Stout Challenge XI: The first winner reclaims the title in Smooth fashion

When you’re tasting 20-plus stouts, you gotta ham it up for the photos. From bottom left, Erin, Jeff, Stoutmeister, Natalie, Andrew, Maureen, and Luke.

There is no such thing is a perfect beer tasting event.

Whether it is the annual IPA Challenge, or even the Brew Crew’s own Stout Challenge, something usually comes up that throws it all for a loop; sometimes it’s big, sometimes it’s small. In our case on Saturday night, we were all a bit surprised when one of the adjunct-free stouts tasted like pure coffee.

After a bit of an investigation, we confirmed that despite the crowler label saying it was Brickie American Stout, it was actually the Pour Vida Coffee Porter from Steel Bender. It had just come in second out of the 24 stouts in our annual blind taste test. Whoops. So, yeah, it was disqualified, which sucks, because Brickie came in second in 2021, so we were eager to see if it could take that next step forward.

Anyway, other than that, we survived the biggest stout field ever, and it all added up to a fun evening in the 11th edition of this little event. We had five Crew members — myself, Luke, Erin, Maureen, and our host, Andrew — and two guest judges, Jeff and Natalie. We also wanted to thank Lauren for pouring all the beers and keeping things organized. She is a rock star.

Our opinions on the stouts were varied, as one might expect with seven judges. But, in the end, there was only one winner, and it had been a long time coming since this storied brewery claimed the medieval helmet (heck, we did not award said helmet when they first won).

Yeah, the brewery in question won in 2012, the first year we all gathered to do this celebration of the dark side of beer. It was a totally different cast of Crew characters back then, and a lot fewer stouts. And yes, I’m dragging out this reveal of the winner. So first, here is how everyone else finished, from No. 23 all the way to the winner. If any brewer would like to discuss where his/her stout ended up, we would be happy to talk with you on or off the record and provide any constructive criticism. Or, you can just chalk it up to “those damn writers have no palates” and leave it at that, should your ranking prove upsetting.

After a long night of tasting 23 stouts, we get a break, right? No? All right, fine, we will keep writing.

23. Toltec Shaman Stout

22. Sobremesa Lullaby Dry Stout

21. Brew Lab 101 Event Horizon Oatmeal Stout

19. (tie) Flix Brewhouse Island Boy Tropical Stout and Turtle Mountain Metal Snake Irish Dry Stout

17. (tie) Bombs Away Blacked Out Stout and Thirsty Eye Bruiser the Pitbull American Stout

15. (tie) Bosque Driftwood Stout and Quarter Celtic Mac Lomas Irish Dry Stout

14. Tractor Oatmeal Stout

13. La Cumbre Malpais Stout

12. Palmer Export Stout

11. Lizard Tail Black Bearded Oatmeal Stout

10. Boxing Bear Standing 8 Stout

9. Ex Novo Penguin Tuxedo

8. ReSource Equality Stout

7. B2B Garden Brewery Grande Oatmeal Stout

6. Kaktus Stout

4. (tie) Canteen Dark and Lusty Stout and Hidden Mountain Oatmeal Stout

3. Harmon Lane Tin Cup Stout

2. Kilt Check Obliviscaris Stout

And finally, the winner, just in case the headline was not a dead giveaway:

  1. Marble Cholo Smooth
Your humble judges, with Erin holding the crowler of the victorious Cholo Smooth from Marble. Thanks to Lauren for the photo, and for being an awesome master pourer of stouts!

Comments jotted down for the winner included that it had a smooth (natch), creamy mouthfeel, with a strong chocolate and coffee presence, a mild aroma, and a clean finish. We have all missed the original Marble Oatmeal Stout, so this was a wonderful throwback to that classic brew.

Individually, our personal favorite stouts were Cholo Smooth for myself, Luke, Maureen, and Erin. Andrew and Jeff preferred ReSource, while Natalie selected Lizard Tail as her favorite.

In the end, this is purely subjective and everyone out there can continue to enjoy what stouts they already like. But, if you see one on this list that you have not tried, get out there and sample it before stout season ends.

Thanks to the breweries for participating and (hopefully) not taking it too personally. We will get that medieval helmet to Marble this week.

And, next year, if there are 20-plus stouts again, we may do a preliminary round. Anything over 16 is a bit much.

Keep supporting local stouts!

— Stoutmeister

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Jim Hering says:

    Thanks for taking on this heavy load. There are lots of us who appreciate your work. I was glad to see Obliviscaris Stout so highly rated. It’s my personal favorite, and Mike Campbell does a great job.

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