You Got Peanut Butter in my Chocolate (Stout)!

Mmmm…Chocolate!   Mmmm…Peanut Butter! 

Two great tastes that taste GREAT together – we’ve known that for a long time. But how often do you find them in a beer?  I have, a couple of times, but last night I had one that drove it right out of the ballpark! Spring House Brewing Co. was serving up Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout on nitro at the Taproom in Lancaster, PA, and it was outstanding!

Beer List at the Taproom

Photo Credit: Taproom by Spring House Brewing Co. Facebook

Served in an Imperial pint glass, this beer was pitch black with a dense and creamy, thick tan head. It’s made with local Wilbur chocolate and what was described as a peanut butter powder (perhaps dehydrated peanut butter?), and the aroma off the glass was like splitting open a fresh peanut butter egg.

The flavor was so well balanced – like the darkest chocolate cake blended with a savory peanut butter frosting. It has lingering chocolate flavor, blended with a light hop bitterness and subtle peanut butter sweetness that masks the 8% ABV, making for a perfectly drinkable pint (so good I could drink it again and again!)

I did a little searching, and learned of another beer with this profile on tap this month. BandWagon Brew Pub inChocolate Peanut Butter Stout Ithaca, NY currently has a Peanut Butter Chocolate Stout that is coming in at 6.8% ABV. Another one that is also currently obtainable is Peanut Butter Coffee Porter at 5.5% ABV from Willoughby Brewing Co. in Ohio. It would be fun to add these to my portfolio of consumed peanut butter beers.

I’m pretty sure I had the Peanut Butter Porter (5% ABV) while visiting Boston Beer Works in 2006, and I know I drank an Über Goober Oatmeal Stout (6.5% ABV) in 2009 at Short’s Brewing in Bellaire, MI. These were both pretty good, but the Porter went way too light on the peanut butter flavor, and Uber Goober had sour untertones of stale legumes.

In other peanut butter beer news, has anyone seen or had the Blue Moon Peanut Butter Blonde? Did they make it outside GABF? A beer blogger there made me laugh with her quote, “I only tried this because it had peanut butter in it. It had a huge peanut butter nose, which was super interesting. Then I made the mistake and tasted it: wheat, peanut butter lager-y grossness…”, but since she also didn’t like New Glarus Raspberry Tart, I’m not sure we’d have similar opinions.

If you’ve ever doubted that peanut butter and chocolate belong together in a beer, get yourself to Lancaster and try this out. If you’re feeling really adventurous, blend it with Planet Bean Coffee Stout (can you say cake and coffee?) I’ve been waiting for someone to brew a Peanut Butter Whoopie Pie Stout and name it “Carolyn’s Obsession”, but this may just fill that need without the personalization.

If brewer Matt Keasey doesn’t keep this on as a regular, I don’t know what I’ll do – I’m in love with this beer – and if he doesn’t enter it in GABF, he’s crazy!  It is by far the best peanut butter beer ever.

Advertisements

Kerplunk in Bottles!

We stopped in at Spring House Brewing Co. this weekend as part of our South-central PA Chocolate Stout tour (which included Tröegs Scratch #27, Iron Hill Oompa Loompa and Spring House Kerplunk; our big miss was Stout’s, with a Valentine’s special of Fat Dog Stout brewed with chocolate and cherries and served on the hand pump.)

While getting our growler filled at Spring House, we asked if Kerplunk ever made its way into bottles. Well, tomorrow evening for a limited time, there will be 750mL bottles of Kerplunk! Get them while you can!

Pilgramage to Dark Lord Day 2009

After the fiasco of last year, I considered not attending the 2009 event, but it feels like with the new “golden ticket” program, Three Floyds may have a handle on the event today. Except that it’s pushing 7 AM Central, and they haven’t posted how many bottles a ticket holder can purchase yet – cash only, $15 – I’m thinking the ATM lines are going to be the ones to worry about this year!

I’m (voluntarily) stuck in Philadelphia, so I missed out on the pre-DLD festivities, but the text messages and Facebook updates sounded like everyone is having a great time.

Can’t wait to be there!

Sweet Stouts – Priming up for EBF

I’ve neglected to follow up on the rest of our NC trip, and already we’ve already finished up another…Extreme Beer Fest!

I started this post on Friday, and it just goes to show that drinking and blogging don’t mix, as I never finished writing about the sweet stouts that stood out on that day as terrific primers for the festival ahead.

