Tag Archive: Stout


Big Drop: Stout (England: Low alcohol Stout: 0.5% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Moderate sized beige head.

Nose: Roasted nuts. Lactose. Milky chocolate. Praline.

Body: Good mouthfeel. Nutty. Slightly chalky. Slight charring. Earthy bitterness. Muted bitter cocoa. Sour dough. Slight teabags.

Finish: Charring. Roasted nuts. Slight chalk. Lactose. Earthy bitterness. Sports energy drinks.

Conclusion: First, to get it out of the way – No this is not as awesome as the Big Drop + Tiny Rebel collaborations stout. Then again, it is about half the price and easier to get hold of. However, this does have a few positives of its own, so let’s dig in and take a look.

One advantage this has over its fancier cousin is a slightly thicker texture, which does a fair job in negating the main flaw of low abv beers, that being a watery mouthfeel. If over chilled the extra feel is easily lost, so I’d recommend to go for this lightly chilled, and like that it holds up well.

Flavour-wise it is solid if not exceptional – nutty, muted chocolate and good lactose notes. It can be a tad chalky and charred at times, but generally a solid if not exceptional milk stout taste which seems very impressive for such a low abv.

The most evident hint of the lower abv is again a kind of teabag and tannins into slight sports energy drink notes. Nothing major as a problem, it is just something you can notice if you look for it.

Solid enough, if I was drinking alcohol I wouldn’t take it over a standard stout, but for a non drinking day this is spot on.

Background: This is the second time I’ve tried this. First was when it first came out, and I had left it in the fridge a while before drinking, like that I found it overly chalky and dull. Since then they have had time to tweak the recipe and I’ve found that low abv beers work best only slightly chilled, so I decided to grab another and give it a try. This was drunk on a stupidly warm Easter weekend. I put on Metallica – And Justice For All while drinking. Heavy music for a low abv beer. This was another one grabbed from Independent Spirit.

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Tiny Rebel: Big Drop: Imperial Mocha Vanilla Shot Stout (Wales: Low abv Stout: 0.5% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Large beige head.

Nose: Milky coffee. Massive amounts of espresso coffee. Vanilla. Rich roasted coffee. More rounded coffee notes. Basically a lot of coffee. Milky chocolate. Hot chocolate drinks. Roasted nuts.

Body: Milky coffee. Vanilla. Quite light texture. Creamy. Lightly bitter coca. Sulphur. Tannins.

Finish: Vanilla toffee. Vanilla infused coffee. Bitter chocolate cake. Slight sulphur. Cashew nuts. Tannins.

Conclusion: Ok, Tiny Rebel claims this is the low abv equivalent of a big 12% abv imperial stout. It is not like a 12% abv stout. Ok, let’s correct that, it doesn’t have the feel of a 12% abv beer. For all the good work they do with the flavour they just can’t duplicate the viscosity of such a high abv beer without the equivalent malt load.

However, with that out of the way, if you had told me this was a 4-5% abv stout made with coffee, cocoa and vanilla? Yep, I would have believed you easily. Beyond that I would have happy recommended it as being a very good example of that style, a top notch one even. I even tested it by letting my mates try it, and they had no idea of the abv (only single blind test – I was aware of its low abv, my mates were not). This is an utterly amazing low abv beer and would be a very good standard stout, that is bloody impressive.

It has a slightly light mouthfeel, but offset by good use of a creamy note and packs in vanilla and restrained chocolate in the body before heading out into a very coffee filled finish. Now good as that is, it did not manage to live up to the aroma which gives just epic levels of coffee. I mean, based on the aroma alone you would expect this to be competing with full abv Beer Geek Brunch Weasel – unfortunately, good as it is, it is not quite that good!

The main hint of the low abv style of it is a slight tannin character, but thankfully hear that actually works very well with the stout style, turning what could be a flaw in most low abv beers into a positive instead.

Ok, yeah, this is competing with Big Drop’s Pale Ale for best low alcohol beer ever. Pale is a better anytime beer, which is often what you want from a low abv beer – however for a beer to examine, have range of flavours, and just blowing away your expectations, this is the best low abv beer I have encountered. Genuinely impressed.

Background: So, for their 7th anniversary the ever fun Tiny Rebel did a box pack of collaborations they did with various breweries. This one especially caught my attention – in collaboration with Big Drop, the master of low abv beers they did what they pitch as a low abv Imperial Stout. Yeah, silly name, but gets across the gist of what they are trying to do. This was made with oats, rye, cocoa nibs, cocoa powder…ok the text is really hard to read on the can, it’s blue on slightly darker blue. I give up. It is made with ingredients. Special ingredients. Probably vanilla pods, maybe coffee beans. I dunno. Anyway, went with some punk music for this big/small beer – Propagandhi – Victory Lap.

