Stouts: The Week Of Ten Stouts

I’ve written about plenty of stouts before but never a collection this big: imperial stouts, imperial extra double stout and just plain stouts, from four US states as well as Quebec, England and Australia. Stout has experienced a great diversification in its sub-styles through the explosion of craft brewing over the last few years. In his 1977 edition of The World Guide to Beer Michael Jackson generally describes three: bitter stout, milk or sweet stout and Russian or imperial stout. By 1995, Michael Lewis in his book Stout describes how to brew six different styles: west coast, Irish draught, dry, sweet, Caribbean and imperial.

Beyond these, I can think of two traditional styles including oatmeal and Baltic, though the second is a quibble with English made stout for the Russian export trade. In addition, just in the selection gathered above we have stouts with raspberry, coffee and chocolate added as well as stout stored in oak. Heck, just one brewer in Maine alone makes six different stouts. There has to be more…oh yes – oyster stout.

Stout’s roasted profile clearly gives craft brewers a great starting point to play with as they deem fit. My only problem is where to begin.

Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout 2006/2007: This is my third vintage of this brew from The Brooklyn Brewery. Darkest brown plummy oil thick ale with mocha rim and foam. Dry burnt toast scrapings, dry bakers chocolate and licorice. Fruit? Date and a touch of plum. A very well hidden 10.5%, almost 2% higher than in 2004/2005. Light cream yeast, slight chalkiness. Unlike last year’s take, French roast coffee and the ciggie ashtray effect did not spring to mind. I have another bottle in the stash and may have more to say. Some BAer unhappiness with this year’s model. Certainly a gentle imperial stout even at this strength.

Le Coq Imperial Extra Double Stout: Not imperial stout. Not double imperial stout. No, this is extra double imperial stout. Vintage 2001, this beer is made in England by Harvey and Son under license to a board of trustees and an Estonian brewery. The story packs the label so I won’t repeat the tale. Darkest brown, syrupy still ale with the thinnest of mocha film of a head that is gone in about five seconds. Nose is acidic and rich sherry. In the mouth licorice and beef gravy. Something ox-tail soup about it – gotta tell it like it is. Also plenty of blackened toast under the fatty richness. Smoke, too, and minty hop. Another sipper noted “marmite and oxo cubes.” Tangy and bone dry chocolate in the finish. Beer to soak a prime rib roast of beef in. Serious dissension amongst the BA set as a full 19% say no way. I would save the next bottle I found for a rib eye steak.

The Czar Imperial Stout: The 2005 brewing from Avery Brewing of Colorado, my first by them. After the condensed consumée above, a bit of a break even at 11.03%. Deep mahogany ale with rich mocha cream rich foam and rim. Apple butter and black rum on the nose. A walloping woo of deep and sticky pumpernickel malt, big and rich with plenty of fruit on the mouth, mostly pear and date – a very attractive combination I haven’t thought of before…now I’m thinking more about pie than stout. The yeast is creamy but the water may be a little hard, as I have found with some Colorado beer. On the finish there is a bit of telltale mineral cloy. Some spice way back there, curryish like cumin as much as anise. Really nice. And not just due to the lack of oxo cube references. A brave brewer to pass up the oxo cube notes. Some BAers debate the lack of the dry burnt toast scrapings. But they are outvoted 24 to 1. A good beer.

Raspberry Imperial Stout: from Weyerbacher of Pennsylvania. First impression – chocolate raspberry cheesecake in a bottle. The nose is full of fruit and comes across something like a ruby port – ok, maybe if the other nostril was deeply in embrace with a roasty toasty stout. In the mouth lots of true and zippy raspberry up front, then dry chocolate and mocha roasty stout then a far lighter finish than I would have expected. The minty hops open up nicely as the berry recedes. The brewer says this is an 8% which either means I am having a lot of heavy ale lately or this is a well hidden level of strength. 4% of BAers are not happy, citing plenty of stuff which proves again some people do not like most pretty fine beers.

