Posts Tagged ‘stout’

Beer of The Week: Belhaven Scottish Stout

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

About this beer: Scotland’s Belhaven brewery is known for a.) being around almost literally forever. and b.) for making simply stunning beers that exemplify Scottish brewing. Their beers are usually nothing short of stunning, I have yet to have a bad beer on draft. I decided to see if their beers bottled would be as fine an example of good beers. I was far from right. I chose the Scottish stout, which when on draft ranks in my top ten of beers, it’s chocolaty,sweet and creamy. It has one of the most amazing mouth-feels ever. In the bottle? not so much.

In A nutshell: Seek this beer out on draft. Avoid the bottled version at all costs.

Review:When I picked up the bottle I was excited, it was jet black. In my mind the brewery went past brown bottles and made a black one! how cool is that? Only once I left the store did I realize that the beer was in fact in a clear bottle, something that would have had a great effect on my purchase.(Clear bottles let more light through than brown bottles and tend to skunk beers quicker.)  When I cracked it I had hoped that the beer would have survived the trip across the sea and was still drinkable. It passed the test but barely. The pour was perfect, a great creamy head and jet black color. The aroma was off though, there was just a hint of that sweet malty smell that the draft version had and was left with a borderline skunked smell. (I have yet to be able to put the smell of skunked beer into words, easiest way…go buy a Heineken and smell it once cracked.)  This effected everything in the beer; the taste had overtones of a beer going bad. I could still get the chocolate taste as well as the malt backing but ti jsut wasn’t strong enough. The beer’s body was incredibly thin and unsatisfying.

Rating: 2 out of 5

(Photo by K. Graham)

Beer of the Week: Battle of the Porters

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

My all time favorite style is the sour ale, but I often find that I cycle through the “other style” I second-most enjoy, much like the turning of the seasons, although often out of sync with them. These days, I’ve been all about porters. A category of beer associated with bold flavors, complex notes of fruits and chocolates, and a certain smoothness and richness to the character under the right circumstances, the porter is a very versatile beer and, if you’re drinking the right one, can be an absolute treat to the discerning taster. To mark my reverence of the style, I decided to look at not one but two porters this week.

Firestone Walker Reserve Porter: Officially called Walker’s Reserve, this porter is unreal from the first sip. There’s a lavish, velvety texture to it that inundates you with a complex variety of flavors. Notes of caramel and bitter chocolate are the easiest to find, but a deeper look reveals a hint of spice that leaves you with a fantastically dry finish. Despite its hearty character and intricate flavor, it is still in every respect a porter. Unlike extreme breweries that rely upon style hopping to make something unique, Firestone Walker manage to stay true to the style while still creating something genuinely fantastic .

Samuel Smith Taddy Porter: I’ve had to convince many a friend to try the Taddy Porter. My elevator pitch is, “It tastes like beer chocolate milk.” If someone isn’t excited by that premise, I don’t want to know them. The Taddy Porter is a classic example of an English porter. Brewed with well water, the Taddy Porter is sweet and satisfying. It doesn’t reveal flavors as layered and convoluted as the Reserve Porter, but it doesn’t need to. It’s a simple beer, for people who simply want one thing; an incredible brew.

In a Nutshell: Each fantastic in its own right, the SS Taddy Porter beats out the FW Reserve Porter for reasons far too complex to explain.

Verdict: I don’t know how to summarize this outcome. I love the Reserve Porter. I drink it with an ear to ear grin on my face. It’s wild, and different, while still being the exact beer I need it to be. However, I must choose the Taddy Porter, because unlike the Reserve, the Taddy Porter feels more like a drink for the soul, and at the end of the day, that’s all that matters to me.

Southern Tier Crème Brûlée Imperial Milk Stout

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

Souther Tier Brewery Sign

Every trip I take begins with the mapping out of local breweries. This week I am vacationing in Chautauqua Lake, located in Western New York, with my fiancée’s family. Along the road-trip from Boston to Chautauqua lie two of the east coast’s greatest breweries Southern Tier and Ommegang. This week I will focus on the prior.


