journal of a self proclaimed beer connoisseur

Stout

Half Pints – Stir Stick Stout

Date: Thursday, February 3, 2011
Brewery: Half Pints
Beer: Stir Stick Stout
Category: American Stout
ABV: 5.60%
Brewed in: Canada (Winnipeg, MB)

Stir Stick Stout poured a dark and murky black – almost no light was penetrating the beer. The head was one finger thick and a nice tan color. Pretty characteristic of stouts brewed with coffee. Head retention was moderate and left lots of impressive lacing on the pint.

The aroma will tell you that this beer was brewed with coffee (if you didn’t read the label and see that it was locally roasted Ethiopian beans). Coffee is prominent in the nose but is also accompanied by bitter chocolate and roasted malts.

The first sip brings initial flavors of coffee, chocolate, and faint smoke to the tongue. The faint smoke taste dissipates quickly and allows the roasted malts and other notes to really come through. I found that the carbonation – though not ridiculous – was high enough to subtract from your ability to really taste all the nuances of the beer. A very tasty stout though.

The mouthfeel was a little thin but acceptable for the ABV. Carbonation is on the high side for a stout but not so much that it wrecks the beer, it just masks some of the characteristics they have managed to instill in the beer.

As in interesting side note, this bottle cap was wax-dipped it seems. When I popped it off little pieces of white stuff fell onto the counter and upon closer examination – were wax!

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Hitachino Nest Espresso Stout

Date: Thursday, January 20, 2011
Brewery: Kiuchi
Beer: Hitachino Nest Espresso Stout
Category: American Stout
ABV:
7.50%
Brewed in: Japan

Pours clean black resembling a dark cup of coffee with a cappucino colored head. The head was thick and about two fingers in the glass provided at the Sugar Bowl. It faded rather quickly and left decent lacing on the glass.

The aroma is of espresso beans and dark chocolate. There is a distinct burnt smell. The coffee notes smell like a fresh espresso.

The taste is of strong and old coffee. The freshness you would hope for in the espresso flavor is lacking. Something is off about it (a bit of research has shown me this is probably because they add espresso beans directly to the boil). There is a nice taste of dark chocolate and roasted malts. There are not hints of hops in the beer.

The mouthfeel is smooth and velvety with gentle carbonation. The mouthfeel was one of the more impressive parts of this beer.

This beer was not terrible but I consider this type of beer one of my favorites and can name at least three direct competitors that are clearly superior. Don’t shy away from giving this one a try but you will likely find yourself lead away permanently by better coffee/espresso stouts.

I should point out that my choice of category of “American Stout” doesn’t fit the BJCP guidelines. It should technically go into category 21 or 23 for specialty or coffee beers. But in reality it is a stout. It isn’t really an Imperial but it is 0.5% stronger than the range for American Stout. Many would call this a “double American Stout”. So I decided to put it in American Stout.

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North Coast – Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout

Date: Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Brewery: North Coast
Beer: Old Rasputin
Category: Russian Imperial Stout
ABV:
9.00%
Brewed in: United States

Old Rasputin pours an extremely deep and dark brown. One finger of brown, frothy head was produced from the pour that has moderate to long retention. Substantial lacing occurred on the glass as the head slowly eased back into the beer.

The aroma is very robust and almost screams with a sharp and bitter chocolate mixed with dark roasted coffee beans. I can detect coffee in this brew but I wouldn’t call it a coffee beer. They are subtle given the strength of the other layers. I can smell the slightest hint of hops and of alcohol.

The taste of this beer really shines. In order of prominence I am getting astringent roasted malts, dark chocolate, coffee, hops, some dark fruits, and molasses. The aftertaste lingers for minutes after and is dominated by dark roasted bitterness. The flavors both balance each other out and conceal the alcohol. It is clear to see why this beer has such a cult following (either that or everyone are just fans of the lover of the Russian queen).

The mouthfeel is smooth and full. It almost feels thick and coats your mouth as it goes down. The beer isn’t “sticky” and finishes quite dry.

