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!

Stout and About

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A great weekend of good tastings:

Friday evening we went to our local Brixx pizza.  Brixx is known for their excellent pizza but they also have a pretty good craft beer selection.  Friday they happened to have 2016-03-25_222212361_46540_iOSSweetwater Dank Tank Pulled Pork Porter on tap.  I asked for a taste, which they always are happy to provide (our server also brought out tastes of their other two Stout offerings which scored big points from me!).   I liked the taste sample of the Sweetwater so I went for a full pour.  Wow!  I never thought you could taste smokiness in a beverage, but it was a very interesting taste sensation.  I noted a bit of a bacon/pork flavor as well, but it was the smoke flavor that was the most forward.  However after awhile, it also started to overwhelm my taste senses and by the time I took the last sip, I was glad to be done.   Kudos to Sweetwater Brewing for trying something out of the ordinary;  I always commend those who walk that fine line between genius and insanity.  I’m sure there are those who think Dank Tank Pulled Port Porter is sheer genius; however, while it’s not quite insanity, it’s a beer I probably wouldn’t actively seek out.   I’m not giving this an official review since I had it in a restaurant, but it’s a beer that you should know what you are walking into before you commit to a full size pour!  You may find it very tasty…or you might not!

Saturday brought out the burgers on the grill and I brought out a limited release of a local favorite – a double barrel aged version of Raleigh Brewing’s Miller’s Toll, an imperial stout
aged in bourbon barrels for 9 months, followed by 3 months in rum barrels.  It was bottled for their anniversary celebration a few weeks back in a limited run of 400 bottles.  I cracked one open and….boy am I glad I have another bottle!  My review is below, but it’s a winner!

Sunday was Easter and I was treated to a couple of enjoyable Stouts.  As I was preparing our traditional Easter Seafood boil, I enjoyed Highland Brewing’s The Kinsman Project.  It is their great Black Mocha Stout infused with Cinnamon Sticks, Cacao nibs, Vanilla Bean, and Chipotle Peppers.   A very tasty Stout with a bit of a bite at the end.  See my review below.  After the Seafood boil was over, I had the dessert treat I had been waiting to enjoy for a couple of weeks.   Frequent visitors to this blog know I visited Big Boss Brewery a few weeks back and had the unique pleasure of an advance sampling of their Root Beer Stout.  Ever since that evening, I knew that a Root Beer Stout float was in my future.  My local bottleshops finally received their shipments this past week and I was ready for the weekend!   My official review is below, but the Big Boss Brewing team made a Root Beer Stout that is a perfect match for a couple of scoops of vanilla ice cream.   I never thought that a Stout would go well with ice cream, but I was wrong!

This week brings the nationwide release of Founders Brewing KBS and the inevitable search for a 4-pack of KBS goodness.  Our friends in Michigan have been enjoying the 2016 vintage for a few weeks and now the nationwide distribution starts on April 1.  Best of luck to those who seek out this Stout!

On to the reviews…..

Raleigh Brewing – Double Barrel Aged Miller’s Toll

March 26, 2016 – I’m a big fan of Miller’s Toll from Raleigh Brewing (see my review in the Recent Reviews).  They took it a step further and bottled a Bourbon Barrel aged version (which is also in my beer fridge yet to be opened). In preparation for their Anniversary Party on March 5, the good people at Raleigh Brewing set aside some BAMT and aged it in Rum Barrels for 3 months. They put 400 bottles on sale the day of the party (which went quickly) and I was fortunate enough to get 2. I’ve been patiently waiting to open one and decided today was the day.

It was double waxed to indicate the special release – red for the Bourbon Barrel Aging, with the white wax for the Rum Barrel Aging. Once the wax was removed, the pour was simply 2016-03-26_202517057_830B3_iOSbeautiful, with a jet black liquid followed by the nice tan foamy head. The aroma was slightly bourbon with a bit of a sweeter scent than normal – I think that was the rum barrels making their presence known! The first sip was nice and smooth…medium mouthfeel….nice balanced bourbon taste but not overpowering at all. Just enough bourbon taste to remind me where this lived for 9 months.   The aftertaste was pure Miller’s Toll stout.   Raleigh Brewing, this can’t be a one-time release!   This is really tasty!   I like the impact Rum Barrels have on Stouts….Rum Barrel aging seems to smooth out any “rough edges” a Stout may have. Prairie Artisan Ales Pirate Bomb! is another recent winner that was aged in Rum Barrels.

