Beer Battle: The Stoutest Stout of All Is…

Marble’s Oatmeal Stout, or at least that was how we ended up voting after the first NM Dark Side Brew Crew Beer Battle.

The battle took place during halftime of the Super Bowl (if anybody out there expected us to watch Madonna, then clearly something is amiss in your knowledge of the Crew). We brought eight stouts from different breweries to sample, one after another, in order to pit them against one another for the title of the best house stout in the Albuquerque metro area. We did this in memoriam for the Adobe Stout at Hallenbrick, the much-missed nanobrewery near Journal Center. The Adobe was our favorite when it was around, but alas, it is no more.

Now, by house stout we mean the regular stout at a brewery, or the closest thing to regular in the case of Il Vicino and Bad Ass. Only ABQ Brew Pub does not currently carry a stout (it carries an Imperial, but we’re going for non-liver smashing regulars). Unlike the annual IPA Challenge, we were aware of the brewery of origin of each stout, but we collectively vowed not to let any pro or con bias toward those breweries or their staffs influence us.

Four of our members (Cryptogrind was M.I.A.) partook of the eight growlers. Here are our individual lists:

Stoutmeister — 1. Marble, 2. Tractor, 3. Turtle Mountain, 4. La Cumbre, 5. Chama River, 6. Bad Ass, 7. Il Vicino, 8. Nexus

Franz Solo — 1. Turtle Mountain, 2. Marble, 3. La Cumbre, 4. Tractor, 5. Chama River, 6. Il Vicino, 7. Bad Ass, 8. Nexus

E-Rock — 1. Marble, 2. Turtle Mountain, 3. Bad Ass, 4. Tractor, 5. Chama River, 6. Il Vicino, 7. La Cumbre, 8. Nexus

Shilling — 1. Tractor, 2. Marble, 3. Turtle Mountain, 4. Il Vicino, 5. La Cumbre, 6. Chama River, 7. Nexus (NOTE: As a vegan, Shilling did not partake in the Bad Ass Cream Stout)

From our rankings a point system was devised, where a first-place vote is worth eight points and eighth place is worth one point. This semi-scientific way provides us with our overall ranking. Now, since Shilling did not have the Cream Stout, we took Bad Ass’ average point total (four) for the rest of us and assigned it those points.

So to save you the time and trouble of doing the math, here is the official NMDSBC ranking of ABQ’s finest stouts.

8. Nexus American Stout (4 points)

The only beer we all agreed on was Nexus’ version, which to some of us tasted more like a black lager than a stout. It is not a bad beer, but it just did not qualify as a stout according to our tastes. COMMENTS: 1. This is a great introduction to the world of stouts if you’re not a stout drinker. The overall flavor seemed light and smooth, missing some of the smoky flavor that is found in most stouts. — Shilling  2. There was no bite to this beer. It was smooth, too smooth, to really be considered a stout. I know Nexus is going for drinkability, but this was a little much for a true stout. — Stoutmeister

7. Il Vicino Dark & Lusty Stout (13 points)

If there was a disappointment for most of us, it was Il Vicino’s entry.  Unlike their more flavorful IPAs and browns, the D&L lacked the punch we expected, a surprise considering its heftiness (8% ABV). It was more sweet than strong. COMMENTS: 1. This would be a beer I would have at a party with folks that drink Guinness. This stout has medium dark flavor that hits the center of the pallet. Not too smoky. Got to be careful with this one with the higher alcohol content. — Shilling  2. Most stouts tend to hit you at the front of your tongue. This one has a back-bite to it. — Stoutmeister

6. Chama River Sleeping Dog Stout (14 points)

Hints of smoky and chocolate flavors, a bit dry, but otherwise a fine, drinkable stout. E-Rock picked this up just as Chama was changing kegs, so we definitely had a fresh batch. COMMENTS: 1. It definitely doesn’t have the high flavor that some others have. (But) this is something you could drink for a while. It’s quite drinkable, as far as I’m concerned. — Franz  2. I was introduced to ABQ microbreweries via this stout. It has always been a solid beer, but has always lacked the strength of a comparable microbrew, like the Deschutes Obsidian Stout. It could use more bite, but I would never refuse a pint when offered. — Stoutmeister