I had purchased and drank this beer on the recommendation of Jim Pettinger (Purchasing Manager at Sherbrooke Liquor in Edmonton) when I went in for some Guinness for Halloween a few years back. So I already knew it was good. The interesting thing about giving it a real in depth look this long after is how much my beer tastes have changed. Back then, when I had not sampled many world class brews, this beauty almost seemed just overly alocoholic. I remember being shocked by the 9% and flavor but feeling tipsy after a bottle.

Ahh, how times change. Memories aside – if you consider yourself a fan of Stout or Russian Imperial Stout and you haven’t tried this brew, go get in touch with your Russian mystic as soon as possible. It may even kick start your love of Russian Imperial Stouts as it did for me.

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Mikkeller – Beer Geek Brunch (Weasel)

Date: Saturday, January 15, 2011
Brewery: Mikkeller
Beer: Beer Geek Brunch (Weasel)
Category: Imperial Stout
ABV:
10.90%
Brewed in: Norway

Pour is onyx with virtually no light penetrating the beer. The head developed about one finger thick and was a tan brown color. Head retention is short as it quickly fades back into the beer. Trace amounts of lacing occurred.

The aroma from this brew is absolutely mouth-watering for anyone who likes coffee (or chocolate or beer for that matter). The immediate and dominant smell is of potent coffee but the beautiful thing is that despite the potency a myriad of other aromas still break through. It took me near 20 sniffs to identify what individual notes I could but I believe I smell dark roasted malts, dark chocolate, molasses, dark fruits, licorice, and a light hoppiness.

Tasting the beer reveals an immensely complicated grouping of flavors. Coffee, dark chocolate, and dark malts are at the forefront. These three stick out and dominate the first touch of the beer to the tongue. It is very well-balanced. The initial tastes yield to more subdued notes of dark fruits, nuts, and oats. The finish is a touch acidic and the coffee aftertaste lingers long after the swallow. The quality of the world-class coffee used is evident.

This beer has the most impressive mouthfeel I have yet experienced. It is very smooth and almost creamy. It can only be described as thick as it feels as if your mouth is both filled and coated with beer simultaneously. The carbonation is very fine. The mouthfeel compliments the tasting but allows the tasting to shine – as it should.

The alcohol content of 10.9% is amazingly well hidden; however, I could feel its presence after having had to consume this beauty in a fairly short time. This isn’t a session beer but goes down easy enough.

This is the best beer I have tried to date. I feel privileged to have been able to even have a bottle. I am afraid this is a must-buy whenever I see it. The journey of flavors this beer took me on left me sitting on my couch with my empty glass in hand feeling content, relaxed, and sporting a goofy smile. If that isn’t a summary of what a brewer should be aiming for, I don’t know what is.

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Mikkeller – Beer Geek Breakfast

Date: Friday, January 14, 2011
Brewery: Mikkeller
Beer: Beer Geek Breakfast
Category: Oatmeal Stout
ABV:
7.50%
Brewed in: Norway

Beer Geek Breakfast pours a very deep dark black. The beer cascades a bit to develop a one finger tan head. I noticed the head looks a little lighter where it contacts the beer and slightly darker where it contacts the air on top. This reminds me of the crema in espresso. (Check the picture of the beer to the left and then click here to see some espresso I made recently).

Head retention was moderate and faded into a thin collar. Minimal lacing was left on the glass.

The smell is very appealing to a beer and coffee lover. You definitely smell some coffee but the dominating aroma is roasted malt. Other notes are of dark chocolate and perhaps a hint of licorice. This beer has been named appropriately.

First sip immediately reveals that the flavor profile of this brew is complex. Initially tastes of bitter dark chocolate which progresses to roasted malts and finishes with a definitive coffee aftertaste. I find that as this beer warms slightly the flavors really shine. I favor the coffee which comes out deliciously once the beer has sat a few minutes.

The beer is smooth and somewhat thick in the mouth with medium carbonation. I have tried (and reviewed here and here) several other coffee stouts or porters. This one just usurped the throne as my personal favorite.

I have another Mikkeller coffee based beverage in my fridge right now that may prove to be the true king. Check it out at the Mikkeller site. Should be interesting considering one of its ingredients is derived from weasel shit.

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