Tag Archives: stout

Brewing an Education: Porters and Stouts (Part IV)

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The only way to gain an education in anything food related is with a lot of practical experience. If you want to know how to make bouillabaisse, you need to make bouillabaisse. If you want to know how rabbits taste, you need to taste rabbits (poorly worded, will fix later).

Similarly, with beer, you need to get out and drink a lot of beer. You can’t just read in a book about the flavor of hops and the intensity of aromas. That only teaches you the vocabulary and the techniques. But, after that, you’re on your own.

So I’m drinking more beer is what I’m saying.

I’m trying another porter, this one Samuel Smith‘s Taddy Porter, an import from Yorkshire. Seeing as how both porters and stouts are a British invention, a lot of what you’re going to find in your local grocery or liquor store are going to be imported from across the way.

I’ve had a few porters and a few stouts since I’ve started this project and this porter is little less flavorful and a little complex than some of the other porters I’ve had. It had a fruity aroma, again bringing to mind cherries. The flavor is more chocolate than coffee, a little more hoppy than I’d expect.

It’s very crisp and smooth, with a small bitter flourish at the end. It’s refreshing, a good beer for summer and spring.

All in all, I can see myself ducking in a bar on a the tail end of a summer day and ordering this to cool down, but it’s far from the complex intensity of Zwiec’s offering.

A handful of cherries and a glass of lemonade for this porter.

-D-

 

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Brewing an Education: Porters and Stouts (Part III)

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Continuing on along our education of stouts and porters, we have come across our first porter. Now, from everything I have read, porters are a bit of a mystery. Once, a long time ago, porters were an extremely popular form of beer of which stouts a type. But, along the way, porters fell by the wayside and, eventually, people stopped making them entirely. The last porter brewed was by Guinness and they stopped in the mid-seventies. Then, after a good twenty years, people decided to bring back porters based on half-forgotten recipes and old myths of what porters were supposed to be.

As a result, there’s not a lot of consensus of what a porter should taste like, because, in truth, no one knows what one should taste like. Different breweries try their hand at porters and they all come up with different answers to the question: what is a porter?

Today, I tried Zywiec‘s Porter and if all porter’s taste like this, I would drink them more often. It has a very hearty, fruity aroma out of the bottle and the taste followed suit. It tasted like dark cherries, sweet and heady and full of flavor. It had a very smooth and full mouthfeel without being thick and syrupy.

For a type of beer with close ties to stouts, I was surprised to find how refreshing it was. It was clear and strong and wasn’t overwhelming in either texture or taste.

It was very decadent, sweet without a lot of bitterness. I would serve it with a dessert, but a less rich dessert like a white cake or  some vanilla ice cream  It was a great beer, maybe not one that you would all the time or one after the other, but definitely a beer that you would have every once in a while as a way to remind yourself of how different beers can be from one another and how good those differences can be.

I would give this one three chocolate covered cherries and two scoops of vanilla ice cream.

This rating system might prove to be prophetic considering an entry I have planned down the line.

-D-

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Brewing an Education: Stouts and Porters (Part 2)

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I’ve been reading a book called Tasting Beer by Randy Mosher and I’ve been using it as a guide to beer tasting (obviously). While I already knew some of the basics (checking the clarity, the color, the aroma) I was/am still very much a novice. The best part about this particular book is that it goes into great detail about absolutely everything to do with beer; from how taste buds work to the history of particular brewing styles to the chemical compounds that produce the specific flavors. You get what you want from the book. If you’re not interested in a chemical breakdown of the smell of beer, you can always move ahead to the history of the stout, instead.

Speaking of stouts (and leaving this very forced segue behind), the Founders “Breakfast Stout” is next up.  After the last two, fairly disappointing stouts, the “Breakfast Stout” is pretty amazing. It has a well rounded and smooth mouthfeel, which is, apparently, common of oatmeal stouts. It’s a hearty beer and one that’s best suited for cold winter nights when the snow is falling and you’re warm and snug inside and full on heavy beer.

There is a strong coffee flavor, especially at the start, strong, black coffee. If diners served beer, this would be on the menu.

It’s a little sweet, but ends with a bitter flourish that’s very reminiscent of an IPA. All-in-all, it’s a very satisfying experience. I can see this being paired well with roasts and potatoes and steamy rolls with melted butter.

I give this one two baked hams and a crackling fire.

God, I’m hungry.

-D-

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Brewing an Education: Stouts and Porters (Guinness and Sam Adams)

Part of my goals for next year is to try and become more educated, to develop a better palate and learn to discern flavors and textures and sensations with more adept discernment. I am, of course, talking about drinking more beer. But I want to do it smartly. Last year, I drank a lot of pumpkin beers and IPAs and random brews from random breweries with no attempt to learn about the histories behind the styles or even about how each style should taste. 

