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!

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