Many Ingredients but only one winner!
Bourbon County Cherry Wood Stout
Imperial Stout aged in Bourbon barrels
Every year, the Bourbon County Stouts roll out, and with them come at least a few new variations. 2020 saw the Midnight Orange (which will be mentioned on a future podcast), and this year sees a few new tastes with Cherry Wood being one of the more reasonable ones. It pours Stuart Semple black and immediately smells like someone dunked a loaf of bread in alcohol. Great start! Let’s find out if you wood or wood not like it, though.
Hops – 2.0 Like a bear lost in the forest (loose wood pun, I’ll try again later).
Malt – 9.1 It’s huge. It’s Malt of America. It’s King of Prussia Malt big. Roasted, toasted, chocolatey, sweet and deep.
Carbonation – 6.1 It’s not going to foam over like a belgian, but the noticeable bubbles break up what might have been a cloying sweetness with the heavy syrupy malt.
Character – 7.5 I don’t think I’ve eaten cherry wood on purpose before, so I’m not sure if there’s a largely noticeable difference from an oak barrel but the intense malt, booze, and fruit are here in droves. Groves?
Palate – 8.5 It all comes together to, I’m sure, make something slightly different than the normal BCBS, which is usually a fantastic product anyway.
Overall – 8.7 If you want a big bourbon barrel stout with something a little neat done to it for a conversation point, this is great.
Straight from the source, since I am not a Cherry Wood flavor expert: “The versatility of the cherry wood and honeycomb shape allowed for maximum flavor extraction, revealing complex characteristics like red fruit, ripe cherry, and light toffee, which are not found in the original oak barrel itself. The result is an amazing elevation and a notable difference from our Original Bourbon County Stout.” Without a regular BCBS to try back to back, it’s almost impossible to verify those claims, but it is really quite good.
Imperial Biscotti Chili Hazelnut Break
11.5% 16oz Can
The …break from Evil Twin starts by pouring a crazy dark color with a great, dark head. But before you even get to that point, you’ll smell some interesting stuff right from the can. I could immediately tell it was going to have a little spice to it, along with strong imperial stout alcohol and malt. I can’t wait to take a break myself so let’s get right to it.
Hops – 1.1 Of the hodgepodge of flavors, this one is not there.
Malts – 7.9 Yes, this made the cut. They are there and you’ll know it.
Carbonation – 6.6 A little surprising but I think the bubbles add a little punch to the spice and break up the festival of taste happening.
Character – 9.2 The name of this beer might be longer than the review, and it shows. There’s a good chili spice that plays well with the chocolate and hazelnut notes, and then you get slammed with delicious malt, vanilla, some alcohol and a roasted…something.
Palate – 9.0 It blends just enough spicy kick with everything else. Well done.
Overall – 9.0 It’s smooth, it has bite, it’s sweet and roasty but you also get a great (not overpowering) booze finish with it.
I had held on to this one and it survived many alcohol induced fridge raids because I thought it was going to be worth writing about, and at the price point I didn’t want it to be just another beer I had. You might think that chocolate, vanilla, hazelnut, chili spice, malt, coffee and alcohol sounds like an alcoholic Peruvian librarian’s fever dream but it comes together so well. There’s a small lingering heat (which I like), everything that’s sweet isn’t SO sweet that it seems to choke you, and the booze finish helps with the heat and is a delightful touch at the end.
I’m excited to get more Virginia beers in the reviews, and Center of The Universe has yet to disappoint me. This one is supposed to be like a salty, orange chocolate truffle, and if the color/smell is any indication, it’ll be delightful. There’s essentially no head to it, it’s straight to business with these two. Here’s your beer, it’ll be great, citr’ass (citrus jokes?) down and enjoy.
Hops – 1.1 Moving along it’s late, lettuce (produce jokes!) get to the point
Malts – 5.4 This one actually doesn’t hit you with a lot of the caramel, malty taste you’d get from a big stout which is surprising. It’s not a bad thing here though because malt flavor is the undercard in this prizefight.
Carbonation – 3.14 Because it was Pi Day recently and there’s not much else to say about that.
Character – 7.1 I can definitely taste a lot of the orange, and maybe some of the salt. You have a great beer behind it, and you don’t get a lot of the booze with it which is nice for such a robust stout. More chocolate would be appreciated, however.
Overall – 8.3 It delivers on its promise. Both breweries could have chosen the Safe Way (I admit that’s a reach but stick with me) but they threw caution and whatever else was on hand to the wind. First word, ORANGE. It’s right there and you get it. I would recommend at least a small sample, maybe a large sample, or guzzle it at someone else’s expense. I would like to deduct a few points since it’s not as bold and roasty as I would like, but I have to consider what they were going for and remove my own bias and I think they got it. It’s nice to have some new flavors kicking around, too.
