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Saturday, February 19, 2011

February Beer Review: Stouts


STOUT
[stout]

–noun
a dark, sweet brew made of roasted malt and having a higher percentage of hops than porter.


Rogue Ales’ Double Chocolate Stout is my favorite brew, no exceptions. With twice the Dutch bittersweet chocolate as their original Chocolate Stout, it’s no wonder that Double Chocolate won Rogue a gold medal in 2010 at the World Beer Championships. Rogue’s 750mL bottles are not legal under current Alabama laws, so I enjoyed a pint on tap at Hopjack’s Pizza Kitchen and Taproom. This brew pours rich and black with a thick, tan head that probably would have lasted longer and resulted in lacing if I hadn’t been so eager to drink it! The aroma is tantalizing, similar to that of freshly baked brownies. The flavor is robust, with plenty of bittersweet chocolate, roasty caramel-toffee malts and a hint of espresso. It's full-bodied and creamy. Served ice cold or room temperature, Rogue's Double Chocolate Stout rocks my world. 8.7%ABV.
Rating: A+

Last year, Terrapin Beer Co.'s Depth Charge milk stout, second in their Midnight Project series with Left Hand Brewing, blew my mind with its creaminess and spot-on espresso flavor from the addition of a special espresso roast from Jittery Joe's. To my dismay, Depth Charge was a limited brew. Fortunately, I learned that this was not the first collaboration between Terrapin and Jittery Joe's. Introduced in 2005, Terrapin's delicious Wake'n'Bake Coffee Oatmeal Imperial Stout is released annually in November. It pours black with a two-finger, reddish brown, bubbly head and smells of freshly roasted coffee beans and oatmeal cookies. It's a robust brew with 6 types of malts and 2 types of hops. Roasted coffee is, of course, the primary flavor. There are also notes of bittersweet chocolate and an oatmeal nuttiness. The finish is perfectly bitter. The flavor lasts long after the glass is empty, as does the lacing. Wake'n'Bake has an excellent mouthfeel - creamy and rich with just the right amount of carbonation. As with the brew above, Wake'n'Bake is excellent served ice cold or room temperature. 8.1%ABV.
Rating: A+

Sam Adams' Imperial Stout is a massive brew. It pours black with a short, bubbly, tan head. Its aroma reminds me of those little red boxes of raisins - soaked in booze. The bittersweet scent of chocolate and a hint of coffee are also present. It is a complex beer, with flavors of roasty malts and coffee, a hint of dark fruit and big, bold bittersweet dark chocolate. It's rich and creamy. Makes me think of Kahlua truffles or maybe brownies drizzled with Kahlua. With its high alcohol content and intensity, Sam Adams' Imperial Stout is definitely a sipping beer. 9.2%ABV.
Rating: A


Bell's Brewery's Cherry Stout is not the first cherry beer I've encountered. You may remember O'Fallon's Chocolate Cherry Beer from December's review, and I've long been a fan of Sam Adams' Cherry Wheat. Bell's Cherry Stout is vastly and surprisingly different from both. It pours black with a reddish-brown two-finger head that's slow to fall. When cold, the nose is a bit difficult to distinguish. As it warms, the aromas of tart cherries and bittersweet chocolate are apparent. This is definitely another sipping beer. The cherry flavor is strong and tart, far from the over-sweetened brew I expected. It's roasty and malty with a nice bitter chocolate coffee finish but it's a bit too carbonated. I am determined to marinate pork in Bell's Cherry Stout in the future. 7.0%ABV.
Rating: B+ 
Sweetwater Brewing's Happy Ending is not your typical imperial stout by any means. It starts off normal enough, pouring black with a light, caramel head. It's after the pour that I noticed something odd - the aroma. It smelled citrus...grapefruit...like an IPA. The taste is no less perplexing. Alongside the typical stout flavors of bittersweet chocolate and coffee is the flavor of citrus fruit. It's hoppy, roasty and malty with a strong barley flavor. I expect a bit more creaminess with a stout, but with its IPA characteristics, the mouthfeel seems appropriate. It's perfectly carbonated. As a stout lover, I'm disappointed by Sweetwater's Happy Ending simply because it's unexpected. Sweetwater gets extra points for the name and label, though. Remember that obnoxious "O face" guy from Office Space? He's on the side of the bottle making his "o face"! Happy Ending is currently on tap at Cottage Hill Package in Mobile. 9.0%ABV
Rating: B  


Great Divide Brewing has an entire family of Yeti variations. I had the opportunity to try an Espresso Oak Aged Yeti, vintage 2009. It is as complex as it sounds. It pours black with bubbly, tan foam. The aroma is earthy and woody, like an oak aged chardonnay, with notes of chocolate and espresso. The espresso flavor is obvious. There are hints of vanilla and dark fruit. It's very hoppy for a stout, with quite a bitter finish. I wish it was creamier. Apparently, I don't care for oak aging in beer anymore than in wine. 9.5%ABV.
Rating: C+