5. Bad Ass Cream Stout (15 points)

None of the stouts packed the olfactory punch that Bad Ass had, but the flavor did not quite live up to the chocolate-heavy aroma. It was dry and yet seemed a bit watered down; the bite was lacking. Bad Ass is known for mixing their beers and creating powerful concoctions; this stout would likely be perfect if mixed with another, stronger-flavored beer.  COMMENTS: 1. This beer was smooth with a lasting taste. It was very drinkable. — E-Rock  2. It was not what I was expecting, especially considering how much I loved the aroma. The flavor is kind of like a curveball. — Franz

4. La Cumbre El Malpais Stout (16 points)

A lot of us were surprised that this once-burly stout, a silver medal-winner at the Great American Beer Festival, came off as being much lighter than we remembered. La Cumbre is the brewery that kicks you in the face with powerful flavor and expects you to come back, begging for more. For some reason, this batch of El Malpais failed to live up to that standard.  COMMENTS: 1. Since this was not a blind taste test I am comfortable admitting that I was dissapointed by this one.  It had a strong taste that died off quickly and was quite dry.  Although usually one of my favorites in its own right, when measured against other stouts it didn’t hold up. — E-Rock  2. That’s a stout right there. It hits you right in the front. — Franz

3. Tractor Double Plow Oatmeal Stout (25 points)

Thanks to that silly Nob Hill ordinance, we had to trek down to Los Lunas to pick this one up. As a note to Tractor fans, apparently the not-so-friendly LL crew (when compared to the wonderful staff here) will not accept your Beer Farmer’s Co-Op discount down there. As for the stout itself, what you drink here in ABQ is what they pour down there. It is a smooth, creamy pour, with chocolate hints and an “earthy” aroma.  COMMENTS: 1. This one is one of the more powerful ones out of the ones we’ve tried so far. This is more to my tastes. This one has the more chocolate characteristics I like. It doesn’t have the burnt characteristics a lot of people don’t like about stouts. — Shilling  2. I would like a little more of the burnt in addition to the creaminess. — Franz

2. Turtle Mountain Big House Stout (27 points)

Coffee and chocolate aromas combine to draw one in to this strong stout that surprised us all. There is a bite, but not to the point of scaring off people who don’t regularly drink stout. It lingers on the mid-pallete more than most of the other stouts. The tart flavor is indicative of more traditional stouts.  COMMENTS: 1. To be perfect I think it would have to have a little bit more of a bite. But other than that this is good. — E-Rock  2. This is delicious, but not as drinkable as Tractor. It’s a little tart. This is for someone who likes stouts. — Shilling

1. Marble Oatmeal Stout (30 points)

The strongest of the stouts by taste, this is Marble’s most underrated beer (which they have finally begun to bottle!) The initial bite alone gets one started, preparing the tastebuds for a wave of flavor to come. The flavor does not linger too long, though, giving this stout a surprisingly smooth finish. COMMENTS: 1. The thing that really did it for me was the taste.  This one had a great flavor that really stood out.E-Rock  2. It’s the most refreshing of any of the stouts I’ve had. — Franz  3. This is a beer I’d wrap up in a blanket and watch Star Wars with all day long. — Shilling  

In conclusion, we actually liked all of these stouts. They were all drinkable, with different positive and negative aspects, but none were to the point where anybody uttered the words “I can’t drink that.” We do know that breweries sometimes tinker with the ingredients and the mixture from batch to batch. What we drank here may not be what somebody drinks at a taproom a month from now. In the end, however, it was the strongest flavor that won out. That is not something that holds true for every style of beer.

Feel free to comment here or on our Facebook page. Agree, disagree, make suggestions, exercise your first amendment rights as beer-loving individuals. To the brewers and brewery staffs, if you want to write in, even if it’s to tell us “you’re a bunch of idiots,” please, share your thoughts, explain your brewing processes and goals with your stouts and all of your other beers. We are more than open to suggestions, advice, praise, and criticism.

And if anybody knows what should be our next beer battle, besides IPAs (we’ll save those for right before the IPA Challenge in August), sound off!



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