

 

 

 

Needless to say, I’m really pleased as to what I’ve been able to acquire and I believe my trading partners have been pleased as to what they’ve received from me!  I’m a big believer of dollar for dollar trading (known as “$4$” in the trading world), meaning that the trade should be equivalent in terms of money spent.  The only caviat to that is knowing what stouts are more rare or are in high demand – which may require a bit more to close the deal.  That’s where the art comes in….knowing when to add a bit more to seal the deal and knowing when to walk away from a trade when someone is asking too much for the trade.  I’ve walked away from trades and I’ve also knowingly overpaid because I really wanted to acquire a Stout that’s been on my want list for a long time!  But that’s OK….it’s only beer!

In fact, I just closed two additional trades today:

  • 4 2016 KBS for a 2016 Surly Darkness
  • 3 Prairie AB Noir and a Birthday Bomb for a 2016 Hardywood Kentucky Christmas Morning and a Gingerbread Stout

As in any trade or negotiation, there is the thrill of the chase and the excitement of closing the deal.  However, once the deal is sealed, reality sinks in and the downside of trading rears it’s ugly head.  Besides having to pack the beer well enough to withstand a nuclear blast, the cost of shipping…..whether it’s UPS or FedEx, shipping is not cheap.   I guess I rationalize the cost knowing that it’s usually close to a wash between what I pay for shipping and what my trading partner has to pay.   That being said, shipping costs do add up after a few trades and one must consider whether it’s worth it.  In fact, I’m leaning toward more in-person (IP) trades moving forward.   A couple of these trades were in person and it was great to not deal with packing and the shipping costs and I got to meet some other local craft beer traders.  It’s just a matter of finding local trading partners who have access to those non-local or rare Stouts that I am seeking.

How does one get into trading?  The number of online trading forums are many; I lean toward the Beer Advocate forum but there are many others – Reddit, TalkBeer, and on Facebook, there is the Rare Beer Seekers page along with a good number of local craftbeer pages that encourage and facilitate in person trading.  It’s a pretty straightforward process – you either post your wants (ISO=In Search Of) and what you are willing to trade (FT=For Trade) or you scour the posts to see if there is something you can accommodate.  Then you either receive a DM (Direct Message) or you initiate one to start the trading dance.  Then it’s all about time and patience…..and it either consummates in a deal or you move on to other opportunities!

I will continue to chase the trade; I have a lot of Stouts that I think others may find appealing so I will continue to chase my whales (Toppling Goliath’s Mornin’ Delight and Funky Buddha’s Morning Wood are at the top of my list) and hope others will find my inventory appealing and worth trading for!

Do you have any trading tips?  What’s your best or worst trade?  Any horror stories that you would like to share?  We would all like to learn so if you have anything to share, please do so!

 

Trading Stouts – Part 2

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A follow up from my last post on my Pirate Paradise trade with my new Tulsa friend, Michael Holland.  I received my package as promised on Monday.  Michael took a lot of time and effort to wrap and pack each piece – a sign of an experienced trader!!  2016-10-03_15-41-34_413As I gingerly unwrapped each piece, I felt as I was unwrapping Christmas presents…..only to determine I didn’t receive what we had agreed on!  I took some photos and sent a note to Michael, who quickly responded, apologized, and said he would make everything good!  An honest mistake! My second shipment will be arriving tomorrow which will make the trade complete.  This was my first experience with receiving a growler.  Michael took extra care to wrap the growler and it arrived in perfect condition.  The contents of the growler was a brewery only special of Cinnamon Pecan BOMB!   When I opened the growler, it appeared to have lost a bit of carbonation, but regular BOMB! isn’t really all that carbonated to begin with, so it wasn’t a big deal.  What was a big deal was the incredible cinnamon and pecan notes of this amazing Stout.  I must say that this is easily one of the 2016-10-07_17-04-46_338top stouts of the year that I’ve had the privilege to taste!  An amazing and complex combination of sweet and heat.  The cinnamon and nutty tastes followed by the bit of heat that the base BOMB! provides made this Stout a memorable one.  As I was finishing the final couple of drops, I was sad knowing I may never get the chance to have this Prairie Artisan Ales elixir again.  Consider this my humble request to the Prairie brewmasters to consider brewing this again with a distribution to my house!    That said, I am looking forward to cracking open the Pirate Paradise and seeing if it will be as amazing as I expect it will!   Thanks to Michael Holland and the good people at Prairie Artisan Ales in Oklahoma for the opportunity to taste a Stout of this World beverage!

I also had an interesting online experience yesterday that I’d like to share and perhaps get your thoughts on.  Yesterday was Morning Delight Release Day.  Morning Delight is a legendary stout that is brewed on occasion by Toppling Goliath in Deborah, Iowa.  It is a brewery only release with no distribution and yesterday was the release of their 2016 vintage.  It is a very difficult Stout to get and Toppling Goliath deftly and wisely uses the various online beer trading networks as their distribution network (as they do for KBBS, Assassin,  and SR-71).  Toppling Goliath posted a welcome for those attending Release Day on their Facebook page and I took the opportunity to post a comment with a trade proposal (ISO:FT) for a bottle of Morning Delight.
Well, apparently I must have violated a few unwritten rules because I was the subject of ridicule from some – some mocking me for my apparent low ball trade offer, some admonishing me for making such an offer on Facebook, and some just piling on for the sake of piling on.  While I had a mind to respond in kind, I chose not to as it would not have been a productive use of anyone’s time.  My normal thinking is that if something doesn’t impact me or doesn’t interest me, I move on.   I was merely attempting to create some interest in a trade and to start a discussion with anyone that would be interested in what I had to offer….and I also added a “+” to my offer as an indication that I was willing to negotiate and add to my offer.   Unless you make your interest known, you will never make a trade, so you need to put your offer out there and hope someone is interested in what you have to offer….if there is no interest, then “crickets”.  If there is, we talk — see my previous post and my update at the top of this post!   Oh well, live and learn….by the way, I’m still interested in acquiring a bottle of Morning Delight – if you have a bottle of the 2016 vintage and would be willing to negotiate a trade, please reach out to me at rick@stoutwhisper.com.