Bison Brewing's Organic Chocolate Stout is my least favorite chocolate brew to date. I had such high hopes for it and its "USDA Organic" label. This stout pours black with a thin, cream-colored foam. Cocoa is obvious in the nose, but so is an earthy, metallic aroma. The first taste is also earthy and metallic, like a handful of dirt. The middle has a nice chocolate flavor. It's not as bitter in the finish as I would like and is overly carbonated. Bison's Organic Chocolate Stout is not even in the same league as Rogue's Chocolate Stout. 5%ABV.
Rating: C

Stout Recommendations: 

Try plopping a scoop or two of vanilla bean ice cream in your favorite stout for a delicious stout float OR mix with Lindeman's Framboise for a delicious dessert drink. 


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Best Beer in Town: Mobile, Alabama



Best Bar: Hopjack's Pizza Kitchen & Taproom
@ Dauphin and Joachim


Hopjack's Pizza Kitchen & Taproom boasts 49 beers and 1 root beer on tap. About 30 of those are regularly available. There are also about 75 bottled options. The beer selection changes fairly often; so, the menu is not always current. Make sure to ask about the seasonal brews. I've been told to look for beers from Southern Tier Brewing Co. and Victory Brewing Co. coming soon to Hopjack's in Mobile. 


Belgian fries
with Rogue Double
Chocolate Imperial Stout
The food at Hopjack's Pizza Kitchen & Taproom deserves a few words at the least. Their Belgian fries, fried in duck fat, are delicious with any brew. They're served with ketchup and a creamy roasted garlic herb dip that I've come to crave. The Butcher Block, a specialty pizza with bacon, filet mignon and pepperoni, is a best seller at Hopjack's, while the kitchen recommends the Jerk Chicken pizza with bacon.

Like most places, Hopjacks's has a few downsides. On nights featuring live music, it's too loud for conversation, but this can be expected anywhere, really. The state of the women's restrooms is dismal. The first stall is claustrophobically small and doesn't lock. Last month, my husband and I made the mistake of visiting Hopjack's shortly after opening, around 11am. As soon as I got my hands on the beer list, I spotted Rogue's Double Chocolate Imperial Stout, my favorite beer. I ordered a pint, but our server returned empty-handed and informed us that it had not yet been tapped. Apparently, neither had our second or third choices. We were told that the individual in charge of the taproom would not be in until the afternoon. 


Back to the positive side of things, Hopjack's has some awesome daily specials. Tuesdays feature the "$4 Holla" - anything from the bar (with a few exceptions) just $4 from 7p.m. to close. Thursday is "Pint Night". They choose a brewery. You buy a beer from that brewery and receive your very own pint glass to take home plus $1 off refills of that brewery's beers. Sundays are the best, with half price
all draught beer, all day and all night.
Best Grocery Store: Bruno's 
@ Airport and University

The selection of craft beer available at Bruno's is larger than that of the average Mobile grocery store; however, the majority of it is not refrigerated. They recently began offering a small selection of refrigerated beers from which you can make your own six-pack for $9.99. Bruno's does not currently sell singles. 

Best Convenience Store: Myers Market 
@ Airport and Gen. Bullard

The Myers Market offers a surprising selection of beers from craft breweries including Left Hand and Magic Hat. Looking to try something new but don't want to buy an entire six-pack of something you may not like? Pull a beer from any six-pack and purchase it as a single for a very reasonable price.  
Best Liquor Store: Cottage Hill Package
@ Hillcrest and Cottage Hill

I've saved the best for the last. Cottage Hill Package is my first stop and favorite place in Alabama to buy beer! The management and staff are both friendly and knowledgeable. They will gladly help you pick out something new or search the back just to find you the very last Terrapin Pumpkinfest in town. They have an unrivaled selection of domestics, imports, and craft brews in four-packs, six-packs, party packs, variety packs and singles (not to mention liquor and wine). Take a jacket! The store features both a walk-in beer cooler and a walk-in humidor. Having a big party? Over 200 beers can be ordered in kegs. And I've recently noticed glassware from breweries like Thomas Creek.

Eight taps (and possibly more to come) make Cottage Hill Package quite unique. Take home half a gallon of ice cold draught beer for $14.99 to $24.99. On tap as of this Tuesday, February 8, are Sweetwater Georgia Brown, Rogue Yellow Snow, Great Divide Oak-Aged Yeti, Sweetwater Happy Ending, Avery Hog Heaven, Abita Select Vanilla Porter, Rogue Double Dead Guy and Abita Andy Gator. The latter is a staple on tap at Cottage Hill Package. If you've got your eye on something in particular, don't wait! It could very well be gone tomorrow. 


Know a place in Mobile with a better selection? Please share with the rest of us!