Beer of The Week: Harpoon Island Creek Oyster Stout

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

About the Beer: Oyster stouts are a very rare style of beer, but they’re more than worth your while if you can get your hands on one. The dark, grainy texture of stouts are a perfect pairing with oysters and other shellfish so it was only natural to bring the two together in a beer. The Harpoon Brewery in Boston uses real oysters from nearby Island Creek oyster bar for their take on the style.


Style Profile: Russian Imperial Stout

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Russian Imperial Stout is one of the heaviest styles of beer around, often ranging from 7 to 10% ABV. Much like Baltic porters it’s named not for who made it but who it was made for. Russian imperial stouts were first brewed in the 18th century by brewers in Burton, England to be shipped to the court of Russian Empress Catherine the Great. Catherine apparently became quite smitten by stouts during a visit to England and demanded some be sent back to her when she returned home; unfortunately the first few batches did not survive the long trip to Russia. Catherine demanded that the English find some way to get her beloved porter to her, and being empress, she got what she wanted. To accomplish this goal the Barclay Perkins brewery crafted a stout to survive the trek much sweeter and stronger than anything available in England at the time and a new style was born.

Today, many years after Catherine’s passing, Russian imperial stouts continue to be brewed not just in England, but around the world. In particular the style has caught on among bold and adventuresome American craft brewers, who see the style as an opportunity to flex their brewing muscle and a chance to brew the heaviest, sweetest beer they can. Due to the styles popularity craft brewers in the US the term ‘imperial’ has come to signify any style that’s especially strong in flavor, alcohol or both. The double, or ‘imperial’ IPA is perhaps the most common example of this phenomenon

This style shares much in common with other heavy stouts and porters, like the Baltic porter. They are both sweet and strong, with bold flavors of dark chocolate, roasted coffee and toffee. That being said, there are some key differences between the two styles. The imperial stout tends be much sweeter than the Baltic porter, and it is usually not nearly as dry. Still, don’t feel bad if you have trouble telling the two apart, they are similar.

The are numerous absolutely delicious versions of this style from many different brewers. Perhaps the best known in America is Old Rasputin, from North Coast brewing. Other notable examples include Storm King from Victory and Ten Fidy from Oskar Blues. Rogue, Stone, and Samuel Smith also have great takes on the style as well.

What’s your favorite version? Next time you try it, let us know by tweeting your beer and adding the #mybeer hashtag.

Style Profile: Oyster Stout

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

Oysters in beer? Yup, it’s true. Although it might seem strange, stouts with oysters in them have been around for almost 100 years. With their rich yet mellow flavor and sometimes grainy texture, stouts and porters have long been known as great beers to pair with oysters. Famed 19th century UK prime minister Benjamin Disraeli was known to frequently enjoy this delicious combo, but it wasn’t until the 1920’s that someone thought to combine the two.

The first stout with oysters in it was brewed in New Zealand in 1929. The brewer added a handful of oyster meat right into the boil and hoped for the best. Fortunately the boiling and filtering process removes any trace of actual shellfish in your pint, and the flavor remains.

In 1938, a London brewery by the name of Hammerton created the first oyster stout in England, which was soon followed by several other breweries, including the Castletown Brewery on the Isle of Man.  By the 1960’s, this style and the Hammerton brewery was all but extinct. Fortunately a new brewery on the Isle of Man, Bushy’s, revived the tradition in the mid-1980’s. The beer is regrettably only available on the tiny island in the Irish sea, but from what I hear, if you can get a hold of it you’ll love it.

The oyster stout remains quite rare, but there are some craft brewers who have produced it from time to time. Rogue and Dogfish Head have each done one-off batches of the style, but finding them might be difficult. Yards Brewing Co. in Philly is known to use oysters in their Love Stout. There are also some so-called “oyster stouts” like Marstons‘ that do not contain actual oysters but are designed to be paired with the shellfish.

What do you think of oyster stout? Does the idea sound disgusting or delicious? If you know of where to find some in your area, let us know in the comments or on twitter.

Style Profile: Irish Dry Stout

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009


There is probably no style of beer more closely associated with a single brewery more than Irish dry stouts and Guinness. Chances are that many Guinness drinkers can’t name more than six other brewers producing a beer in that style (but if you can name six let us know in the comments section and we’ll send you out some Beeriety swag). It’s true that Guinness has played a key role in establishing the style’s popularity and most recognizable qualities, it’s still a clearly defined style, independent of any particular brewer. With Guinness’s 250th birthday last week we thought we’d take a look today at the style it has made so famous.