We stopped in Willimantic, CT at the old post office, which is now Willimantic Brewing Company, for lunch. I totally enjoyed my first S.W.A.K. Stout (5.4% ABV) so much that instead of trying something new, I had another! This is described by the brewery as an unfiltered Black Ale mashed with seven malts, hopped with Saaz and “Sealed With A Kiss” of vanilla. It was outstanding!

When we arrived in Boston, we started out by sharing a growler of Captain Lawrence Espresso Stout before taking the T to Redbones for barbeque and their 24 taps, including a large selection of Sixpoint beers (I must admit I ate vegetarian and drank water from a mason jar, so I don’t have many comments on the ‘que or the beers based on the tiny sips I had…)

Our final stop for the night was Cambridge Brewing Company where I had the CaCow! Chocolate Milk Stout (6.4% ABV). Brewed with barley, oats and an addition of lactose, the description says CaCow! was additionally aged with cacao nibs from Taza Chocolate in Somerville, and house-made vanilla extract to balance the roast with a little extra sweetness. We had terrible service at CBC – pretty much ignored by the wait staff – but every beer at the table was delightful.

It was a great first night in Boston, with many, many great beers to follow!

HopFest and StoutFest

Two private tasting parties yielded a great weekend beer list! Some of the things we pulled out were pretty amazing, and our party hosts provided an outstanding setting for tasting.

The HopFest

On Friday night, a small group of us gathered to share growlers. Hops were out in full force to make up this list.

We started with Rock Bottom Sub Zero IPA, which Ffej and Brandi picked up earlier in the day at King of Prussia. It’s a Simcoe-hop-based IPA, and had a really nice balance of piney and citrusy hop flavors. As one of the Brewmaster’s specials, it doesn’t appear on the website, but reviews can be read at Beer Advocate.

Next it was Pure Hoppiness from Alpine Beer Company. Alpine uses hops in the boil, runs it through a  hopback, and also dry-hops this Double IPA. This was a brighter, sweeter IPA. Both Ffej and D mentioned tropical and citrus fruit overtones; I thought the pine-sap sweetness and light malt flavors were in perfect harmony.

For our third offering, we opened a growler of Surly Grit 16. This is a Double IPA which was released as a growler-only special in recognition of loyal customers during the last days in which Surly was allowed to sell growlers due to current MN law. (In 2008, Surly sold over 3500 barrels of beer; MN law only allows off-sale licenses for breweries producing less than 3500 barrels. They can’t get the license in 2009 without cutting production, so no more growler sales, no more Darkness Day, and no more SurlyFest until/unless the law is changed.)

30 bbls of 16 Grit were brewed, but a couple were sucked up during the dry-hopping process. 901 growlers were sold on the first day.  16 Grit was kettle hopped with Warrior, Amarillo and Glacier hops, then dry-hopped twice with Glacier and Amarillo. It came out to 9% ABV (110 IBUs), and the folks at Surly described it as well balanced, caramel-oat malt flavors and huge orange lemon aroma finishing with a pithy bitterness.

D and I had a growler lined up for ourselves, but it slipped away. Luckily, Dain was able to score one and kind enough to share it. (There is a video of someone – not us – enjoying a growler…it picks up after minute #2.) It was a real treat just to get a glass.

Finally, we had Hopsickle Triple IPA from Moylan’s, which D picked up in a swingtopbottle. Brewed withTomahawk, Cascade and Centennial hops, this is a potent beverage with incredible hop stickiness.

I must make a special note here to say that we were pleased to see Troeg’s Nugget Nectar on tap at The Old Corner Hotel in Williamsport on Saturday night. Unfortunately, the staff there don’t seem to know what a great beer they’ve got (it doesn’t even have a unique tap handle.) But we did!

The StoutFest

Our friends David and Sarah hosted a Sunday stout tasting as an opportunity to clear out their beer cellar a little bit. It was a really fun event because they organized the afternoon as a blind tasting. We started with the line-up of five Coffee Stouts and one lone doppelbock, followed by 16 Imperial Stouts. I know this sounds like a lot, but the servings were very small with such a nice group of people doing the tasting.

David masked the bottles well, and poured a small amount for each person, and then we were asked to rate the beer on a scale of 1 to 10, as well as name the beer (it was a multiple choice test.) What an interesting experiment – a test of our own senses and perceptions. When the real names of the beers were revealed at the end, many of us were surprised at our guesses as well as our ratings.