Imperial Stout: from Schoune of the Quebec side of the south tip of the inter-provincial border with Quebec. Deep dark ale under a fine creamy tan head. Surprisingly good stout from a largely Belgian-style brewery. Dry roasty with a decent chalky background. Nice licorice-plummy notes in the middle. Finish has dry chocolate and minty hops. Nicely hidden 8.5% if the BAers are correct – a only two raters and they disagree. I like it. Sort of a dry Baltic style stout with all that licorice. Certainly the best Canadian take on an imperial stout I have tried…or seen for that matter.

Jah*va: An imperial coffee stout for day six of the week of stout. Have I mentioned I love Southern Tier? Every one I have of theirs speaks to their passion for quality craft beer. Brewed on 22 November 2005, this beer has Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee in the brew. Did I mention I know a man who knows the man who owns the Blue Mountain? It is the colour of a glass of molasses with a dark espresso foam head. A thick explosion of mouth-coating minted coffee with a tightly pack layering of fine graininess, like you get from a French press coffee pot. No plum, no fig, not dates. Just coffee, dry cocoa, a nod to mint (even with the 125 IBUs) with a thick creamy yeast. OK, maybe a date square thing in there with the sweetness, fruit and rich sweet grain. Top notch with a whopping 12% strength. Wow. Check out the brewery’s one page website. The BAers all love it. Fabulous.

Extra bonus side-by-side intermission: I found my last Brooklyn Chocolate Stout before the last of the Jah*va was gone. In a battle of the NY state imperial stouts, the BCS is decidedly lighter in the mouth, especially at the outset. The BSC head is the colour of maple walnut ice cream, the Jah*va’s is like milk chocolate. On the nose, Jah*va is pungent while BCS is quiet – as one would expect given they are hallmarks of each brewery’s style. In fact, for a 10.6% compared to a 12%, the difference is remarkable. But both are lovely.

Finger Lakes Stout: from the Ithaca Beer Co.’s winter mixed 12 box. I must like this because I seem to only have 3 oz left even though I just started the review. Light tan fine foamy rim over deep chestnut ale. After all the heavyweights above, a relief. Dutch licorice nose and as well as in the mouth along with a nice creamy, nutty, slightly sweet and slightly soured stout with a good but not overwhelming level of dry roastiness in the second half of the swallow. Some minty hop as is only right and proper. The brewery says it has 6.8% and there is a bit of uncertainty with the BAers as it is called, perhaps, Anniversary Stout there but not on the bottle.

Heresy: Imperial Stout aged in oak from Weyerbacher of Pennsylvania. The brewery says:

This incredibly intriguing Imperial Stout is made by aging our Old Heathen in some very famous Oak barrels that were used for aging bourbon! What do we have when we are done?

Entirely fine cream mocha head over deepest brown garnet tinged ale. The smell of coffee ice cream. Chocolate mocha ale with plenty of fruitiness: black cherry and vanilla. And the whiskey, a nod…a nod-ette. But it is there. Reminds me of Rogue Chocolate Stout with a bit more oomph. Decidedly smooth and rich but also with a fine grained texture in the mouthfeel. Not overly heavy, cream yeast. Very good. Whiskey, roasted malt and cream in the finish – a dark cream crowdie. 5% of BAers need their neck bolts tightened.

Imperial Stout: From Smuttynose of New Hampshire. Light milk chocolate head over medium dark black brown ale. On the snozz, minty hop, espresso and milk chocolate. The first sip is full of licorice and milk chocolate. Some plum and date back there with plenty of roasted malts. Dark chocolate, chalk and molasses finish. Brewed 15 March 2006:

Charles added 44 lbs of Cascade, split evenly between two batches, or about half a pound per barrel. We then transferred the beer onto seventy-eight pounds of an even mixture of Centennial and Columbus whole flowers, about one pound per barrel. The beer is a little top heavy in terms of the hopping but it seems to be smoothing out a bit as it’s aging. I’d give it six months or so, if you can wait that long.Dandy and big and smooth now nine or ten months later.

