North Carolina Beer (Stout) Month!

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This past¬†Friday, April 7, was National Beer Day….as if one needs a “Day” to enjoy a Stout! ¬† Not quite sure how this happened, but while Beer gets only a day, the entire month of April has been proclaimed North Carolina Beer Month! It’s a local celebration of all of the wonderful breweries and their liquid creations that are scattered across the state from the coast to the mountains.

This special month gives me the opportunity to focus my weekend tastings on North Carolina Stouts and as I’ve curated my lineup for the month, I’ve come to the realization that there are some really good Stouts brewed here in North Carolina! ¬†Follow me on Twitter and Instagram (@stoutwhisperer for both) on my Stout tour across North Carolina! ¬†It promises to be a mix of old friends and new acquaintances! ¬†I’ll provide a more in depth write up on my journey of North Carolina Stouts soon!

Is size important?

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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 Рmarketing.  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 Рall 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!

#ProperGlassware

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When I started down this Stout road, my preferred glass of choice was a frosted pint 2016-12-29_17-45-02_824glass. ¬†I liked my beer cold because that’s what I always was told and frankly, that always how it was served. ¬†The colder the better and having a frosted glass was even better.

Fast forward to the present and I know so much more….and so does everyone else. ¬†Stouts should be savored and sipped at around 50-55 degrees F. ¬†– unless the brewer specifically calls out something different (one example are Nitro Stouts, which are recommended to be served cold (40 degrees)). ¬†Unfortunately, most bars and restaurants serve their beer cold no matter the style, so many Stout lovers order two beers at a time, warming the first one up by cupping their hands around the glass and allowing the second to warm naturally. ¬†Colder temps hide some of the wonderful flavors that Stouts can have and having the different flavors emerge as the Stout warms is a wonderful thing to experience. ¬†One of the areas that is getting more 2016-07-04_194004482_00E49_iOSattention is the actual type of glassware to aid in bringing out the aroma and flavors of a given style of beer. ¬†Rogue and Left Hand Brewing actually collaborated with Spiegelau to develop a Stout glass which enables the optimal release of flavors, the ability to warm the Stout through human hand warmth and thin glass walls, and a wide opening for the aromas to escape.

Another trend is for breweries to release branded glassware to enhance their marketing reach as well as to match the glass style to optimize the taste experience. ¬†Many brewers sell Tulip glasses or Teku glasses for Stouts. ¬†Many also are selling limited edition glassware for special Stout releases…..and many are buying them! ¬†There are trading forums on Facebook, Reddit, Beer Advocate, and elsewhere dedicated to trading and selling glassware!! ¬†As you can tell from some of my Instagram or Twitter posts (@stoutwhisperer for both), I’m a novice Stout glassware guy. ¬†I’ve bought some, I’ve traded for some, I’ve been given some. ¬†Some limited, some widely available. ¬†Below are some examples of my glassware along with their partner beverage! ¬†My rule, as silly as it may be, is that only the named Stout can be poured into a branded glass – that is, only Founder’s KBS can go into a KBS glass, Goose Island Bourbon County can only go into a Bourbon County glass, etc.

I’ve even become the proud owner of2017-03-11_16-17-26_481 a pair of Stoutwhisperer Stout glasses thanks to Mrs. Stoutwhisperer. ¬†They have become my go to Stout glasses and you’ll see them in many of my Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest pictures. ¬†Many other posters like to show off their glassware as well – you can usually tell when they use #properglassware as a tag.

Collecting Stout glassware is a fun and relatively inexpensive partner hobby to collecting, tasting, reviewing, and writing about Stouts!

Now that you have some nice Stout glasses, you need to make sure you care for them and keep them clean. ¬†They are usually very fragile, as their walls are intentionally thin so your hands can warm the liquid which as noted above, brings the flavors and aromas out and greatly enhances the taste of your Stout! ¬†I highly recommend hand washing and air drying them. ¬†It’s also important to insure they are clean, otherwise you’ll see the dreaded air bubbles sticking to the side of the glass – see¬†the examples below. ¬†Bubbles stick to the side of the glass when there are small particles on the glass….which means it’s a dirty glass! ¬†There is nothing worse than posting a picture online and have a poster point out your dirty glass! ¬†I speak from experience….

To insure a clean glass, I get some hot water, add a drop of Dawn dishwashing liquid in the glass, and use a bottle/glass washer to clean the glass an hour or so before using it. ¬†That’s also when I usually take my Stout of choice out of the cooler or fridge so it can start to warm up. ¬† ¬†If you are out and about, good bars and restaurants usually have a water spray near the taps so they can give their glasses a quick upside down spray to insure a nice clean and cool glass and to insure the best tasting experience for their beers.

To sum up – keep your glass clean, your Stouts at 50-55 (unless specifically called out by the brewer), use a Stout appropriate glass, and you’ll give yourself the best chance to have a great¬†tasting experience and have a much better journey down Stout Street!

Until next time – Cheers!

 

 

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!

International Stout Day!

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Today is International Stout Day. Now why it‚Äôs November 3, I can‚Äôt tell you but I can tell you that the Stout season is upon us. If you look at the various social media accounts related to craftbeer, it‚Äôs clear the tide has turned from the summer IPA season (also referred to as the ‚ÄúStout Drought‚ÄĚ) to the cooler seasonal Stout releases. Now for me, everyday is Stout Day, but I do appreciate the focus that having a day to celebrate Stouts can bring to the greater craftbeer population. Most of the local bottleshops and breweries are having some type of event to celebrate the day, from Tap Takeovers to special tappings to special releases. The only downside of the day is that it‚Äôs on a Thursday‚Ķ..it‚Äôs tough to fully and appropriately celebrate International Stout Day when there is a work day right in front of you! (Note to self ‚Äď take Friday off next year!). 

Take a moment today and celebrate the Stout, either by enjoying one today or delaying your enjoyment by 24 hours as you head into the weekend! I’ll be celebrating it all weekend, as I am headed to Asheville with my 2 sons to visit the best that Asheville’s brewing community has to offer……starting with the BA TENFIDY release event at Oskar Blues on Friday evening! It should be a great weekend! Watch this space for some pictures and a full write up of our journey in the coming days!!

In the meantime, Happy International Stout Day!

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….

 

 

 

 

 

Brewpublik

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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 ‚Äúall Stouts all the time‚ÄĚ and the more we talked, I decided to sign up for their concierge plan. ¬†It‚Äôs 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!