Howdy, all. It’s Stoutmeister. My personal holiday that I totally came up with is upon us. Yes, Friday is International Stout Day. Wait, you mean I don’t get credit for that? Oh. Well, can I get a free pint of stout? Please? Pretty please?
Anyway, it really is International Stout Day, so get on out there and grab a pint of the black gold in a glass and enjoy. Yes, even you wimpy person who won’t drink a beer you can’t see through. It’s time to convert to the dark side (please don’t sue me for typing that, George Lucas, er, J.J. Abrams). And for Stout Day there are two special stouts worth checking out. Over at Il Vicino Canteen they have brewed up another batch of Panama Joe Coffee Stout, the gold medal winner at GABF this year. Meanwhile, over at La Cumbre, they have aged some of their delicious Malpais Stout in a wine barrel for the last nine months. It’s a stout-a-palooza!
Stouts are the old reliable beers of the brewing world. They are not some fad, some trend that will rise and fade away (looking at you, Belgian sours). They are the constant, the rock. The changes in the hops make IPAs differ from year to year. Not stouts; they’re the same big, robust bastards they were last year. They warm you up in the winter, mellow you out in the summer, and pretty much tell people that you are at the bar to enjoy a pint, not engage in banal conversation about celebrities and politics. Stouts are the beer of people who support the same sports teams since birth. They are the beer of soccer hooligans, mosh pits, SAMCRO, and gathering around the fire outside on a frigid night to drink straight from the growler. Stouts are what you drink when you blast Pantera at 2 a.m. because you want to forget about your ex, your crappy job, your bills, the fact they charged $3000 for a flight to Brazil and thus kept you from the 2014 World Cup. Stouts are your friend that snarls and curses and tells you to never stop fighting the good fight. They are therapy in a glass, only if you get whiny and needy, they’ll smack you upside the head and remind you that life sucks, so wear a helmet.
Ahem. So as I was thinking about why I love stouts, it actually got me thinking about why do other people love them. Specifically, why do people in the great beer community that is New Mexico love these obsidian masterpieces? Rather than just wonder, I emailed as many breweries as I had addresses for and asked a very simple question: In your opinion, what makes a great stout? (Also added a follow-up question about each brewer’s favorite stout(s) that they tend to enjoy.)
Here were some of the responses …
Bosque’s Jotham Michnovicz: “Stouts are a funny sort of beer, sort of like stout drinkers. While a broad range of beers are considered ‘stouts,’ each sub-style is as different as the fanatic fan base they represent. Stouts are all about balance. For me, light bodied stouts often lack in flavor but full bodied stouts are usually too sweet. I prefer a medium body, leaning toward the dry end of the spectrum. Good stouts usually have some roast, chocolate and sometimes, smoked flavors. Each of these flavors can easily overpower (astringent bitterness or smoke) or leave you wanting when they are absent. Lastly, the creamy or velvety texture given by a healthy dose of flaked oats is what seals the deal. In short: medium bodied, dry, roasty, chocolatey and velvety.” Hmm, it’s almost like Jotham just described Bosque’s Oatmeal Stout there, which is one of the best stouts in ABQ.
Blue Corn’s John Bullard: “Drinkability. Smooth qualities without overdoing it with roasted malts.” John picked North Coast’s Old Rasputin imperial stout as his personal favorite. Considering that John’s own stout won a silver medal at GABF, I would say he knows what he’s talking about.
Cazuela’s Mike Campbell: “Stouts are rich and earthy. It’s amazing to think how many styles of stouts there are, many of which have been now stretched beyond the range of imperial by the American craft brewer. From dry to sweet to oatmeal, stout is a filling, satisfying, soul heartening glass of roasty malt-tacularness.” Mike’s Pastizal Oatmeal Stout is brewed with oats from Corrales Mercantile, meaning every time you drink one it supports two local businesses! Pretty good deal, if you ask us.
