It’s time, it’s time! My annual tradition of balling out on stouts to kick off a new year of beer tastings! Typically this is one of my most popular tastings, though this year there was a slight slump in attendance. That’s okay though, because those that passed up the opportunity may regret it after seeing what was poured. They will rue the day! Next to mixed fermented and barrel fermented sour beers, stouts and porters are among the most expensive and thoughtful beers available. These sorts of tastings allow us to open the beers you may normally shy away from and share them among friends. On top of that, Peasant cheese puts together boards full of delicious snacks to go with our beverages. It’s a lot of value packed into a couple of hours!
It’s always fun to tweak these tastings to make something new and keep them fresh. Normally I would run the gamut of thick dark beers, and take you on a tour of porters, Baltic porters, Stouts, imperials and all the like. This time, however, I wanted to showcase modern beer making because with beer being at the absolute height of its popularity, it’s forcing the crowded brewing market to push creativity and boundaries. So there are a lot of flavours flying around, a lot of non-traditional ingredients and even new sub-styles (or maybe even sub-sub-styles?) being utilized and created. As much as I love a good ol’ classic stout, some of the world’s best brewers are incorporating some very special things into beer and creating things of true beauty. Strap yourself in and read on!
Rorschach Chocolate Milk Stout by Annex Ales: This medium-to-full bodied stout has a decent hit of sweetness behind the toasty breads and generous cacao nib chocolatiness. Not too roasty, so the chocolate shines alone with a noticeable flavour of lactose. ($16.99 for a 4-pack of tall cans, or grab a growler of it from our growler bar before it gets tapped out!)
Ghost Train Oatmeal Stout by Hells Basement: Cocoa and hints of coffee and breakfast breads on a medium-weight body with a decently silky feel. Hefty roasty notes with hints of more bitter dark chocolate and slight herbal hop qualities. A super tasty oatmeal stout! ($17.19 for a 6-pack of cans)
Origins of Darkness By Collective Arts and Forbidden Roots: This is one of 6 different stout collaborations with different brewers and food producers. This one is made with Radish honey (which is delicate and somewhat leafy and takes on flavours nicely), and guajillo chiles that enhance the chocolatey notes and give a hit of herbaceousness. Out of the 6 different stouts, this one was the most satisfying to me. ($13.39 for a 500mL bottle)
Skeleton Key by Bellwoods: This imperial stout brewed with spices and vanilla is then aged in rum barrels. The outcome is a lovely and complex beer with warming spice and creamy vanilla left and right. The rum barrel enhances the sweetness nicely and compliments the vanilla just as you’d think it would. Though this beer is on the pricier side, there is nothing else like it in the province, I guarantee! ($24.99 for a 500mL bottle)
Evil Twin Irish-ish Coffee Stout: This monster of a beer is brewed with lactose, demerara sugar, nutmeg, vanilla, medium-toasted oak, and coffee. It’s moderately sweet with a decent amount of vanilla blanketed by intense coffee notes that show through dominantly via volatile acids. Intense and beautiful. ($11.89 for a 473mL tall can)
Bakery Coconut Macaroon by The Bruery: I have to say I was looking forward to this beer since I first heard of it. Imperial stout, bourbon barrels, coconut, vanilla, 13%abv… all those magic words! It’s sweet and voluptuous and all pastry-like. You owe it to yourself to try this! ($16.19 for a 473mL tall can)
Banished: Tough Love by Crux: This is a big and burly Russian Imperial Stout made in homage to those originally made for the likes of Catherine the Great. The addition of malted rye and smoked wheat give layers of depth unseen in most table beers. ($35.79 for a 750mL bottle)
So as you can see, this was a palate-assaulting evening. There are a lot of strong and cloying flavours there, and we made sure to take our time going through these. The majority of these are also over 10%abv so we were also feeling just fine in the end! The evening’s favourites in cases like these are always tough because a lot of it comes down to if you like doughnuts better than chocolate milk? Or Rum vanilla better than coffee? I tried to keep things as objective as I could, but I understand that in a tasting, at the end of the day you have to ask yourself if you’d drink that beer again, regardless of if it’s put together to perfection.
There was a three-way tie for first place so I’m not even going to go 1st, 2nd and 3rd place. Bellwoods, The Bruery and Evil Twin were easily the best of the bunch, and funny enough they were also the most interestingly flavoured. So I had some great modern beer palates amongst my guests!
Ok, I don’t like making these too long so I’m going to cut it here. Stay tuned for my next blog post which will likely be Rum (Why are so many rums names, Ron, anyway?).