Best Extra Stout: From Coopers of Australia. Last of the ten. What a marathon. Cola coloured ale under mocha foam and rim. A soft stout with licorice up drink followed by an interestingly discordant move to toast scrape bunt barley with a reasonably rich mouthfeel – very nice and even a real ale sludge at the bottom. Hops are mainly mint but a bit of citrus in there as well. A very easy drinking stout. 6.3% and called a Foreign Stout over at the BA where 4% say no.

So another great exercise in compare and contrast. The best? Hard to say but Jav*ah was pretty darn nice.

Considering Barry Zito

Oddly, Barry Zito, whose best years were now three or four years ago, has been much discussed in the media this Yule – at least the media I am following. The interesting thing is that he has become sort of a benchmark for the end of value or perhaps overvalue. This has been something of a mad off-season for pitching so far, with an influx of Japanese hurlers as well as a massive and mad overpayment for third-in-the-line-up players like Ted Lily. As a result, Mr. Zito now sits as the supposed prize pick of all the trades with many owners now wondering what all the fuss might have been. Yet he he will play somewhere:

If he is comforted by staying on the West Coast, where he has lived and pitched, he may opt for San Francisco or Seattle. If he is intrigued by the challenge of pitching in New York, he will have at least one option, and maybe two. The Mets remain very interested in Zito but are not comfortable offering him more than $75 or $80 million. The Yankees? If they trade Randy Johnson, they will have an opening on the starting staff and a payroll that can more easily absorb Zito’s salary. But whether the Yankees value Zito enough to make a real run at him remains to be seen.

For November’s alleged $100 million dollar plus man that is quite a comedown. But, given that right now Boston looks like an incredible dominant pitching staff – at least on paper and inevitable injuries pending – like so much in life, there is at least desire if not demand to make quality out of what is available. The Times has a good multimedia bit on Mr. Zito. See him hold a guitar.

Barry Zito right now strikes me as a greater example of the risk of hype, one downside of the marketplace where your overconfidence in value swings the final price below what it might have been. I was struck by what I think was the same principle when looking at 42 inch screen TVs yesterday. The $300 dollar one at Loblaws with the huge tube ended up winning over the $800 to $2000 ones at Future Shop. Why? Because of that exact one word – why. Why spend so much now when in a year or two the big screens will do so much better for less? Why create a streamlined military based on flawed economic theory when suffocating domination is the tried and tested way? Why spend $100 million on Zito when that much or less will run a number of minor teams from which the next great pitcher will come? What do you do when you are most likely next year’s version of last year’s model?

Hair Of The Dog: Project Salvation

OK – so the issues are being worked out. And I had one Doggie Claws last night and it was infanticide, loverly but really under carbonated and cloudy. It struck me like a homebrew that I popped at two weeks rather than waiting for five to pass before I invaded its space.

As a result, we are going to work on a little experiment. In the lower box are 18 Doggie Claws under the drywall board which are under 12 Freds which is under drywall boards which are under 8 litres of water. So all in all there is about 30 pounds of weight on the lower beer and 20 on the upper. That should assist in keeping the caps in place and the seals secure.

Aside from those hibernating 30 beer, there are still seven Doggie Claw left without the weights and, after a little sharing and a little more tasting, the Fred has six unweighted bottles left some of which have very low fill lines. The best of these remaining bottles may get a wax seal to see if that can increase the carbonation or at least stop air getting in and spoiling the brew.

Click for a bigger view.

Update: An update on Project Salvation after eight months. Had a Fred last night and the yeast held up, keeping the air out at the start and the weights on top of the caps has maintained a thin line of cap to glass contact. And the beer is still quite wonderful.

