The Stout Challenge lives with a few 2021 modifications

There will be fewer stouts this year, in a different venue than Franz Solo’s house, but the Stout Challenge will be happening!

Here we go again. The Crew is gathering a few weeks later than most years, but it’s time for our annual Stout Challenge. Only there will be fewer of us participating, in a different location, and with fewer stouts.

Hey, it’s the pandemic era, sacrifices had to be made.

In some ways, the breweries made it a little easier, since instead of last year’s record 21 stouts, we have only counted 11 eligible stouts for our blind taste test format.

Here’s the 11 participating stouts, with last year’s finish in parentheses.

  • Malpais Stout, La Cumbre (1)
  • Shaman Stout, Toltec (3)
  • Standing 8 Stout, Boxing Bear (4)
  • Obliviscaris Stout, Kilt Check (7)
  • Mac Lomas Stout, Quarter Celtic (8)
  • Brickie American Stout, Steel Bender (11)
  • Event Horizon Oatmeal Stout, Brew Lab 101 (12)
  • Double Plow Oatmeal Stout, Tractor (16)
  • Dark ‘n Lusty Stout, Canteen (18)
  • Siesta Stout, Sobremesa (NA)
  • Metal Snake Dry Irish Stout, Turtle Mountain (NA)

The reason Metal Snake was not ranked last year was Strategos Stout was still on tap at TMBC, and it finished 15th. Sobremesa, of course, was not open last year.

Among the notable missing entries from last year’s competition, Starr Brothers’ Foggy Monocle (2), Bosque’s Driftwood Stout (6), Palmer’s Export Stout (10), and Bombs Away’s Stockpile Stout (13) are not on tap this year, and none has an eligible replacement stout. None of us are traveling outside of the Albuquerque metro area, so there will be no stouts this year coming down from Hidden Mountain (Blue Corn last year), Bathtub Row, or Beer Creek. And, since he has not brewed it in a long time, we will not have Franz Solo’s own Black Stout ov Vengeance in the competition.

For anyone reading this who is not familiar with our Stout Challenge, it is modeled after the IPA Challenge, albeit on a much smaller scale. We have one or more volunteers who pour the beers, which we taste and rate on a five-point scale for each of four categories — aroma, flavor, mouthfeel, finish — and grade out to a final total between zero and 20. Our individual scores for each beer are then added up to a final total to determine the champion.

Rather than just pick any stouts, we omit any with adjuncts (chocolate, lactose, coffee), as well as anything imperial or barrel aged. Nitro stouts cannot be entered since they cannot be put into growlers or crowlers. Once upon a time we only selected stouts that were on tap year-round, but few of those remain, so we do include stouts brewed seasonally that stay on tap for months at a time.

Usually we hold this just-for-fun competition on Super Bowl Sunday, since it tends to be a convenient time for people to gather. That was not possible this year. With Covid concerns paramount, we also had to move from Franz Solo’s house to our friend Dan’s place, which is where we previously held our Truth Serum Barleywine tasting in his spacious backyard.

Crew members participating this year will include myself, Erin, Andrew, and Maureen (and then Brandon figured out he had his weekends mixed up, so he will be there, too), so with only five of us, having just 11 stouts to judge is probably the safest thing we can do. Dan only has one guest room and one couch, after all.

So wish us luck, and nice weather, and flavorful stouts that make it hard for us to pick a winner.

We will share the results Monday.

Oh, and because we figure some people might be curious, here are the past winners: Marble Oatmeal Stout (2012), La Cumbre Malpais Stout (2013 and 2020), Tractor Double Plow Oatmeal Stout (2014), Boxing Bear Standing 8 Stout (2015), Chama River Sleeping Dog Stout (2016), Starr Brothers Foggy Monocle (2017 and 2019), Canteen Dark ‘n Lusty Stout (2018).

Keep supporting local!

— Stoutmeister

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