I couldn't be MORE excited about this post! Class, meet my first guest-blogger, Joe Hinman! Joe is a long-time customer of my shop, and someone I've grown to respect as a go-to beer guy for a very long time! His opinions are studied and smart, and he is one of the smartest beer fans I've ever met in my life. We do beer trades all the time, and I love any time he and his lovely fiance, Jayme, come visit me in the shop. When I started this blog, Joe pointed me toward his beer blog: A Lexicon of Common Sense, and we decided we had to do a blog trade!
I'll be writing on his blog this upcoming week and will link to it here, too. In the meantime, please note that my favorite Imperial Stout's are listed on here--I love #1, 2 and 4. And Left Hand's Milk Stout is a great "session" stout--love speaking the speak.
With another St. Patty’s Day here and gone, and the desire to guzzle Guinness by the gallon in remission for a year, here are ten ways to enjoy and respect one of the most popular styles of beer.
There’s not a thing wrong with Guinness, it has its place and is an excellent gateway into the wide, wide world of stouts. Here is a list of my top five stouts and top five imperial stouts. The former category includes milk and sweet stouts; the latter includes American and Russian imperials.
Top 5 Stouts
- Kalamazoo Stout – Bell’s Brewing Co. 6% ABV - A good standard stout, brewed with licorice to give an extra bite. Roasty, sweet and smooth drinking and available year round.
- Tres Blueberry Stout – Dark Horse Brewing Co. 4.5% ABV – Third in a five part holiday stout series from one of the finest breweries in Michigan. Normally I’m not wild about fruit beers, but this one has it right. The blueberry flavor is more earthy than it is sweet and plays beautifully with the natural malt flavors of a stout. I wasn’t totally sold at first, but after a couple experiences I was won over.
- Shakespeare Stout – Rogue Ales 6% - Another solid beer, encompassing all aspects of a good stout: Malty, a little sweet with hints of coffee and chocolate, very slightly creamy making for an easy drink and this one comes with a nice hop presence, adding a bit of an edge. Also a year round offering.
- Left Hand Milk Stout – Left Hand Brewing Co. 5.2% ABV – This is a new one for me. As with the blueberry stout, I wasn’t sold at first. This brew is way sweet. It’s not so much a dessert beer as it is a beer that is dessert. Super creamy, goes nicely with chocolate cake. It’s a full-bodied, thick drink but doesn’t knock you out after one or two.
- Special Double Cream Stout - Bell’s Brewing Co. 6.1% ABV – Yes, another beer from Bell’s. Bell’s gets a lot of credit and lot of criticism. It’s a pretty large brewery so a lot of people view it as trendy and overrated. But those people who have been drinking it for awhile understand it got to be so big because they make good beer. Especially stouts. They have a larger stout lineup than the average breweries and all but one are exceptional drinks. This one is similar to the Milk Stout, but more balanced. Maltier, more flavorful and far less sweet with the perfect amount of cream. It’s the best example of a sweet stout I’ve had thus far.
Top 5 Imperial Stouts
- Plead the 5th RIS – Dark Horse Brewing Co. 12% ABV – The finale of Dark Horse’s five part holiday stout series, the alcohol content of this monster really sneaks up on you. It almost drinks like a regular stout, only tastier. That trademark roasty flavor is more pronounced backed by mocha and dark, bittersweet chocolate. So black light cannot escape. Be careful with this one, it’s dangerously smooth.
- Kentucky Breakfast Stout – Founders Brewing Co. 11.2% ABV – Aging beer in bourbon barrels is common practice and yields nice results. Founder’s has some killer bourbon barrels, and they use them very effectively. KBS is a bourbon barrel aged stout, perfectly sweet with great bourbon flavor and notes of vanilla, chocolate and coffee. Everything balanced, every flavor has its time in the sun and the overall mouthfeel/aftertaste is pleasant and relatively smooth. The alcohol is apparent in this one, but it doesn’t get in the way.
- Old Rasputin RIS – North Coast Brewing Co. 9% ABV – A classic RIS. The standard by which all other Russian imperials produced in America are judged. It’s a great example of this style and it’s available all over the place all the time. There’s no reason not to drink it.
- Yeti – Great Divide Brewing Co. – 9.5% ABV – There are four Yetis: Regular, oak-aged, espresso oak-aged and chocolate oak-aged. I’ve had the latter two and my favorite is the espresso, so I’ll talk about that one. It’s full of great coffee flavor, is obviously oak aged and has a nice hop presence. It’s a pretty intense drink but totally worth it.
- Samuel Smith’s Imperial Stout – 7% ABV – What Old Rasputin is to the American-produced RIS, Samuel Smith’s Imperial Stout is to the Imperial Stout worldwide. It’s a benchmark for all other imperial stouts. It’s very drinkable at this low of an alcohol content. Not that 7% is low by any means, but it is the lowest for a stout to be considered imperial. This is really everything an imperial stout should be.