A Fabulous Yule Bullet Pointy Chat

That is what I wish for you all. The gift of fabulousness. This season brings out the fabulousness in all of us and lets us witness the fabulousness in each other – in friends, family as well as strangers. Be fabulous to each other and to yourself. That is the true meaning of the season.

  • One way to be fabulous is to ensure you stuff double digit paper money into those Salvation Army kettles you run into in the malls and outside the liquor stores struggling to get the gin from shelve to punch bowl.
  • Gary is playing tunes from The Jam this week. Careful readers will know the tale of how that band and Paul Weller in particular got me through my late teens with a certain fabulous modish style. Where is my green German paratrooper parka anyway?
  • The Red Sox have had a run of signings for 2007, especially in the bullpen, that makes me proud of my six shirts: Coco, Tek, Nomar, a gold shirt, a Ted Williams rookie shirt and a long sleeve blue. I also have an umbrella and a beach towel. And books. And stuff, too. Oh, and a Many Louisville slugger. And caps. I think their plan to make money off of franchising the brand is working out.
  • Ian, who I never have met but who does seek out my advice in things fluid, summarizes the season’s particularities in his family. Best advice I have heard this year? You do not have to go and visit them, whoever the “they” are to you and yours.
  • Hey – I need a cut and paste from the main stream media. What is a blog without a certain measure of MSM copyright infringement? Besides, the courts know about it:

    Providing Web links to copyright-protected music is enough to make a site legally liable, an Australian court ruled in a case that created legal uncertainty for search engines around the world. The full bench of the Federal Court, the country’s second-highest court, has upheld a lower court ruling that Stephen Cooper, the operator of the Web site in question, as well as Comcen, the Internet service provider that hosted it, were guilty under Australian copyright law.

    A very Merry Christmas to all the digitally thieving buggers out there, too. Because the copyright infringing thief and their half-witted amateur and professional apologists in the new e-world (aka iWorld) are people we should remember at Christmas as well.

Must run. I am working on about 15 hours sleep so far this week due to reasons beyond my control and need to get where I need to get to so that I can think about napping later in the eleven days off to come. That is right. I am taking Yule off for the first time since 2002. Woot.

Hair Of The Dog: A Couple of Difficult Cases

This may turn out to be an epic. It may end in tears. Whatever it is you can click on each picture for a bigger image.

In the early fall – actually on September 28th 2006 just after noon – I jumped into my first LCBO private order, two cases from Hair of the Dog brewery in Portland Oregon being organized by the excellent gents, those Bar Towellers out of Toronto. I faxed through my deposit of $51.60 CND on a total order of $197.96 CND. I ordered one each of Doggie Claws and Fred, two 10% or so barley wines from one of North America’s top boutique brewers. I had a Fred when I was at Volo earlier this year. And then I waited. And waited.

Around the first of December, the order came into Toronto, I paid the balance and waited for it to make its way 220 km or so east to Kingston. Then there were rumours of issues with the capping. Excellent, I thought – bottle variation. The curse of decent wine. Jon Walker, a Bar Toweller, noted:

This thread worries me. As a result I went in to check on my stash of HOTD and indeed many of the caps are not fully crimped onto the bottles. Most flair at their base and do not fully grip the lip of the bottle. I was actually able to press up on one with my thumb and get the gas to release in the “PPST” common to uncapping. What do I do know? I don’t have a capper to close the caps properly (if they actually CAN be sealed, perhaps they are the wrong size???). I’ve got just shy of 70 bottles left and I’m loathe to believe I might lose some to oxidation due to loose caps.

The cases showed today, 21 December 2006, about 12 weeks after they were ordered which is really not that bad seeing as I think the beer was still in the tanks when the order was originally placed. But there was an obvious problem from one look at the case of Fred that seemed to echo Jon’s words above.





When I got home I decided to have a look inside and what I found was not pretty. The inside of the box was soaked. Ten bottles were seriously uncapped with significant beer loss with mostly empty necks like above at the right. In addition, twelve were showing little beer loss and two showed some promise. All were irregularly capped in the same way. Some caps show some rubbing and wear like there was a mechanical issue when they were put on.

