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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Welcome to Stout month!

The February stout candidates. If you can't tell I have been 
waiting for this month for a good while. Vote in the comments 
for which ones should be reviewed. See the list at the bottom.

It’s February, the longest month of the year for me. I have never been able to put my finger on why, but this month bums me out. I’ve decided to change it up a bit though because this year February is stout month for Jolly Good Fellows and that makes me incredibly happy. When this blog was just an idea being tossed around my mind there were a few things I knew for certain would get written about no matter what final form the blog would be. The magical world of stouts was very high on the short list. 

If you can’t tell already I love stouts. They are one of my favorite styles of beer, partly because they are big, rich, and complex, and also because there is incredibly diversity in the stout world.

So what is a stout? Well for starters it is ale, not a lager, it derives it dark color, deep brown to pitch black from the roasted grains used to brew it. Those grains also provide the bitterness. Stouts don’t usually have to much hop character and they work well as flavor vehicles building complexity and richness. When it comes to types of stout, well the sky is the limit: coffee stouts, dry stouts, milk stouts, imperial stouts, oatmeal stouts, chocolate stouts, fruit stouts etc. You get the picture.

My intro to stouts
(Original here)
I’d argue that when most people think of a stout they think of Guinness, after all it is one of the best known beers in the world. My own gateway into the stout world was not through that door though; instead it was Mackeson’s XXX Stout, a beer that is no longer brewed in the US. (Supposedly Carib Brewing imports from the Caribbean but I’m not sure where. If somebody knows the answer then please tell me because I would really like to get my hands on a few bottles again.) It was sweeter, darker, and in my opinion better than anything else I was drinking at the time. I splashed around in the stout pool for awhile trying Young’s and Guinness, but it wasn’t until I was living in Stevens Point where I discovered my benchmark stout and my love of the style really took off. So let’s dive into our first review of this month, the stout that changed it all, Central Waters Satin Solstice Imperial Stout.

Not only one of my favorite stouts,
but all time favorite beers.
I prefer to actually let this beer warm up a bit before I pour it, I believe it shows the character better. The bottle had been out of the refrigerator for over an hour and was just cool to the touch. This beer poured with a nice head that dissipated fairly quickly, it was clear and very dark, almost black, creating a nice mirror effect on the glass. It has minimal carbonation, and a smooth taste on the tongue; coffee and hint of caramel stick around in the aftertaste. This beer is an easy drinker that has a decent share of complexity to it. ABV is 7.5% which is light for the imperials but it still creates a nice warming feeling as you drink it. 

I can still tell why this beer captivated me over a decade ago. It has enough body and complexity to serve as a first line representative of the imperial stout style. It is a fairly welcoming beer. I’ll admit there are better stouts out there but this is my benchmark of comparison and a personal favorite that has proven very reliable.

Here is the “party line” on this beer:

This smooth, creamy stout and a crackling fireplace are the perfect answer to a wintery evening in Wisconsin. The rich coffee flavor compliments the “warm fuzzy feeling” you get from the abundant alcohol. Enjoy in moderation.

Finally I was very prepared for this month so there are a lot of candidates. Here is the list of stouts that I currently have in stock

Avery Out of Bounds Stout (Colorado)
Bell’s Special Double Cream Stout (Michigan)
Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout (New York)
Butternuts Moo Thunder Stout (New York)
Central Waters Bourbon Barrel Stout 2010 (Wisconsin)
Dogfish Head World Wide Stout (Delaware)
DuClaw Naked Fish Chocolate Raspberry Stout (Maryland)
Fort Collins Double Chocolate Stout (Colorado)
Founders Breakfast Stout (Michigan)
Founders Imperial Stout (Michigan)
Guinness Foreign Extra Stout (Ireland)
Hitachino Espresso Stout (Japan)
Jolly Pumpkin Madrugada Obscura Dark Dawn Stout (Michigan)
Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout (California)
Lancaster Milk Stout (Pennsylvania)
Lion Stout (Sri Lanka)
Mendocino Oatmeal Stout (California)
Oskar Blues Ten Fidy Imperial Stout (Colorado)
Ridgeway Lump of Coal Dark Holiday Stout (England)
Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout (England)
Southern Tier Choklat Imperial Stout (New York)
Southern Tier Jah*va Imperial Coffe Stout (New York)
Southern Tier Oat Imperial Oatmeal Stout (New York)
Southern Tier 2X Stout (New York)
Tyranena Down ‘n Dirty Chocolate Oatmeal Stout (Wisconsin)
Young’s Double Chocolate Stout (England)

So here’s the deal, pick which ones I should take a closer look at and write up over the course of February. Let me know your thoughts in the comments!


  1. Interesting to choose stouts, never been big on my list. But then again I am geared to give them another shot. Pretty much my experience with stouts have been limited to Guinness. I did a little bit of web crawling for the stout you listed Mackeson's XXX. It is claimed that there is a distrubuter down in Florida called DCI Miami Inc. However it's not the same. This one has only a 4.9 ABV and it is brewed in Trinidad from Carib brewery. I will try and do a little more research on the brewery and distributor.

    1. Craig, best to do stouts while its still "cold." They are late fall through early spring thing for me. As it starts to warm up my taste in beer will move over to wits, hefe-weizens, and pilsners. I think that holds true for a lot of folks. I hope you give stouts a chance they have a lot of depth to them and can be very rewarding once you crack your personal code about them.

      As for the Mackeson's that is pretty good intel. It used to be contracted brewed in Cinncinnati unitl a few years ago. The "American" version that was produced was about the same ABV as the one you mentioned from Carib brewing so they may be more similar than not.

  2. Some line up! I have to remember to ship you some stuff from the West Coast so you can get some of
    "my hood" in the mix!