Stout Tasting at Top Hops

Top Hops

After having a wonderful time at the Trappist tasting class last week at Top Hops, I decided to sign up for their Stout tasting class. Certified Cicerone Justin Crider took the class through a tasting of 19 stouts and porters from Europe and the USA. Full disclosure: I don’t enjoy the taste of coffee which tends to be the dominant flavor in many stouts. So I tend to stay away from those flavors. Chocolate forward stouts, on the other hand, are a delight. One of the main reason I took this class was to open up my palate to the world of stouts.

Port City Maniacal IPA

Having arrived early, I decided to have a Port City Maniacal Double IPA before the class started. A delicious and smooth DIPA, this beer had a pleasant hop flavor with very little bitterness at an ABV of 8.5%.

Fuller’s London Porter

First beer of the night was a classic brown porter, Fuller’s London Porter. This 5.4% ABV porter is brewed with Brown, Crystal and Chocolate malts which gives it chocolate and coffee flavors. Mild bitterness with a dry finish.

Central Waters Mud Puppy Porter

Next up was Central Waters Mud Puppy Porter. With aromas of bitter chocolate, this Wisconsin born beer has flavors of caramel and bready malts with hop balance on the end. This weighs in at 5.5% ABV.

Orkney Dragonhead Stout

A dry stout that hails from the Orkney Islands in Northern Scotland, the 4% ABV Orkney Dragonhead Stout hits the nose with aromas of coffee and chocolate. Roasted malt flavors shine through with coffee notes.

Guinness Foreign Extra Stout

The traditional Guinness Stout is surprisingly light at a low 4.3% ABV. The Foreign Extra version comes in at 7.5% ABV with the help of a generous amount of hops which helped preserve this beer for export to foreign markets. Toasted malt and toffee aromas are followed by the flavors of bitter chocolate and coffee with light caramel. It ends with a slight hop bitterness.

Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout

Oatmeal stouts use oats to enhance fullness of body and complexity of flavor, both of which can be found in Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout. A milky smooth body that gives way to earthy, nutty tones from the oats. At only 5% ABV, this stout tastes heavier than it appears.

Founders Breakfast Stout

Founders Breakfast Stout is one of the most popular stouts in the US due to it’s rich and intense coffee flavor. An imperial stout that is 8.3% ABV which could easily be mistaken for a cold cup of coffee. There are bitter chocolate undertones which compliment the coffee.

Bell’s Special Double Cream Stout

This American stout gets its name from its creamy texture, not the ingredients used. Bell’s Special Double Cream Stout comes to us from Michigan and the brewery has only been distributing to NYC since February of this year. This beer highlights the espresso and cocoa flavor of its roasted malts. This has an ABV of 6.1%.

Southern Tier Crème Brûlée (2012)

“Candy in a glass” is the way I described this beer when I first had it earlier this year. This 2012 Southern Tier Crème Brûlée came from the cellar of Mr. Crider and the 2 year aging has intensified the insanely sweet flavors. Heavy vanilla flavors dominate this 9.5% ABV Imperial Milk Stout. I wouldn’t recommend drinking more than a few ounces of this delicious dessert beer, unless you want go into sugar shock.

North Coast Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout

I first tried North Coast Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout last month at Barcade’s Tenth Anniversary celebration. They had a 2004 version that had been aging in their cellar for 10 years. I was expecting it to have an intense flavor profile, but the first sip left me feeling meh. Tasted like a low carbonated, thin stout. Fortunately the fresh brewed version of this stout is wonderful. Chocolate forward with the support of roasty malts at an ABV of 9%. A good Winter beer.

Young’s Double Chocolate Stout

One of my favorites of the night. Young’s Double Chocolate Stout uses a combination of chocolate malts with real dark chocolate for a smooth and creamy beer. Slight hop flavor comes from Fuggle and Golding hops. This delicious stout comes in at 5.2% ABV.

Southern Tier Choklat Stout 2012

Another highlight of the night, this 2012 Southern Tier Choklat Stout also came from the cellar of Mr. Crider. This Imperial stout pretty much tastes like a melted chocolate bar with the aroma to match. If someone doubled everything that is great about Young’s Double Chocolate Stout, the result would be this beer. Even the ABV is doubled at 10%.

Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout 2013

Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout is another extremely popular stout garnering pretty much perfect scores over on Beer Advocate. Beer stores even have special release events for Goose Island’s Bourbon County line up. This stout has big smokey bourbon aromas and flavors and a high ABV of 14.2%. Unfortunately for me, I’m not a fan of bourbon aging. I find it overpowers most of the flavor of the beer. I’m happy to let others wait in line for this one.

Goose Island Bourbon County Coffee Stout 2013

Bourbon aging with coffee? This Goose Island Bourbon County Coffee Stout definitely isn’t for me. If you love those kinds of flavors, then you will absolutely love this 13.1% ABV stout. Another one that people go crazy for, but just give me an IPA.

Odell Fernet Aged Porter

I never heard of Fernet before this year until I overheard someone talking about it at a bar. Then I found out that my friends from San Fransisco loved the stuff. The Odell Fernet Aged Porter displays its Fernet barrel aging well. Chocolate malts are supported by the herbal, spicy, and minty flavor of the liquor. This American porter has an ABV of 9.8%.

Deschutes Black Butte XXV

Deschutes Black Butte XXV is brewed with dates, figs, and cocoa nibs and then aged in bourbon barrels. This 11.3% Imperial Porter has a strong bourbon flavor supported by the dark fruits. Slightly bitter and tart, it has a warm finish.

Perennial Artisan Ales Abraxas

Brewed in my home town of St. Louis, MO, this imperial stout is a favorite of mine. The intense flavor comes from a combination of cocoa nibs, vanilla bean, cinnamon, and ancho chiles. The vanilla, cocoa, and cinnamon support each other well. Meanwhile, the ancho chiles come up from behind with a nice lingering heat. I suggest that everyone seek out this 10% ABV beauty.

The Bruery Tart of Darkness

This 7.2% ABV oak barrel aged sour stout comes from Orange County, California. Bruey’s Tart of Darkness is dark and roasty, but with a underlying tartness that comes from souring bacterias and wild yeasts. A very interesting combination of flavors that I wish more breweries would explore.

Evil Twin Imperial Biscotti Break Natale Pretty Please With A Cherry On Top

Having one of the longest beer names I have ever seen, the Evil Twin Imperial Biscotti Break Natale Pretty Please With A Cherry On Top has flavors of coffee, almonds and chocolate. Hints of cherry peak through this 11.5% imperial porter.

Brooklyn Brewery Black Ops 2012

The final beer of the night was Brooklyn Brewery Black Ops. This is aged in bourbon barrels then fermented in the bottle with champagne yeast. Vanilla, oak, and bourbon flavors come through at the front. Nice alcohol warmth from the 10.5% ABV.

Another great night of tasting excellent beers at Top Hops. I want to thank Cicerone Justin Crider for being an excellent teacher. I am looking forward to the Saison tasting next month!

CHEERS!

Cicerone Justin Crider

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