We drank four gallons of stout. Somehow, we are still alive.
Seven members of the Dark Side Brew Crew gathered on Super Bowl Sunday to judge 17 stouts from around the ABQ metro area in a blind taste test. For the seventh time in seven years, a different brewery took home the title.
We judged the stouts on aroma, flavor, mouthfeel, and finish, with a maximum score of five points per category, for a total maximum of 20 points. None came close to perfection, but there was definitely a top tier. We did have one slight problem, as someone (Luke!) forgot to check his email and see he had three stouts to pick up from Bombs Away, Kellys, and Quarter Celtic. Friend-of-the-Crew and past guest judge Tim went and got the latter two for us, but due to the police situation shutting down I-40 and a lack of time, he was not able to get to Bombs Away. We promise that next year, Luke will read his email and BABC will be a part of Stout Challenge VIII.
For now, here are the results of Stout Challenge VII, from bottom to top. (Apologies for this appearing Tuesday instead of Monday, but the damn game was so exciting that I was unable to start writing it until my lunch break at work the following day, and that proved to not nearly be long enough.)
17. Cazuela’s Beer For My Horses (28.5 points): Stouts should not be sour. Stouts should not be sour. Stouts should not be sour. Something went wrong with this beer. Very wrong.
16. Sidetrack Dark Engine Stout (45.5): Brewed on one of the smaller systems in town, this stout just screams for more. More malt, mainly, to produce more flavor and a stronger mouthfeel. It came off as far too light in all aspects, more along the lines of a dark lager than a true stout.
15. Kaktus C-Thru Stout (54): We had hoped to have brewer Michael Waddy join us, but alas, he was not able to attend. E-Rock scrambled and picked up a stout, but it turned out to be the brewery’s pale stout. It had a heavy coffee aroma and flavor, but the body and slightly sweet/hoppy finish made it seem more like a coffee pale ale than a true stout.
14. Bosque Driftwood (57.5): Currently on tap as just a seasonal, we included it because it is a past house beer and has been on a seasonal tap for quite some time. Unfortunately, it just did not have much going on. Several Crew members felt it was closer to a porter than a true stout, just coming off as too light in flavor and mouthfeel.
13. Starr Brothers Foggy Monocle (62): The 2017 champion took a tumble this year. The aroma received mixed reviews, with some enjoying the slightly doughy, fruity scent, but others did not. The mouthfeel was good, but the flavor just was not there this year.
12. Palmer Switch Stance (63.5): We had this and the Foggy back-to-back, and the aromas were nearly so identical as to cause most of us to ask Margaret, who handles all the pouring, if she had not re-poured the same beer. The mouthfeel was good initially, but the flavor just came off as dry and thin, particularly on the back end.
11. Tractor Double Plow (64): The 2014 champion, which was runner-up last year and the closest ever to being a two-time winner, took a tumble down the standings. There simply was not much in the aroma, flavor, or mouthfeel. That past cookie dough flavor just was not there.
10. Steel Bender Blue Bullet (68): The other Irish-style stout on the list besides Switch Stance, this one started off with a good, roasty aroma. The flavor, though, just does not pop as much as its oatmeal counterparts. It still comes off as a promising start for SBB, which was in its first Stout Challenge.
9. Turtle Mountain Stauffenberg (69): We picked up on a good amount of flavor here, but there was not much in terms of aroma or mouthfeel. The flavor did not last, either.
8. Rio Bravo Oatmeal (69.5): The aroma was the biggest plus with most of us. It almost had a slight barrel element to it. The flavor disappeared fairly quickly, but there was nothing objectionable about it. It just needs to be a bit chewier.
7. La Cumbre Malpais (78.5): The 2013 champion was solid this time, but failed to really pop in any category. As it is not an oatmeal stout, perhaps, it just suffered a bit in comparison, coming off as drier and less smooth. It was still the best non-oatmeal stout of the bunch.
6. Marble Oatmeal (81.5): Our first champion from back in 2012 had a nice rebound year. The flavor of smoky oats seemed to get better from start to finish. The mouthfeel was fairly strong.
5. Quarter Celtic MacLomas (87): The phrase “dessert beer” got tossed around with this one. Yeah, it’s sweet, but not overly so.
4. Drafty Kilt Obliviscaris (88): An impressive showing for the soon to be renamed brewery in its first Stout Challenge. There were strong chocolate/mocha notes, from the aroma to the flavor. The body was dry, while keeping its flavor throughout.
3. Boxing Bear Standing 8 (90): A delightful batch from the past champion (2015). The aroma had a strong chocolate element to draw us in, while the flavor may have been the most complex of all 17 samples. This remains one of the finest year-round stouts in the state.
2. Kellys Sleeping Dog (90.5): A heavy chocolate flavor was the dominant feature here. It really did remind us of the previous incarnation at Chama River, which won the title in 2016. The aroma had traces of coffee. This is the type of beer that has us all encouraged for the future at Kellys.
1. Canteen Dark ‘n Lusty (98.5): Well, hello there, old friend. Head brewer Zach Guilmette told us a few months ago that he changed up the recipe to bring DnL up to modern standards. It certainly has done that and more. The aroma tells you how strong and tough of a beer this is, with a pronounced dark licorice/anise element. The flavor is consistent throughout, both bold and roasty and yet still sweet. Truly a worthy champion for 2018!
For each Crew member, the rankings varied, of course. Here are everyone’s top three picks.
Stoutmeister: 1) Drafty Kilt 16.5, 2) Boxing Bear 16, 3) Canteen 13.5
Franz Solo: 1) Boxing Bear 14, 2) Canteen and Drafty Kilt 13.5
Mrs. Solo: 1) Canteen 16, 2) Kellys 14, 3) Quarter Celtic 13
E-Rock: 1) Boxing Bear 15, 2) Canteen, La Cumbre and Rio Bravo 14
Brandon: 1) Canteen 18, 2) Boxing Bear and Palmer 15
Luke: 1) La Cumbre 15.5, 2) Marble 15, 3) Kellys 14.5
Andrew: 1) La Cumbre and Quarter Celtic 14, 3) Marble, Steel Bender and Turtle Mountain 13
A big thanks to the breweries for their contributions to the Stout Challenge. We always encourage everyone to go out and try all the beers for themselves. Let us know which is your favorite from around town, and beyond!