Duel’s Todd Yocham: “Balance.” A man of few words, though he brews complex beers. Looking forward to trying Duel’s first stout soon. Oh, and Todd’s favorite stout is Deschutes’ The Abyss.
Kaktus’ Mike Waddy: “My opinion, what makes a good Stout is the ‘mouth feel.’ It needs to be hearty, creamy and smooth. Nothing is worse than a thin feeling Stout.” Mike has a stout on tap right now; head up to Bernalillo and try it for yourselves.
La Cumbre’s Jeff Erway: “As with all beer styles, I don’t appreciate vagueness. If you tell me this is a stout, it better damn well be a stout. Big, brash, excessively assuming. I don’t want to wonder “Is this a stout or a porter?” I want to know on first smell “This is an f%$*ing stout!” It’s one of the reasons I am just not that much of a fan of classic Irish dry stouts. There just too much like Pilsner with food coloring. In my mind, stouts should be a meal in a glass. Chewy, rich, and yet… silky all at the same time. Thanks. I was going to go have a nice refreshing pilsner. Now I am going to have to drink a stout.” When I asked Jeff for his favorite stouts, he did not hold back on that, either. “Of those easily accessible in this state (and not imperial stouts) I really love Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout. Winey and buttery (one of the only examples of a diacetyl ridden beer that I enjoy) rich and creamy, and exceptional milk chocolate notes. Samuel Smiths has a house character that is truly a unique combination of their fermentation geometry and their malt selection. No brewery anywhere achieves a more intense and intricate caramel character in their beers. Other’s less readily available are Pelican Tsunami Stout (maybe my favorite stout ever?) Snake River Zonker Stout, De Dolle Extra Stout, Herkules Stout (unique in it’s sour+brett character), Lion Stout, and, believe it or not, Guinness that is made in or for any market besides Great Britain or North America. Particularly good are the one’s made in Jamaica and Nigeria, as well as the brew made for the Belgian market.” Does anyone else feel like their beer IQ has gone up after reading Jeff’s comments? He is a treasure trove of knowledge.
New Mexico Craft Brewing’s Kyle Yonan: “Fat roasted barley, hard water, and bulging love. -woodlee And if you don’t want to take his word for it, he’ll show ya.” I’m not exactly sure what Kyle is quoting here, but it works. I guess. Anyway, we tried NMCBC’s stout a ways back and found it quite good. One of these weekends we’ll trek up to their new taproom in Las Vegas (opening Nov. 16!) and see if he has it again for us.
Taos Ale House’s Jesse Cook: “I like them on the high alcohol side, but still well balanced!” It should be noted that Jesse’s Nitro Patty Stout that E-Rock and I had back in April 2012 was one of the best limited-release stouts I have had in this state.
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Some of our readers sounded off on Facebook and/or Twitter about their favorite stouts. I also asked some of the frequent posters on the Dodgers’ website Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness, who I chat with about the Isotopes (and other things, obviously). Here are a few of their responses.
Brew Crew readers
David Gunter: “Santa Fe Brewing Company‘s Java Stout. Best in town.”
Miguel Lucero: “Older Viscosity from Port Brewing. Oskar Blues’ Ten Fidy. I like a big burly imperial stout preferably barrel aged. It has to have lots of creaminess, body, chocolate character, and I like mine more on the espresso side than coffee.”
Manuel Martinez: “The Yeti stouts from Great Divide. I hope to have oatmeal yeti soon.”
Josh Sanders: “Ska’s Hibernal Vinafera. Oskar Blue’s Ten Fidy. HV a beautiful blend of wine and beer. TF is a monster.”
Sandy Zimmerman: “I prefer the Oatmeal Stout at Marble. Outside of NM, I just enjoyed the Clown Shoes Vampire Slayer; it’s a smoked imperial stout.”
MSTI readers (enjoy their screen names, please, and the sheer lunacy of some of their comments, which were not edited for content; proceed with caution)
deBlue Silver Edition: “(North Coast) Brother Thelonius. Good with a friend and a burger. Especially if I want to get a warm buzz slowly and without fullness.”