The origins of dry stout, like all stouts, can directly by tied back to porters. Stouts initially emerged as heavier versions of the already heavy porter style, which is why they were first known as ‘stout porters.’ Over time the name was shortened to just stout, and a new style was born. Today there are of course many different types of stout, from milk stouts to even oyster stouts, but the most well known is undoubtedly Guinness’s dry stout.

Despite Guinness reputation as ‘liquid bread’ or ‘a meal in a class,’ dry stouts are actually the lightest type of stout in terms of alcohol and do not contain many more calories than your average light lager (take a look at our more detailed look at this issue here). Part of the reason for Guinness and other dry stouts light smoothness is their use of nitrogen  in addition to the usual CO2 to carbonate the beer. Because nitrogen is less soluble than CO2 and forms smaller bubbles the beer is able to carbonate with less gas, creating a less acidic flavor. Several years ago Guinness also debuted the ‘nitro can‘ which is a regular can of beer with a widget inside of it which releases nitrogen when the can’s opened to replicate the draught experience at home.

A can of Guinness draught cut open to reveal the 'nitro widget'

A can of Guinness draught cut open to reveal the internal 'nitro widget'

Although there are also coffee stouts, which use real coffee beans in the brew and give the style strong coffee flavors, dry stouts have also been noted as having subtle coffee flavors. Although with the creaminess of the nitrogen and the burnt qualities of black malt, dry stout might more closely resemble cappuccino than black coffee.

While Guinness will probably always remain the signature brand of dry stouts there are several other notable Irish producers of the style which are worth a try. Both Beamish and Murphy’s hail from the Southeastern Irish town of Cork and can be said to be a bit sweeter and and smoother than Guinness, give them a try next time you have a chance. There is also plenty of American craft brewers who do dry stouts.

What’s your favorite dry stout besides Guinness? Next time you have it let us know by tweeting your beer and adding the ‘#mybeer’ hashtag.

What are hops? An introduction for the curious

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

370px-Hopfendolde-mit-hopfengartenIf you’re like most people in America you probably know that hops are a major ingredient in beer, but that’s probably all you know. So what the hell are hops? You’re about to find out.

Hops are a vine-like plant known as Humulus lupulus (technically a ‘bine’ which I’ve never heard of either.) Hops happen to be a close cousin to cannabis, but I wouldn’t recommend trying to smoke them. The female variety of the plant produces small, green pine cone kinda things.

These hop cones produce a powder called lupulin, which contain certain acids which provide much needed flavor and balance to beer. In beer’s 4000 year history hops are a relatively recent invention, having only been used significantly for maybe the last 500 years. Prior to hops people used all sorts of spices and fruits to balance beer’s flavor but nothing has the flavor versatility and variety as hops.They also act as a natural preservative, something important in the days before sanitation as we know it.

In fact the IPA (or India Pale Ale) was born out of this unique quality of hops. During the British occupation of India brewers in England would overload their beers with hops to preserve them for the long ship ride to India. The folks in England took a shinning to the style too and the IPA was born.

Much like wine grapes, the flavor and aroma of hops vary considerably based on where they are grown and frequently a country’s beer style is strongly related to the hops that are native to it. The strong, citrusy hops which grow on America’s West Coast gave rise to the area’s intensely hoppy IPAs and Double IPAs. Regardless of where a hop is from though it can be counted on to give beer some spice and balance out the sweetness of the malt.

Of course some places are too cold to grow hops, like Scotland, and this is reflected in their beer style as well. Scottish ales are famous for their sweet and malty qualities, a result of the lack of hops available for brewing in the area. Try a Belhaven next time you’re out to get a taste of Scottish flavor.

Measuring Hops
The hoppiness of a beer is measured in IBUs or International Bitterness Units.

A General IBU Guide

This is of course just a brief overview of how IBU varies by style; there are plenty of exceptions to these guidelines, but it should give you a good idea of how relatively hoppy your favorite beer may or may not be.

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