It looked as though it was shipped upside down as there is plenty of yeast in the necks and a fair amount of beery sneakery out from underneath the caps. No violence to the box, just seeping. This may actually be a short term saving grace. The smell is also rich and clean, not sour like a bar on Sunday morning. I will have to have one. I am a little depressed, a little pissed off and a little curious. I have not even looked at the box of Doggie Claws.





Much to my surprise, the beer, picked from the worst group of ten, opens with a loud Pfffft!!The yeast had created a seal inside as you can see below to the right and it pours with a huge head. It is huge and lovely and lively. Hallelujah! Christmas is saved. Christmas is saved. And the Doggie Claws show no sign of leakage at all with the same location of the irregular capping as the Fred but with a lot less severity.

So it will likely be a crap shoot one a bottle by bottle basis but if that yeast cakes up it may last throughout the holidays at least. “Pour slowly to allow sediment to remain in the bottle” it says on the back. What can you do? That yeast is my best friend right about now, the life in the ale securing what the dim-witted capped and shippers could not. I would hope the legal saying “buyer beware” is popping into readers’ minds right about now.


Xmas Week Free For Al!

Busy morning at the beer blog. Dealing with a sponsor and helping a foreign brewery understand the Ontario marketplace not to mention editing a piece from Knut of Norway.

So, while I slave digitally (note that pun!!!) and especially after yesterday’s debacle, we’ll have a test to see if you can lift yourselves out of the celebrity blether gutter and have an actual civilized discourse of your own design – because I find it very funny that you did this given the third last observation to the right on the page cm linked to.

My Juleglogg Experiment

So the juleglogg experiment worked out well. Just straight frozen berries filling 80% of a couple of half-litre mason jars filled up with 22 buck Polish vodka and left for three weeks in the cold room. Polish vodka is made of rye, not spuds or whatever else other folk make the vodka out of these says.

Not being a big consumer of spirits, this turned out more to my liking than I would have thought. The dry berry flavour is far better than a store-bought flavoured vodka, twiggy and unprocessed. The colour is deep as jam.

A Yuletide Friday Chat

Is this the ides of Yule? Hard to tell with mid-December temperatures in the 10C/50F range. 55F in Watertown, NY today. It is slowing down around town – the university emptying out, folks daydreaming of Christmas cake soon to come, people writing Christmas cards instead of clamouring in the streets. By the way, if you get anything from me this time of year it will be late. I seem to be always finding a reason to not open up that pack of cards. So it will be late.

  • Dear Mildred Dover, Attorney General of PEI: try that one again:

    …Speaking to municipal officers, he accused Dover of displaying “underhandedness and sneakiness” in the way she prepared the amendments. “That language is totally inappropriate and unacceptable,” said Dover. “He operates under the Canadian Bar Association’s code of professional conduct. The code says, Mr. Speaker, and I do have it with me, and I quote, “he should take care not to weaken or destroy public confidence in legal institutions by broad irresponsible allegations of corruption or partiality ?.”

    Does the highest…h’mph…law enforcement official in a province really think that the Code requires lawyers to not make unpleasant blunt comment about the acts of a legislature? The rules on legal institutions refers to the courts, the body of which we happy few are officers. We are not officers of the legislature. Further, we are otherwise directed to civility in relation to public authorities which generally includes the direction (at CBA Code, Chap XIII, Rule 3) “the lawyer should not hesitate to speak out against an injustice”. Further (At CBA Code, Chap XVIII, 9):

    The lawyer is often called upon to comment publicly on the effectiveness of existing statutory or legal remedies, on the particular effect of particular cases, or to offer an opinion on causes that have been or are about to be instituted. It is permissible to do this in order to assist the public to understand the legal issues involved.