Have a great Stout week!

Trading Stouts

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The concept of beer trading is an interesting one.  While there are many online websites that discuss the how-to’s and enable trading, I want to spend a few minutes discussing the  emotions of a trade.  The basic premise to trading is to use your inventory to acquire beers that you otherwise couldn’t get, either because of geographical distribution, limited distribution, or you just want more of a specific beer.

I’ve traded a few times with some really good people whom I’ve never met.  California, Texas, Illinois, Oklahoma all are home to some great people who are also great beer traders.  I’ve been able to taste beers that I would otherwise never get to taste and hopefully my trading partners would be able to say the same.   The anatomy of a trade is an interesting one; since I’m not really what you would call an active trader or a known trader in the beer trading community, I’m usually the initiator when I want to make a trade.

For example, I’m in the middle of a trade with a good person in Oklahoma, Michael Holland.   The good people at Prairie Artisan Ales recently had a brewery only release of Pirate Paradise Stout…and I really wanted to get a couple of bottles.  If you’ve been reading 2016-08-18_213816124_15B6A_iOSany of my blog posts, tweets, or Instagram posts, you probably know that I am a big fan of any and all stouts that PAA releases.    I love Pirate Bomb! and I also loved the glass of 2016-06-25_194332518_27367_iOSParadise I was fortunate enough to taste at a local establishment, so I had to have Pirate Paradise!

I threw out a feeler on the PAA Facebook page and Mr. Holland kindly responded.  We went back and forth and quickly settled on the exchange.  I was willing to “overpay” since I was the initiator and Michael was pleased with the deal.  Now to turn the deal into reality.  I spent a good hour packing up the bottles and glassware to insure it would make it safely to Tulsa, Oklahoma.  Bubble wrap, bubble wrap, styrofoam noodles, and more bubble wrap. The last thing I would want is to have Michael open a box of broken glassware or to have a bottle break during the shipment.  I’ve read too many accounts of broken bottles or opened packages by the shipper so I tend to overpack.  My shipper of choice is UPS so my next stop is to the UPS Store to send it on it’s way.  It’s usually $20-30 to ship a box so it’s important to pack it well enough so it gets to it’s destination safely.

Well, my box of goodies made it to Tulsa in one piece and I am anxiously awaiting my delivery from Michael – it’s scheduled to be delivered tomorrow.  Part of my emotion is relief that my package made it safely so Michael can enjoy the contents and the other part is the anticipation of getting something in the mail that I am really excited about!   I’m looking forward to coming home from work tomorrow with a box on my doorstep!

Fortunately, I’ve not had a negative experience in any of my beer trades.  I’m not a frequent trader, but I do consider myself to be an experienced trader and I do my best to make sure my trading partners are happy.

Do you have any trading stories that you are willing to share?  Good, bad, or ugly?  Any tips you want to share with us?  Leave a comment so we can all learn….

 

 

 

 

 

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!

A Stout Drought in Germany

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Last week Mrs. Stoutwhisperer and I traveled to Munich, Germany to visit our son.  While we were there, we took a quick trip over the Alps to spend a weekend in Venice, Italy.   We were able to visit a couple of famous beer meccas in Munich, the Augustiner Keller and the 2016-06-20_153653775_7E5EC_iOSHofbrauhaus.  They are amazing for their size, their atmosphere, and their ability to bring both locals and tourists together into an incredible melting pot.  Germans drink their beer in one liter glass mugs (“Ein mas bier, bitte”).  To the left is a picture of a wall full of these glass mugs ready to be filled and brought to your table by waiters or waitresses who can carry 4 or 5 of these mugs filled with beer at a time!!  For someone who drinks their beer in 12oz 2016-06-16_164722435_E5D50_iOSor 22 oz sizes, one liter is quite a bit!  Germany also has Continue reading

Happy Birthday BOMB!

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As I was peering into the Stout House (my beer fridge) to decide what I wanted to taste and review, this Christmas BOMB! seemed to call out to me.  I was in the mood for a spicy, 2016-05-08_193403872_01037_iOSthick Stout so it was a perfect match.  Little did I know that I was celebrating both Mothers Day and the 3rd birthday of BOMB!   Our friends at Prairie Ales just posted a blog commemorating the BOMB! birth and announcing the distribution of Birthday BOMB!  Birthday BOMB! is the wonderful Stout that we all know and love with some homemade caramel added to the brew.  Word has it that it has been seen out in distribution and will hopefully be in your area soon.  I for one am looking forward to celebrating the birthday of BOMB! with a Birthday BOMB!

As a quick aside, you’ll note the bubbles on the side of the glass.  A keen observer tweeted me and told me that is a sign of a dirty glass!  I always rinsed out my glass after every session so I thought I was good, but apparently its a best practice to rinse your glass prior to a pour as well.  Another lesson learned…..

Prairie Artisan Ales – Christmas BOMB!

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 you can see, it poured a nice black with a small liner of a foamy head that dissipated 2016-05-10_232032000_54CBB_iOSquickly.  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