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!!
Prairie Paradise (draft), Buxton/Omnipollo Yellow Belly, Big Boss Brewing Root Beer Stout
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
Epic Brewing Big Bad Baptist
Epic Brewing Big Bad Baptista
Bell’s Brewery Black Note Stout
Prairie Artisan Ales Cinnamon Pecan Bomb!
Raleigh Brewing Double BA The Miller’s Toll
Southern Pines Drunken Vigils
Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout
Dark Horse Plead the 5th
Westbrook Siberian Black Magic Panther
Prairie Artisan Ales Pirate Paradise
Oskar 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!