The beer starts with ORANGE, and you can tell it’s there in droves. Sea salt, maybe. I’m not too familiar with salt in my beer. But when you call it “IMPERIAL CHOCOLATE STOUT” on the label, you can be certain I am expecting exactly that, too. Good overall beer, but for the weakness of both the Imperial stout portion and the lack of chocolate, I have to peel (a-ha!) off a few personal points. Great idea, pretty good execution. It’s tasty. I know they probably nailed what they were going for, I was just left a little wanting with the promise of imperial, chocolate, and orange.
As always: Like, share, follow and enjoy!
9.2% 22OZ Bomber
I’m excited to finally get to this one. I’ve had it in my fridge ALL YEAR (great and timely joke, way to start 2018) and now it’s finally getting its turn in the spotlight. This is a great Virginia beer and is one of the few beers I’ll order whenever I see it on tap, but that’s enough about my own preferences. Time to take the “i” out of review and bring you another entertaining revew.
This pours dark, like the ending of The Mist or a basement without any working lights. Pretty decent head on it as well, and when you smell it you get a sleigh-full of roasted malts, and some sweet notes with spices in there as well.
Hops – 2.2 Some, maybe, sure, but they aren’t the point here.
Malts – 7.1 Yes, it’s malty but it’s also mild and smooth. You’re in for a real treat with this.
Carbonation – 6.7 It’s pretty bubbly for a stout, but it’s not harsh in the mouth.
Character – 6.9 Nice. Being a milk stout it’s pretty subdued on that front, letting some of the ginger, honey, spice and sweetness cut through.
Palate – 8.5 Everything comes together nicely here, like family members that show up on time with food that wasn’t bought from whatever was leftover at Shopper’s on Christmas Eve. You get the full tour, front to back, of everything without a single element dominating the experience.
Overall – 9.1 Look, it’s awesome. There’s another “BA” beer website featured on the label and it’s hard to not subtract points for that fact alone. But what’s even more bananas (you never type the correct number of “na”s the first time) is that those wrong, uninformed cavemen gave it a 100. Perfect score. That means no beer, no variation of GBS itself, could possibly be better. That’s just a total newbie thing to do and I’m not surprised. I rated this really high, because it’s so damn tasty, but I won’t pretend that it’s the best beer in the world (which is what a perfect score would mean). Is it fantastic and did I have to fight the urge to open it every time I saw it in the fridge? YUP. But I did, so that you could have this. Also, I do wish it was just a little more boozy. The alcohol content itself is plenty, but I like that little bite where you can tell it’s more potent than usual beers. Bottom line: RUN RUN AS FAST AS YOU CAN, TO BUY MORE OF THIS BEER.
Bourbon Barrel Stout22 oz Bomber
This one pours incredibly dark. There’s a nice head to it, and when you smell it, you’re immediately welcomed with dark, roasted notes, something fruity, and for lack of better words, bourbon barrel. It’s like someone has trapped the essence of a dark barrel of bourbon and put it in a bottle for you. This particular stout was aged in Wild Turkey barrels, so I expect some crazy flavor.
Hops – 2 Sometimes a stout can be bitter (see last review), but this one is not at all.
Malts – 6.5 It’s better than the last Dominion stout, but surprisingly, not by much. So far it seems tame, unlike the wild turkey on the label (and the barrel they used).
Carbonation – 5.5 It’s bubbly, but not overly so. It’s smooth and not much carbonation when you hold it in your mouth.
Character – 5.5 I don’t ever give out a double score (I also don’t ever use absolutes, or parentheses this often) but it’s somewhat lacking. For a brand that usually has great flavor and awesome seasonals, this one so far has yet to take flight, much like the bird.
Palate – 7 I’m giving it a higher score here because there’s not much to be offended by. Much like a mediocre thanksgiving turkey, you won’t find anything to rave about or dislike.
Overall – 6.1 I’m slightly embarrassed for both Wild Turkey and Anderson Valley. The great sights and scents you get when you initially pour it just lead you on a wild goose chase tracking down whatever flavor is supposed to stand out. There’s no boozy leftovers, very little “bourbon barrel” experience. I’m left hunting for flavors, and coming back empty handed. Is it bad? No, but there should be more to it than this. There are better examples of a BB stout out there. In the end, I’m going to cry fowl on this one. If they had made a higher ABV brew this drinkable, that would at least be a feat, but there’s not enough of…well, anything. This hunt is over, and not in a good way.
You’re still here? Feel free to email, tweet, comment, or send smoke signals on what you would like to see reviewed next! Or if you’re really great, send in something special and I’ll do my best.
OLD DOMINION OAK BARREL STOUT
FERMENTED ON VANILLA BEANS
45 IBUS, 5.5%
I’ll start this with a direct comparison, writing a little about each, then giving them their respective marks. The Russian imperial stout has hopefully not rigged this in any way, and I have never met with Ocelot.
The Dominion stout starts off with a crazy nose. A little bitter, very malty, very roasted, slightly coffee, somewhat chocolate. Smells like someone dumped a carefully crafted espresso over some chocolate generic ice cream. But let’s cut straight to it, and put it in the most discerning mouth in the room: mine.