Finally, the scores were averaged, and we were all sent a copy of the scored results. Here they are, scored from highest to lowest:

Coffee Stouts

  1. Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast (1st bottling); Overall score of 7.73
  2. Pisgah Valdez; Overall score of 7.5
  3. Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel Péché Mortel; Overall score of 7.32
  4. Alesmith Speedway Stout; Overall score of 7.08
  5. Ithaca Kaffinator; Overall score of 6.7
  6. Deschutes Black Butte XX; Overall score of 6.25
  7. Mikkeller Black Hole; Overall score of 4.93

Imperial Stouts

  1. Goose Island Bourbon County Stout 2008 ;Overall Score of 9.0
  2. Foothills Sexual Chocolate; Overall score of 7.63
  3. Amager Bryghus Hr. Frederiksen; Overall score of 7.44
  4. (tie) Hoppin’ Frog B.O.R.I.S. The Crusher Oatmeal-Imperial Stout (2007); Overall score of 7.08  and Pennichuck Pozharnik Whiskey Barrel Aged Brewers Reserve; Overall score of 7.08 (more higher marks)
  5. Three Floyds Dark Lord (2007); Overall score of 7.04
  6. (tie) Stone Imperial Russian Stout 2008  Overall score of 7.0 and Deschutes The Abyss (2006); Overall score of 7.0 (more higher marks)
  7. Stone 12th Anniversary Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout; Overall score of 6.73
  8. (tie) Stoudt’s Barrel Aged Fat Dog (2008 whiskey); Overall score of 6.54 and Oskar Blues Ten FIDY; Overall score of 6.54 (more higher marks)
  9. Left Hand Imperial Stout; Overall score of 6.42
  10. Highland Imperial Black Mocha Stout; Overall score of 6.23
  11. Odell Imperial Stout; Overall score of 6.12
  12. Great Divide Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout (2007); Overall score of 6.08
  13. Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout 2008  Overall score of 6.0

At some point I may go back and add links to these, but it’s another one of those nights where I stayed up too late.

Many, many thanks to our hosts for providing such a nice selection of beers, an interesting event and great food and coffee (fresh from Costa Rica!)

Wolaver Beer at The Wave (Disney Contemporary Resort)

Our first meal at Disney World was outstanding. We went to The Wave at the Contemporary Resort, where I was looking forward to the flight of Orlando Brewing organic ales they advertised on the website. Not that I thought they would be very special – probably not as interesting as some other beers, but more interesting than a regular A-M-C line-up.

As it turns out, The Wave JUST (like, in the last month) changed their organic beer carrier, and it’s now Wolaver ales from Middlebury, VT – the organic line of Otter Creek Brewing Company. Last night on the menu, they had the Pale Ale, Brown Ale and Oatmeal Stout.

Hearing this news, I decided not to pay Disney prices for beer I know I have either had or can get elsewhere, but I was pleased to see the quality of beer was worthy of such a nice restaurant.

We chose a lovely wine for the table, which paired well with my “Sustainable Fish of the Day” over edamame stew with cilantro chutney (this was outstanding!)  I enjoyed the multi-grain bread with red wine sea salt butter, and mini-deserts like lemon yogurt sorbet with blueberry compote and chocolate-mint mousse made for a nice finish.

We don’t even go into the parks until Tuesday, and already, it’s simply magical!

Steel Drivin’ Stout

Some news from back home, which I hope it’s okay to be spreading…

Mike Hiller started brewing Steel Drivin’ Stout in the last week.  We’re told that he threw in some oatmeal, some chocolate malt, and plenty of caramel malt and that the aroma in the mash is just sublime! It’s going to be 6% alcohol, so it’ll be a nice treat for these chilly fall evenings.

This will be beer #5 in Bavarian Barbarian’s line-up. If the quality and popularity of his other beers are any indication, this is a beer not to be missed!

Officer Sassy and the Dark Lord

I’m not going to waste my time and energy posting negative thoughts on Dark Lord Day 2008 – I certainly had some, but plenty of people have posted the whiny thoughts and I’ll be happy to point you there (see this post, which will link you to griping on the forums.) I can’t disagree with most of it, but I also can’t see dwelling on it. Besides – don’t I look happy?

Waiting for Dark Lord  That’s not a photo of drunk – that’s exhilaration (many thanks to Ev for the costume inspiration…after the hat exchange, my companions started calling me Officer Sassy. With a Troeg’s work shirt, a little bedazzling and a Marshall’s badge from Dark Horse, I was set!)

