Mother’s Milk Stout
Gotta love the in-Staters. Pouring black as oil with a dark tan head that settles to a thin layer above the bruised jet darkness, this is the picture of a stout.
The aroma matches that – lactic odors rise up, mingling with dark chocolate covered espresso beans. That bitty texture is tangible through the smell alone. The first sip is full but not overwhelmingly roasted like many stouts. This is a real milk stout and the cocoa and coffee flavors rise up subtly and slowly. Fine but sparse carbonation brings a touch of bitterness to the front of the tongue but the finale is still smooth and chewy.
A good milk stout like this is a great way to add a lot of flavor and body to a beer diet that is usually rich in lagers or hoppy IPAs. This one in particular is supremely smooth and even.
Samuel Smith Old Brewery
Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, England
Sam Smith has done very little that hasn’t been delicious. It’s also always nice to try a sample of a style from the country that created it.
As any good stout does, this one inflates with two or three fingers of beechwood colored foam. It starts to collapse around the outside, but sticks to the side of the glass. The color is jet black with just the faintest muddy brown at the bottom edge of the glass when held to the light.
The nose is all toasted oats and barley– dark chocolate, burnt brown sugar, and a rich nuttiness. There is no clarity to speak of, this thing is opaque, but the fineness of the carbonation on the head (not to mention the head itself) indicates that there is a lot of effervescence.
The mouthfeel is nothing short of outstanding – exceptionally smooth, with all the roasted notes flowing evenly through a creamy consistency that is full but refreshing. The chocolate and roasted coffee bean flavors are as subtle but effective as an English butler. The carbonation is barely noticeable until the end of the swallow when the bubbles dance across the tongue in perfect synchrony with just the faintest hit of bittersweet hops.
This stout is the real deal.
Mendocino Brewing Co.
Saratoga Springs, NY
Black Hawk Stout
This stout is properly dark, and let’s only the slightest inkling of light through when held to a direct source. There is more cola brown than deep plum or garnet that you get from some darker brews. The head puffed up slowly and in the last drips of the pour, created a nice tan head that wasn’t quite an inch. It settles to a very pillowy quarter inch.
Black Hawk Stout
The nose is pleasantly roasty – not burnt – but soft and sweet. You can really get a good whiff of some creamy malts and soft, semi-sweet licorice. There doesn’t seem any thing powdery to the aroma, but some buttery cocoa comes through.
The mouthfeel starts off on the light side, but this beer is perhaps 5-10 degrees too cold; I really prefer stouts a bit warmer – my fault. The initial flavor is a bit more roasted than the odor indicated. Creamy malt and deep, dark chocolate notes with some licorice as an afterthought are the initial flavors.
The finish is decidedly cleaner than one might expect. What comes across initially as bittersweet chocolate opens up to some peppy hops bittering that one might not expect from a stout, but also leaves a hint of molasses coating the mouth.
Ringing the glass every inch or so, the lacing forms wide swaths, like mountain ranges draped with snow.
This is a bottle-conditioned beer so I plan on leaving one of these guys for a while to see if the character of the roasted malts builds up a bit. All in all, this is another fine offer from Mendocino, who has yet to disappoint me.
This Russian-style Imperial Stout was aged in bourbon barrels and is a limited release from our local brewery. I’ve always loved Brooklyn’s offerings–as well as respect their 100% wind energy-run brewery–and have a great deal of respect for Brewmaster Garrett Oliver. I split a 750mL bottle of this three ways at George Keeley, which was perfect, but this review was written on the back of my beer list at the end of the night and transcribed by Rade.
Brooklyn Black Ops
The beer pours like syrup–absolutely opaque black and slightly viscous. THe head is a remarkably deep vermillion and tan. The nose has a lot of alcohol, you can tell right of the bat that this is a big beer. There is a lot of chocolate and molasses and a touch of caramel and a faint raspberry note, very rich and sharp like a cognac. The sip is surprising to begin, there is no alcohol bite but lots of deep dark chocolate and hops without much smoke and no real burn. the molasses is more evident, coming across as a full malt attack that coats the mouth. The finish is initially smooth with a faint biscuity hop kick followed by an almost severe shot of hibiscus or juniper alcohol. Awesome all round.
Appalachian Brewing Company
Here’s another stout, but this one is even darker than the St. Pete’s. Even coming out of the bottle, this thing is straight up black. Likewise, the head is even darker, a real tan. The head doesn’t billow quite as much, though the pour was gentler and the glass less narrow than before. As soon as the beer hits the bottom of the glass, I can smell the roasted barley. The nose is more coffee than chocolate, though could be characterized as dark, dark chocolate along with a milky sweetness. The first sip really kicks in hard with bitter roasted coffee notes and a strong dark chocolate finish that’s not at all sweet. The bitterness is lasting but peppery and not metallic or unpleasant.
The first ring is perfect, about a quarter of an inch thick, and the half inch below it is pocked with a honeycomb of holes that barely pulls apart. The mouthfeel is more like milk than the St. Pete’s Cream Stout was, but this beer is not as drinkable. Though it is a session beer in terms of ABV, you have to be a stout fan to appreciate and sit through several rounds of something as toasted as this. This is a well-crafted beer from an historic brewing region and the quality is evident in just the way the beer looks if not tastes.
St. Peter’s Brewery
This is one of the most beautiful pours I’ve seen. The beer is opaque and the head puffs up to a full inch and is almost purple. OK, so it’s more a very light mocha brown but there are certainly hints of red in it. Even before picking up the glass, the head has already subsided to about a half inch and leaves a dense, Swiss cheese lace. The nose, like the St. Pete’s Organic smells like a proper English pub–plenty of malt. There are dark chocolate notes and maybe a hint of toffee. The first sip is an outstanding one, full of the same maltiness but with a unique hop twinge at the back of the swallow. The chocolate takes over from the toffee upon drinking, but there is enough of the latter around to make the swallow even, and not sweet or cloying. The rings are not quite excellent, but visible, and though the head more or less diffuses like a pub ale, there is plenty of spiderweb lace lining the glass. Whereas the Organic could be a perfect English pub ale, this mixes in enough chocolate malt to make it interesting. There isn’t really a roasty flavor that accompanies many stouts or porters, but it’s a different beer, as evidenced by the bitter finish.
In an act of pure love and utter selflessness, my oldest brother gave me a year’s subscription to a Beer of the Month Club. I am to receive two six packs of new brews each month. This month, one of the sixers was Cottonwood Almond Stout. The name intrigued me as I’d never heard of Almond being used before.
Carolina Beer Co.
Cracking the bottle, you instantly get a whiff of the eponymous almonds. The beer pours very dark brown, nearly black, with a thin tan head that didn’t hang around. Once in the glass, the almonds really come out along with a sweet malty smell and a hint of smoke. The carbonation was low and the mouth feel was a bit thin and on the sides of the tongue. There was a hint of creaminess but most flavor and refinement was lost to the overwhelming taste of almonds.
Not a terrible brew for a cold winter’s night, but I’d stick to yellow cap Guinness if given the option. I’ll have to revisit this when I haven’t prefaced the sampling with a couple of Dale’s Pales.