…And much like Ron Burgundy, I immediately regret that decision. It’s limp. Flaccid. Weak. Okay cool let’s see how the other one is because another 10 seconds spent on this is already too much.
AND IN THE OTHER CORNER, WITH TWICE THE ALCOHOL, A BOTTLE THAT’S 5X COOLER, AND FROM A COMPANY MUCH SMALLER, IT’S MY ONLY FRIEND!
Just as dark (maybe even darker?) as the competitor, this stout clobbers the opposition. You immediately get that (allegedly) Russian Imperial Stout nose, with the somewhat yeasty, bready notes and then dark roasted malts. I mean, so I’ve heard. I’ve never been to Russia or had a Russian beer ever. Jump below to see how it stands up in the court of maw. (like mouth. My mom would hate this beer).
Hops – 5.5 It’s bitter, yes. But not like an IPA. Not too unexpected either from the nose and the IBU label.
Malts – 6 Here’s where things get a little suspicious. It pours just as dark as its competitor, promising a fair and unbiased competition. And then it doesn’t even show up. You’re an oak barrel stout, and I’m left wanting. I’m an IPA/DIPA/crazy beer fanatic and this isn’t enough malt for me.
Carbonation – 7.2 It’s pretty bubbly, at least initially. Just like everything else, it’s there for a second.
Character – 3.4 This character is like the celebrity cameo in a shark movie. One line, and then your body parts start exploding. What’s even in this? Is this just black soda water with some liquid smoke in it?
Palate – 4 It’s getting sparklers for the 4th of July. It’s going to a concert and finding out it’s just a tribute band to the one you really wanted. It’s the turn signal that’s green for 2 seconds. Is it the worst thing that could happen? No. But you wouldn’t buy any of that for a dollar.
Overall – 4.5 Take a lap, Guys. I realize most of your offerings are dreck, but you have some decent selections too. You just really bunged it up here.
Hops – 4.2 It’s a little bitter, but less so than the D—other one. I’m afraid of Beetlejuice-ing more of their beer in my mouth if I say that name again.
Malts – 6.8 They’re a clear and present…presence. Sweet enough to counteract the bitterness, juicy and roasty enough to draw you in. They can annex my taste buds any day.
Carbonation – 4.5 I don’t know if it’s because it sat for a minute, but it didn’t pour that heady either. They don’t get in the way, and it’s not like drinking chocolate milk. Good work.
Character – 6.2 It’s pretty standard as far as an RIS goes. Is there anything there to knock your socks off? No. But are they throwing around stuff like “roasted on vanilla beans” and then deleting all traces of them? Also no.
Palate – 9.4 This supposed collaboration comes together nicely to run away with this contest. I’m also running out of really good material here so I’ll break it down like this: IT’S GOOD. VERY GOOD. It is not the best out there, but what it does, it does well. The flavors don’t run away, nothing lingers too long, the finish isn’t too strong or bitter.
Overall – 8.4 This is a very solid stout. I wouldn’t wait in line to buy it, but if my friend said he had a case or a growler full, I’d already be in my car. Or maybe an uber, since it’s 10.5%. I know there are some incredibly rare and delicious ones out there, hence the 8.4 rating, but it’s really good. I don’t have any more clever election, russia, pop culture references so that’s a review. Buy it if you can, envy me if you can’t.
Schlafly Coffee Stout
The Saint Louis Brewery 5.7%
Pours black-hole dark with a generous, almost tan head.
You immediately smell the inside of a small coffee shop. Java, java, java.
When you taste it, you get a nice bitterness from the stout itself and then a tidal wave of that sweet nectar that heralds in every morning. Coffee. Not even burnt starbucks, either. This is good quality beans sensually massaging each taste bud into a state of compliance. The only way you’re sure it’s not actually coffee in a bottle is that it’s from the great folks at Saint Louis Brewery, and the slightly watery beer-y character. There’s no alcohol, no hops, no yeasty smells or tastes. It’s just a cold 12oz serving of delicious refreshment. If you’re a huge coffee fan (beanhead? There’s no way that’s what you call yourselves) and you needed to have one breakfast until the end of time, go buy ALL of the stock of Schlafly Coffee Stout. Right now.
Hops – 1 There have to be some in there somewhere. But they’re not noticeable and they’re not necessary.
Malts – 4.5 Actually for a stout, it’s more coffee than malts. They’re there, sure, but this isn’t an RIS or a Milk Stout. This is coffee with some beer in it.
Carbonation – 6.5 It compliments the coffee really well. You’re not here for bold malty, yeasty complexity. You’re here to enjoy coffee stout. Not stout with some coffee.
Character – 9 The label says COFFEE STOUT and that’s what you’re getting in spades. If you haven’t picked up on that already.
Palate – 9 I’m not sure what else I can say that I haven’t already. It’ll win a Slashie this year for best Coffee/Stout, and not the other way around.
Overall – 9 It’s simple, it’s delicious, and my coffee palate isn’t refined enough to thoroughly critique which beans they used. Buy it. Buy 12 of them. You’ll drink them.