Overall, I had a FABULOUS time! I traveled with fun people, we stopped at some great breweries along the way out and back, and it was my pleasure to catch up with fellow beer enthusiasts in the parking lot of Three Floyd’s. It started out as a chilly day (or, as I pointed out, cellar temperature), and I was thrilled that I purchased a cozy long sleeve t-shirt from Bell’s – I needed it with that wind!

Derek, Kim and Heath

I owe a heap of thanks to Kim for being our able (read sober) driver and trip coordinator – she did a super job at both! Heath and Derek were great traveling companions, making sure we didn’t miss a single thing (well, Cereal City was a miss for now-obvious reasons, but all of the beer stops were right on!) There are a lot of terrific beer people in the world, but this was a crew I was more than happy to spend four days in the car with! 
Jim and Joan sharing Pisgah Baptista!

Uncle Jedi and Joan (aka Mrs. Jedi) get the hospitality prize for making a place for us in the line. They are always a treat to hang out with, as are the entire Free the Hops clan (not all of them are in the photo below…just the ones wearing kilts!)

Free the Hops!

Speaking of the line, a couple of bloggers mapped the beer line, and this was one of my favorite renditions. I just couldn’t get an accurate photo of it, which I estimated to be 4500 people stretched over no less than 1/2 a mile. I was so glad to get my six bottles of Dark Lord Imperial Stout, and also my allotted two bottles of Hvedegoop Wheat Wine (a surprise for D.) When we packed it all in the car, it was obvious we weren’t even going to attempt getting more.

It\'s full  Me with Officer Hall  PA Girls love beer!

Meeting Officer Hall and collecting his trading card made my day (next time, I’ll need an “Officer Sassy” card.) And I thank Aaron for introducing me to April (and April for the photo with an inebriated stranger!)

Everyone at the event in a brew-sharing mood gets a big thank you, too! I shared my Troeg’s Nugget Nectar, but kept looking for an opportunity to pop my bottle of Otto’s Double D and just never saw an opening (no offense to Otto’s, but the bottles being passed around we far superior!)

There are some additional summaries blogged here and here, and a little video coverage.

One of my favorite summaries of the event was on the Vagoscribe blog– it is both poetic and completely descriptive of the experience. There are no expressions of detestation, anger or even elation, which is kind of how I left this year’s experience (last year, I departed full of elation and urine – thanks, FFF, for the improved toilet situation this year.)

By 2:30 on Saturday, I did say, “where is the get-the-hell-out-of-here line?,” simply because the lines were so disorganized. I felt like a character in Hope for the Flowers (read pages 12-17 and you’ll understand what I mean!) – it was impossible to tell which line led to which final destination or how long it would take to get there. We decided to find food, clean bathrooms and great beer, which I will talk about in my next post…when I get to it.

Until then, I hope you, too, have found some good beer with good friends!

 

 

Dreaming of Chocolate

Tonight I’m escaping the cold, driving rain by sitting inside enjoying a Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout (limited bottling – vintage ’04-’05.)  It has a rich,  sharp and roasty chocolate flavor. The complexity of chocolate, hops, and a subtle alcohol bite is exciting to the palate, and stimulates my brain to consider the number of lovely chocolate-inspired beers out there.

One of my new favorites is Southern Tier Imperial Choklat Stout, which is part of the Blackwater Series of big beers. Weighing in at 11% ABV, this amazing beverage is brewed with bittersweet Belgian chocolate, and while loved by many, is a polarizing brew. People who love it, LOVE it. Others say it is too sweet and not appealing at all. My initial impressions were that it is a smooth, creamy chocolate flavor, much like a Frosty(TM) or, as I drank more of it, the chocolaty center of a Tootsie Pop – the chocolate ones, and just at the point where you cross over from the pop to the Tootsie Roll inside. I actually loved this anonymous review in Motif magazine:

You might be seeing Oompa Loompas if you don’t treat this 11% ABV Wonka bar with care. Most chocolate stouts hint at the chocolate, Choklat puts it right up front and it slides right down yer hole. The milk chocolate is balanced nicely with some piney hops, and hints of roasted barley and coffee.

And then there was the recent announcement of Dogfish Head Theobroma which will debut during Philly Beer Week.  This is a 10% ABV brew based on chemical analysis of pottery fragments found in Honduras and will contain cacao powder, cacao nibs, honey, chilies and annatto (an aromatic seed.)  Patrick McGovern, senior research scientist at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (and acquaintance to D through the birding world), performed the analysis. He is the same man responsible for DFH Midas Touch Golden Elixir, and ancient honey beer based on analysis of contents found in the tomb of King Midas, and DFH Chateau Jiahu – a rice, honey and fruit beer with it’s foundation in ancient China.