    We are asked to be particularly careful in our discussion of the courts as we also recognize that they cannot speak back…as opposed to an Attorney-General who can and who is in an opposing and adversarial position to the interests of the lawyer’s client. Remember – this is a politician hitting the big red button in their brain for being called underhanded and sneaky. The inhumanity of it all. Sneaky. And at Christmas, too.

  • Have I mentioned recently…ummm…Matsuzaka! The Red Sox will clearly control the universe next year with the best pitching line-up in the history of all human endevor. All are doomed. I have been wearing my Red Sox t-shirts all week in celebration. In oneness with those who know me not but care for me. That is the miracle of sports fandom. They care. They really care.
  • By comparison, I guess I am not that big of a fan of hockey. Maybe it’s that thing I have about anything called a stick:

    Billed as “the single most important piece of hockey memorabilia in existence,” the world’s oldest hockey is now up for grabs on eBay. As of Thursday morning, 26 bids had sent the price of the coveted piece of Canadiana soaring to $2.2-million (U.S.). Gord Sharpe has owned the hand-carved, one-piece hickory stick since the age of 9. It was given to him by his great-uncle, whose grandfather Alexander Rutherford Sr. fashioned the stick on his farm near Lindsay, Ont. for play on a nearby pond. The stick is believed to have been carved between 1852 and 1856.

  • You people really need to deal with the fact that in winter I sleep in a bit:

    Gary Rith to me: 7:34 am (11 minutes ago)

    c’mon, dammit, POST!

    Alan McLeod to Gary: 7:38 am (7 minutes ago)
    I woke up at 7:22

    Gary Rith to me 7:38 am (7 minutes ago)
    who cares! just got a message from cm and the race is ON!


  • I am listening to a discussion of “presenteeism” which is the opposite apparently of “absenteeism”. It means encouraging people to not show up at work when they are sick. The pendulum just started its way back. Next, the virtues of a cluttered desk.
  • Speaking of a trend coming to an end:

    After analyzing thousands of credit and debit card transactions over a two-year period, Mr. Bernoff found that Apple has historically been able to sell only 20 songs on average for each iPod device sold. “If iPod owners continued to purchase music tracks throughout the lifetime of their ownership, one would expect to see iTunes sales growing at a faster rate than iPods,” he concluded in a new report. Years ago when CD players were introduced, consumers rushed out to buy new music libraries. Clearly, the iPod is not having the same effect on content, he said.

    This is the problem with the digital world – no stuff. We are creatures of stuff more than we are of money. If things are not acquirable without payment and come with no stuff, why would there be any economic inertia behind that change? It wouldn’t. The transactional event is hollowed out. Soon people will clamour in the streets for the return of stuff.

    Update: my pal Dan noted another issue with the 2.0 world.

  • How does the governmental administrative process of “giving up” actually occur? Is there a protocol? A guide?

    In a major blow to the Bush administration’s efforts to secure borders, domestic security officials have for now given up on plans to develop a facial or fingerprint recognition system to determine whether a vast majority of foreign visitors leave the country, officials say. Domestic security officials had described the system, known as U.S. Visit, as critical to security and important in efforts to curb illegal immigration. Similarly, one-third of the overall total of illegal immigrants are believed to have overstayed their visas, a Congressional report says.

    Tracking visitors took on particular urgency after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, when it became clear that some of the hijackers had remained in the country after their visas had expired. But in recent days, officials at the Homeland Security Department have conceded that they lack the financing and technology to meet their deadline to have exit-monitoring systems at the 50 busiest land border crossings by next December. A vast majority of foreign visitors enter and exit by land from Mexico and Canada, and the policy shift means that officials will remain unable to track the departures.

    That is nutty. Aside from the security issue, who gets to decide that they have “given up on plans”. Is this some sort of infiltration of libertarians?

Yes, sort of boring this week. But I am late. I am all ready behind. Next week? Last workday before Christmas. No problem. Week after that? I will be a week into a holiday week. Expect big things. Today? M’yyeh, you know.