Purple Drank: “Dogfish Head Santo Palo Marron. When Drank went on a tour there in Delaware, he got to check out the barrel that it ferments in, which uses a specific type of wood from South America. Really adds a richer flavor, plus gets Drank hammered.”
efb: “Young’s Double Chocolate Stout. I mean s***; it’s chocolate yo!” and “Green Flash Double Stout. The sweetest head you’ll ever get.”
Jacked Nate: “Bootleggers Black Phoenix stout has been a favorite of mine for the past couple of years. It’s chocolatey and coffee-y and has a little bite. I enjoy it alone or with cats and tears.”
Batted Bob: “Old Viscosity – Port Brewing Company, gets me wasted fast and tastes great.”
Deuces Wild: “Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout is at the top of my list. I went through 3 of those during the 3rd game of the NLCS and was feeling absolutely delightful. I love the flavor of roasted malt and the chocolate finish. Plus, 9% abv isn’t too shabby.”
NoHitWin2008: “Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout by Rogue. Why? Because of the mocha head and the well balanced flavors. It’s not just an awesome tasting stout, either. It’s fairly medium-bodied so it’s very drinkable.”
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And I would be remiss without including the Crew’s favorite stouts as well, starting with some of my own. I’ll probably forget a few awesome ones (particularly those I only had a GABF last year).
Stoutmeister: Stouts from around the country — Deschutes Obsidian Stout, Left Hand Milk Stout, Devil’s Backbone Black Rock Milk Stout, Magic Hat Heart of Darkness Stout, Stone Russian Imperial Espresso Stout, Clown Shoes Blaecorn Unidragon Russian Imperial Stout, Mendocino Imperial Stout, Sierra Nevada Narwhal Imperial Stout, Lost Coast Eight-Ball Stout, Stone Farking Wheaton w00tstout, Ska Steel-Toed Stout, Green Flash Double Stout, Goose Island Bourbon County Coffee Stout, Oskar Blues Ten Fidy, Odell Lugene Chocolate Milk Stout, North Coast Old Rasputin Imperial Stout, Pizza Port Order in the Port American Stout; Stouts from around New Mexico — Back Alley Imperial Russian Stout, Blue Corn Gold Medal Stout, Bosque Oatmeal Stout, Broken Bottle Rip Van Winkle Vanilla Stout, Chama River Sleeping Dog Stout and Serenity Milk Stout, Il Vicino Milk Chocolate Cherry Stout and St. Bob’s Imperial Stout and Panama Joe Coffee Stout, La Cumbre Malpais Stout and Chew and Swallow Oatmeal Stout and Anniversary Russian Imperial Stout, Marble Oatmeal Stout and Stout Americano and Imperial Stout, Sandia Chile Grill Rio Negro Smoked Milk Stout, Santa Fe Brewing Imperial Java Stout, Second Street Cream Stout, Taos Ale House Nitro Patty Stout, Taos Mesa Superstitious Stout, Tractor Double Plow Oatmeal Stout and Milk Stout, Turtle Mountain Maduro Stout.
Franz Solo: Lava Smoked Stout (from Iceland), Stone Russian Imperial Espresso Stout, Rogue XS Imperial Stout, Samuel Smith’s Organic Chocolate Stout, Il Vicino Panama Joe’s Coffee Stout, North Coast Old Rasputin Imperial Stout, Anderson Valley Bourbon Barrel Stout, Santa Fe Imperial Java Stout
Brandon: Lava Smoked Stout, Left Hand Milk Stout (he had others to list, but forgot to send them over)
E-Rock: Left Hand Milk Stout on nitro
Porter Pounder: Left Hand Milk Stout, Chama River Sleeping Dog Stout, Ska Mole Stout
Shilling: Someone was “too busy studying” again this week. You’d think this guy is trying to become a paramedic or something …
Enjoy International Stout Day! The Crew will be out and about, enjoying all the dark malevolence we can fit in our pint glasses and growlers.