On a cold winter’s night, there is only one thing on my mind. Stouts! So I gathered 18 or so beer lovers, and took the opportunity to introduce them all to some of the best this wonderfully abundant province (beer wise) has to offer. It’s hard to ignore how perfect a thick, warming stout is in the dead of winter, except for one thing… Our January was not nearly as cold as it normally is! Am I complaining? No no no, I’m really not. I’ve always been of the opinion that a good stout goes with any time of the year, so this is more of an opportunity to share that opinion, and see if I can sway anyone else to my side of the fence. so let’s see what happened!
Janice Beaton Fine Cheeses provided some yummy snacks for us to experiment with pairing. I brought stouts of all variants: Milk stout, oatmeal stout, Russian imperial, barrel aged, chili pepper aged, coffee. The sheer variety and quality of the line-up was borderline crazy. I knew this was going to be a memorable tasting.
The tasting menu was as follows:
This porter hailing from Scottland was placed in the tasting in order to demonstrate the blurry lines between stouts and porters stylistically. This brew is soft and velvety, with aromas of chocolate and earth (almost mushroomy), medium-dry maltiness and chocolate all throughout. At 6% abv, it’s suitable for any time, but fits so well on a cold evening. ($4.09 for 330 mL bottle)
Hailing from Seattle Washington, this stout was given generous late hop additions that give a piney, citrusy nose, along with the roasted malt. An americanized stout through and through. The healthy dose of oats combines with the roasted malts to give a protein heavy, full bodied stout with moderate alcohol content. Toasty flavors along with notes of sweet vanilla, cocoa, and a hoppy, bitter finish. A brilliant example of what hops can do to a stout. (7.5abv, $8.49 for 650 mL bottle)
Many have already come to love this Quebecois example of a classic style. Lactose (an unfermentable sugar) is added to this stout to give it a silky, creamy body, and increase the sweetness. Creamy coffee and chocolate dominate the palate, with roasted grain roughness dancing throughout. I touch of bitterness and acidity mellow everything out at the end, and keep your tongue waiting for the next sip. (9%abv, $6.99 for 500 mL bottle)
One of the first real rock stars of the evening, Prairie Bomb! was a surprising arrival in the province. This beast of an imperial stout is aged on vanilla beans, cocoa nibs, coffee and ancho chili peppers. The cocoa and coffee come together to add a dry, fudgy character, with vanilla rounding out each taste. The chili added a much appreciated, light burn on the finish, just enough to remind you it’s there. Huge alcohol (14%abv) that’s hidden well under the uncharacteristically light body. ($12.89 for 330mL bottle *sold out until further notice*)
An incredibly loved beer from one of the world’s top brewers, this imperial coffee stout has been a long time favorite for beer geeks and not-so-beer geeks alike. Brilliantly built from rich dark coffee and roasted malts, this stands out as one of the best stouts in Canada, and as of this post, is #50 on Ratebeerâ€™s top 50 beers in the world (falling from #26 or so last year).Â Aside from the deeply rich, but dry palate, dried cherries and chocolate lead into the bitter and still intensely roasted finish. (9.5%abv, $20.99 for 6x330mL bottles)
Another cult stout made it’s way into the province lately, this one hailing from Colorado’s own Oskar Blues. If thick, intensely rich stouts are what you’re after, then look no further. As dark as pitch, and a near molasses-like viscosity, all light is extinguished while passing through a pint of this. Dark chocolate, and toffee, coffee and caramel all intermingle on the palate. High IBU’s just come through the massive malt, along with slight teriyaki, soy saucy notes. Not for the faint of heart. (10.5%abv, $21.59 for 4x355mL cans)
The night was not over yet, there was still one more blockbuster to taste. This one hailing from Truckee California, where they take their Russian Imperial Stout, and batch age it in one of a dozen or so different barrels from different bourbon or other spirit distilleries. Tonight’s was aged in barrels that held the Elija Craig 12 year old bourbon. The rough American spirit came through right away on the nose and the palate. There was no mistaking what kind spirit that barrel held. Bourbon, vanilla and American oak are all over the palate here. Rich roasty flavors along with soy saucy oxidation notes are enhanced by bright alcohol volatility. (11.9%abv, $39.39 for 650mL bottle, *different Barrel types still available*)
We took our time, going through each and every one. Everyone was in great spirits, and conversation flowed like the beautiful ales they shared. We ended off with a reflection on what we all just experienced.
Although every beer here is a real winner (I mean why else would I have chosen them?), we still had to see which were the favorites of the night. In first place, Prairie Bomb! swept floor with nearly everyone voting for it, we then promptly sold out of it (pay attention to our Twitter or Facebook to see if we get more in).
In second place is the Eclipse Barrel aged stout, which also wasn’t too surprising. A very unique experience for anyone who hasn’t tried a bourbon aged beer before. Plus, the colored wax sealed top adds to the whole aesthetic.
Vache Folle Milk Stout came in third place to my surprise. The sweet style is certainly a crowd pleaser. This was also promptly sold out, but as of this post, we have more in stock!
There you have it! Arguably the best stouts in the store… no, in the province! Remember, stouts aren’t just for snowy nights, but there’s still a lot of winter left for us, so come check out our amazing selection and pick yourself out something dark and tasty.