Last year, most of us felt like the Stout Challenge was coming to an end, between a seemingly declining number of stouts, and the Crew itself shrinking down. One person who could not participate last year was Mrs. Solo, who told us that we had to do at least a ninth edition so she could participate one more time. Then she realized this was the ninth, and has since told us 10 is a nice, round number. We get this year, and next, and then we will see where the beer takes us.
For those who have not followed us for long, every Super Bowl Sunday the Crew gathers at Franz Solo’s house, armed with as many house stouts as we can fit into growlers. With the lovely Ms. Margaret as our volunteer pouring guru, we try them in a blind taste test not dissimilar to the IPA Challenge. Our goal is to try the stouts that are on regularly throughout the year, or at least those that are mostly adjunct-free and below the imperial level, and determine which one is our personal favorite, based around the categories of aroma, flavor, mouthfeel, and finish.
For anyone who thinks that this probably just means we are ranking the same top four or five stouts every year, er, well, no. In fact, in eight past years of doing this, we have only had one brewery win twice, and no one has ever repeated. Here are the past winners.
- 2019: Starr Brothers becomes the first two-time winner
- 2018: Canteen finally feels the love with Dark ‘n Lusty
- 2017: Starr Brothers claims the title in its first year with Foggy Monocle
- 2016: Chama River’s last great feat is to win with Sleeping Dog
- 2015: Boxing Bear lands a knockout with Standing 8 Stout
- 2014: Tractor doubles down to win with Double Plow
- 2013: La Cumbre ascends to the top with Malpais
- 2012: Marble gets us off to a great start with its classic Oatmeal Stout
This year the field is wide open. We could have as many as 20 (!) stouts to choose among (which would be a record), though we will not know for sure on some until we visit the breweries to fill our growlers/crowlers this weekend.
Here are the potential 20 stouts that we will be sampling in alphabetical order by brewery. Any marked with a * would be a first-time participant. The others have numbers in parentheses for their finish last year out of 14 participants.
- Bathtub Row Stouty McStoutface*
- Blue Corn Oatmeal Stout*
- Bombs Away Stockpile*
- Bosque Driftwood (4th)
- Boxing Bear Standing 8 (8th)
- Brew Lab 101 Event Horizon*
- Canteen Dark ‘n Lusty (3rd)
- Differential Irish Dry Stout*
- Kaktus Oatmeal Stout* (if available)
- Kilt Check Obliviscaris*
- La Cumbre Malpais (7th)
- Lava Rock Seismic*
- Palmer Export Stout*
- Ponderosa Oatmeal Stout*
- Quarter Celtic Mac Lomas (6th)
- Starr Brothers Foggy Monocle (1st)
- Steel Bender Brickie*
- Toltec Shaman (11th)
- Tractor Double Plow (10th)
- Turtle Mountain Strategos*
Stouts that we tried last year that are not available this year will include Marble Oatmeal Stout (second) and Kellys Sleeping Dog Stout (ninth), as the former has been discontinued and the latter no longer brews its own beer. There were a few others replaced by their own breweries, and some we will not be able to acquire this time around.
We will share some pictures and the like on social media Sunday, but the full results will wait until Monday. Enjoy the game, if you can, or at least the commercials. Please remember, if you do go past the limit Sunday, Lyft and Uber are there for you as options, or make sure there is a designated driver if you are away from home to watch the game.
Cheers to the darkness!