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!

Advertisements

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.

Firkin Friday at Market Cross

Nugget Nectar on Firkin Friday at Market Cross

In fitting with my plan to attend at least four Tröeg’s Nugget Nectarfirkin tappings this year, I gathered a bunch of coworkers on Friday night and we headed down to the Market Cross Pub to enjoy the third of my targeted four.

Friends gather at Market Cross Pub for Firkin Friday

In contrast to the crowded tables and line wrapped around the room at General Sutter, Market Cross had plenty of tables available, and later in the evening several empty seats at the bar. That was nice, because Market Cross is usually so packed that it’s almost uncomfortable.

The Nugget Nectar was served in 20-oz glasses, and we all started with one – several of us had two by the end of the night. Additional beers enjoyed at our table were Ace Perry Cider (bottle) and Young’s Double Chocolate Stout (draft.)

Young’s Double Chocolate Stout

We enjoyed some great food, too: excellent soups (garlic French onion and tomato basil bisque), fish and chips, beef pastie, Beef ‘n Guinness, salads…  Everyone was quite satisfied with the food and the beers. 

Many thanks to Barbara, Eric, Dick, Mary Sue, Karen and Dave for coming out!

Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery, Farmville NC

How very lucky for us that Duck-Rabbit was brewing on Friday, and accepted us as visitors!  This crude-on-the-outside building on the edge of town is a sparkling vision on the inside.  The smell of brewing came wafting out the doors, and it was fabulous to meet the friendly guys inside.

Paul (the owner and head brewer) and Ken (the self-described crazy homebrewer and right-hand man) are masters of the craft and extremely personable guys.  They run a great operation, and focus on dark beers.  Paul is a philosopher (formerly a professor, if I understood correctly), and Siebel graduate.  He’s been brewing for 20 years, and worked in Cincinnati and Louisville (Pipkin – now defunct) before opening this facility with a 20-barrel brew kettle.

They can’t sell on the premisis, but pointed us in the direction to where we could purchase Duck-Rabbit products.  But we were offered tastings of the four standard brews.  Here are a few (brief) impressions:

  • * Amber – good tasting American amber; high in carbonation
  • * Porter – really enjoyable; dark, roasty and a smooth oiliness in the mouthfeel
  • * Brown Ale – my favorite of all the ales; full hoppy flavor – made with Amarillo (YUM!) and Saaz hops, it had a fabulous aroma and equally pleasing flavor; not an English Brown, but a hopped-up good ol’ American brown
  • * Milk Stout – the subtle sweetness of this stout gave it a bright, lively flavor

We learned that the Brown Ale is made with a process called First Wort Hopping (FWH), which was a new concept to both of us.  It raises the IBU’s without creating an overpowering hop aroma or bitterness, resulting in a more balanced beer.  Perhaps that is the other reason I liked it so much.

We also learned about the seasonals: Barleywine (made with 95% Amarillo hops) in the winter, Rabid Duck Imperial Stout in the spring, Wee Heavy Scotch Style Ale in the summer and Baltic Porter in the fall.

I hope to get photos up as soon as we get home…we’ll see if that happens!