After all, a Belgian shouldn’t taste like an IPA, nor a stout like a lager, but should a porter taste like a stout? I’m not even sure what half the words I used in the last sentence even mean, much less what they should taste like or the subtle variations between those tastes.

So, I’ve decided to spend the year moving slowly, carefully, through the many different styles of beers. No more bouncing willy-nilly through bizarrely branded concoctions designed to cash in on the latest seasonal craze. No, I will pick something and stick to it. I will learn what I like and don’t like. I will learn about the history and the behind-the-scenes stories for the brews. I will learn the vocabulary and might actually learn something along the way instead of just getting plastered and rambling about goblins and pumpkin ales for three paragraphs.

For January (and I’m starting early here), we’re going over stouts and porters.

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I decided to pick to varieties of stout that are, in all probability, not going to be knock-outs. I wanted simple staples, beers that exhibited the basic qualities of the genre without going overboard or in new directions. I went with the Samuel Adams “Cream Stout”, one of their seasonal beers and the Guinness “Draught”.

Now, a stout is going to be a few things. It’s going to be dark, with a head that’s either a dark brown or tan color. Guinness, of course, cheats by using those nifty little nitrogen doodads in their cans to give the foam that characteristic light, creamy color. Out of the bottle, the foam is lighter, but nowhere near that gorgeous contrasting color one sees on the tap or out the can.

A stout is also heavily flavored by toasted malts or barley, rather than hops, like an IPA. Many people describe stouts of having a very strong coffee or chocolate flavor which is why stouts are often flavored with coffee or chocolate. If you’ve had a coffee beer (like the Sam Adams Black and Brew), you’ve most likely had a stout flavored with coffee grounds.

I have to say, that while I wasn’t impressed with either stout, I did enjoy the flavor of the Sam Adams a lot more. The Guinness Draught is a weaker, less flavorful affair. The finishing notes are more reminiscent of black tea than, say, coffee, though the coffee notes are still there. But it just feels insubstantial. It has a more, and I hate to say this about a Guinness, watery mouthfeel.

For me, I order a Guinness when I’m both hungry and I want a beer. It fills you up on both accounts, but, in this case, the Guinness Draught fails on both accounts. It has a slightly sour tang to it, and I’m more reminded of the flavors of unsweetened, iced tea than anything. I’m left craving more body, more flavor, more everything.

The Sam Adams Cream Stout, while not their best beer, is better than the Draught. It is more complex and more mellow. It still still has the bitter, toasted flavors of a stout, but it is mild. While I do not taste the sweetness that was supposed to be a marker of traditional cream stouts, it is a milder stout than I’ve had in the past.

I would recommend it over the Draught. It tastes more strongly of those dark, heavy coffee notes that a good stout is supposed to have and lacks that metallic, sour tang of the Guinness Draught.

Using these two beers as a baseline (a very low baseline in the case of the Draught), I’ll move deeper into the world of craft beers and, hopefully, better styles of stouts, including the Imperial Russian Stouts and Oatmeal Stouts. And there’ll be history along the way!

-D-

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Beer Review: Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout

This beer scares me. I won’t lie to you on that front. It’s a beer that’s been aged in a bourbon cask. It has a scary high alcohol content for a beer(13%) and its qualities out of the bottle are terrifying.  I’m actually taking notes, because I’m worried I won’t survive the tasting process.

This beer is the darkest  thing I have ever seen. It’s an abyss beer, a beer from which no light escapes. Deep within the glass, one can almost make out the movements of some ancient thing lost to the light aeons ago. The head is almost nonexistent. And what little there is almost a caramel color. It pours like syrup.

Immediately, the smell of bourbon fills the air after pouring. And on a closer inspection, there are a lot of smells lurking in this darkness. Emily says it smells like chocolate, which makes it a little less terrifying and makes my hyperbolic ramblings seem silly now.

Time for the first sip.

Good lord, it does taste like chocolate. And it’s a syrup. And it hits more like a liquor. Which is problematical.

Second sip verifies. Strong chocolate flavors and this is a stout that means business. I’ve begun to eat a sandwich. Both because I’m hungry and because I think a good beer should go well with food.

Whoa, there are more flavors coming out. It’s combining. It seems like…cinnamon. Some cinnamon has come out to play with the chocolate and beer. Strong flavors come barreling out to start and then the lighter ones follow in their wake.

This is not a beer you drink regularly. It’s too much flavor and kick for that. It’s most definitely a special occasion beer. The kind of beer that you crack out to show people just what a beer can do, especially when it’s been aged in a bourbon cask.

This is a kick-ass, rockin’ rolla kind of beer. So that’s like…an A.

Dylan Charles

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