A few weeks ago, I enjoyed the Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence on tap.  This is a lighter stout made with Belgian dark chocolate. It was lightly bitter and not at all heavy or sweet. And it is hard not to enjoy the well balanced Rogue Chocolate Stout, which was originally created for export to Japan (What’s that all about?!? Create it and export it to MY house!)  This is one I recently enjoyed from the bottle with friends.

In December 2007, I was thrilled to find Choco Latte Porter from San Diego Brewing Company which is poured on nitrogen (the tap handle at Liar’s Club was a Hershey Bar!) This thin porter had surprisingly strong chocolate overtones and hints of dark-roast coffee.  And I’m always pleased to be presented with Young’s Double Chocolate Stout. This thick, black beverage features a fabulous blend of chocolate and coffee bean, while maintaining a sweet, smooth body with a modestly warm alcohol burn.

I’m hoping that a creative brewery like Pisgah or Weyerbacher might try a chocolate stout sometime soon. Maybe for the next cold weather season?  Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to the day we get to brew our own next concoction – C.O.W. Stout – an oatmeal stout brewed with chocolate and put into secondary fermentation on a bed of toasted walnuts.

Foothills (Winston-Salem, NC)

I’ve found some time to post more notes from Thursday, so here is my report from our lunch at Foothills Brewing Company. There hasn’t been a whole lot of change since our last visit, so I won’t ramble on here about it. As expected, the draft selection was fabulous, but to start our day off slowly:

  • I only had one – the Seeing Double IPA(9.5%; 110 IBUs), which is just a wonderful example of a double IPA. Nothing overpowers (other than the fact that it is a double IPA!); it’s just a warm, sweet nectar. It is served in a 10 oz glass, and the deep copper color is just beautiful. It has a light citrus aroma, and a pine hop bite. Cloudiness in the glass adds to the mystery of this double IPA.
  • D had the Hoppyum IPA(6.75% ABV) to start, while his Sexual Chocolate Imperial Stout had time to warm. This is so different from the Seeing Double IPA. It is a clear copper color with a crisp finish. Simply a pleasant American IPA.
  • The Sexual Chocolate Imperial Stout (10.5% ABV) was so much better than last February. Last year it was really hot – really to the point that I couldn’t drink it – it ruined my taste buds. This year, it still has an obvious high alcohol burn, but the rich flavors of chocolate and roasted malts, and the sweetness of dark fruits come through well. This beverage has a strong alcohol burn, which will mellow out over time. I believe last year I called the aroma flammable, but this year’s brew is sweet to the nose.

The best thing about our visit was that we got to meet Jamie Bartholomaus, the owner and brewer of Foothills, and a Pennsylvania native. It was so kind of his wife, Sarah, to stop by and check on our table. She talked with us a bit, and picked up on the fact that we were interested in meeting him. He was able to sit down, taking time to chat for awhile.

We learned his interesting history in brewing, and one of his former brewing experiences was at Olde Hickory Brewing Company, and the former brewing facility (now more of a restaurant and small batch brewing facility) was on the way out of town.  We confirmed our suspicion that the Sexual Chocolate was brewed a little earlier this year (October) and tweaked just enough to make it more enjoyable in February (in time for the bottle release, although our bottles will certainly sit for awhile longer!) It sounds like it will be easy to find a glass in Asheville (and other locations for anyone not visiting Asheville!), but he held back at least 12 kegs for aging and release throughout the year. Naturally, Foothills will be at Brewgrass, but also he mentioned a food/beer pairing he’ll be attending called Savor in DC. He gave us a sample of the People’s Porter as well. It would have been lovely to stay longer and drink a whole glass, but we needed to move on.

But I would be remiss in ending this post without talking about the food. Our waiter, Stephen, was quite conscientious despite the busy lunch crowd. He talked to us about some of the menu changes (they dropped the salad with chevre, oranges and snow peas that I loved so much!), but he made other recommendations. I had the Greek salad made with romaine and spinach, topped with balsamic onions, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts and feta. The green goddess dressing (made with cream cheese) was a bit too thick for my taste, so I had the balsamic vinaigrette. Along with it, I enjoyed a cup of the creamy She Crab Soup, which had a little zip to it, and small pieces of shell, just so you know it’s authentic! D had the Cuban sandwich, which came with some terrific fries and a wonderful garlic dill pickle spear.

It’s hard not to enjoy yourself at Foothills, but do take quarters for the meter (only 25-cents an hour) and keep it fed!