I was a bit surprised that this clocked in at only 10.5%ABV, as I had expected a higher ABV. No matter, this was a layered treat….malt, some elements of chocolate, bourbon, some sweetness….a lot going on but it all combined to present an amazingly complex Stout! I’m not sure how many of the 400 bottles are left to enjoy (I suspect Raleigh Brewing have a few more in their cellar!), but if you see one in the wild, by all means, go for it!

Stout of this World rating: 4.5 bombers

Highland Brewing – The Kinsman Project: Black Mocha Stout

March 27, 2016 – I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying Highland Brewing’s Black Mocha Stout in the past, so when I saw that their Black Mocha Stout (BMS from here on out) was going to be part of their specialty release program called The Kinsman Project, I was ready to buy. When I saw that they infused BMS with Cinnamon Sticks, Vanilla Beans, Cacao nibs and Chipotle Peppers, I was ready to drink!

Cracking open the 22oz. bomber and giving it a pour reminded me of a jet black waterfall. 2016-03-27_201635561_8270E_iOSA nice creamy foamy head completed the pour.   Aroma was a bit on the sweet side (Vanilla? Cinnamon?) but not really distinguishable. It was a bit on the cool side when I first poured it (around 45 degrees or so) and my first sip wasn’t much to write about. Thin mouthfeel, but no real flavor except for the chipotle pepper bite at the end.   I did like the heat of the peppers. Nothing crazy, just the fact that you knew there was some pepper in there.   I let it rest for a bit, sensing that the flavors would emerge as it warmed.   I was right….as it warmed, the flavors really released and I could taste the upfront flavors of vanilla, some cinnamon, some elements of chocolate…..and the back bite of the chipotle!   Now that is what I was hoping to taste!   The rest of the pour disappeared quickly as I really enjoyed the sweet/hot balance of each sip.   Note to self and others:   Drink this at around 55 degrees or you are cheating yourself out of a very tasty, complex stout!   The fact that it is only 5.6%ABV means you can enjoy the entire bomber in a long afternoon – and the second pour will be better than the first as it will have had a chance to sit and warm up a bit!  Just put your wine stopper in the bottle and leave it out to warm. Well done to the brew masters of Highland Brewing! There’s more Kinsman Project – Black Mocha Stout in my future!

Stout of this World rating: 4.0 bombers

Big Boss Brewing – Root Beer Stout

March 27, 2106 – Coming into this weekend, I was looking forward to the Root Beer Stout (RBS) float I was going to make on Sunday evening.   Fast forward to Sunday evening…..I wanted to review RBS like all of the other Stouts but I also wanted to have a little fun and make a float….so I did both!

The Big Boss brewmasters worked a bit of magic on this one…..It pours nice and black with 2016-03-27_230127194_B92F1_iOSa bit of a creamy foamy head.  The aroma is pure Root Beer but the taste is pure Stout with no hint of Root Beer.   Not sure how they were able to pull it off, but they did.  The mouthfeel is rather thin, but for a 6.75%ABV Stout, that’s not altogether surprising.  There is a bit of a sweet aftertaste, but certainly nothing that would suggest Root Beer.  This was an enjoyable and very drinkable Stout which belies it’s perceived novelty of a Root Beer Stout.

Next on the list was the real novelty…a Root Beer Stout float!  Simple enough, a couple of scoops of vanilla ice cream followed by a nice pour over of Root Beer Stout!  2016-03-27_230504290_90D9D_iOSThis is the match made in Big Boss heaven!  I was a bit unsure at first, but after a few sips, the vanilla ice cream began to melt and mix with the Stout….that’s when the magic occurred.  The taste was amazing and the rest of the float disappeared in record time.  The malt and touch of sweetness of the Root Beer Stout complemented the vanilla ice cream quite nicely which resulted in a float that wasn’t too sweet, wasn’t too stouty…..it was just right!
Good thing I bought a few bottles, because I plan on leaving them in my beer fridge and waiting for a hot summer day to have another Root Beer Stout float!

Well done, Big Boss Brewing!

Stout of this World rating: 4.25 bombers