Siris: Voreia Stout (Greece: Stout: 6% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Inch of creamy coffee coloured head with smaller bubbles in darker pools around the head.

Nose: Roasted nuts. Walnuts. Lactose notes. Bitter coffee. Fresh brown bread. Slight greenery.

Body: Bitter cocoa. Light liquorice. Bitter chocolate cake. Light chalk touch. Bitter coffee.

Finish: Bitter coffee. Slight charring. Earthy bitterness. Light peppery character. Bitter chocolate cake.

Conclusion: This is leaning on the more bitter end of the stout style. Smooth in texture, even slightly light at times in mouthfeel, but just creamy enough to give a good grip to some kicking bitter flavours.

Initially I was not too sold on this. It seemed to work a simple one-two punch of bitter cocoa and bitter coffee. Now, admittedly those are two very good strings to have in your beer bow, but it is a pretty basic set – you need more to flesh it out.

Now, I am changing that opinion over time. The beer is still sticking to those two main strings, but is is layering a lot of character within those two poles of flavour. The flavours are all about the bitter – the chocolate however is really selling the depth of a good block of unsweetened chocolate, and similarly the coffee is selling the bitter layers of subtlety a cup can bring.

It still doesn’t rock the top end of the stout set, but as a bitter drink it does reward your time. All this is underlined by an earthy, slightly peppery, bitterness in the finish; It preserves the purely bitter stout gimmick but adds flavours that are different enough that it is a satisfactory end to a sip.

So a beer without a huge range, but what it does have it works well. Could do with a slightly thicker mouthfeel but works as a solid, bitter stout that brings subtlety from what would often be straightforward bitter notes.

Not bad.

Background: A quick copy and paste from the last time I did this – I was gifted a free month subscription to Beer 52 recently by a mate – Many thanks! – so here it is. They sent a Balkans themed case of beer, of which this was one. Only had a few beers from that area – mainly when I was visiting Belgrade, so was an interesting box to go with. Would I recommend them? Well beer selection seems nice, they include a guide to the beer with some cool articles, so not bad. Warning however – they are an utter fucking dick to cancel. Yes I cancelled after the free box. My cupboard is scary packed at the moment. First world problems. The issue with cancelling the subscription is you sign up online, pause subscription online, but if you try to cancel – after several attempts to make you stay – they inform you that you cannot cancel online via their site. You have to call them, and be put on hold for ages with a painfully scratchy line that genuinely hurt my ears. I was ready to tell them to fuck right off, but I noticed that in smaller text they mention you can cancel by e-mail. Which I did. The person handling that was great, so cool. Did a lot to restore them to my good graces, so may use them in the future for a short while if they have similar interesting region based boxes. Still a crappy set-up though – if you have to make unsubscribing a hassle, then your service isn’t good enough to stand on its own two legs. Rant over. Put on Worriers – Survival Pop while drinking. Had seen them as a warm up for Anti-Flag recently and had grabbed the CD then. Poppier than my normal stuff in sound but with great lyrical work.

Tsing Tao: Stout (China: Stout: 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Black. Dark red if held to light. Good sized browned bubbles in mounds for a head.

Nose: Liquorice. Caramel. Oats. Vanilla fudge. Mild milky coffee. Marshmallow.

Body: Liquorice. Creamy. Slightly light. Nutty. Fluffy marshmallow flavour and mouthfeel. Touch of chalk.

Finish: Liquorice. Marshmallow. Chocolate liqueur. Light dry roasted peanuts.

Conclusion: I must admit this is better than I was expecting. I don’t mind Tsing Tao , or at least the version I have tried in the UK, but the “draft” bottle version I’ve had here in China lacked a lot. This ain’t perfect, but it is definitely the more flavoursome creation.

It feels like halfway between a black lager and a stout – slightly light, smooth mouthfeel, both notes that say an easy drinking black lager – but then it develops a fluffy marshmallow thickness at time which is more at home in a stout.

Flavour wise it opens up with big amounts of liquorice, which seems to be popular in China’s stouts in my (vary small sample size admittedly) experience. Similarly stouty is the solid roasted character it brings, and the light chalk finish calls to the more grounded end of the stout style. The sweeter chocolate and heavier coffee notes you would expect of a stout are only really subtle hints here – the liquorice is the main thing.

It is still slightly light for a stout, even late on, so it feels like a solidly stout flavoured black lager. The marshmallow character giving rise to a slight sweet contrast to liquorice as time goes on really helping it from getting too dry by the end. It is decent, and probably the easiest to get decent Chinese beer, if far from the best. Not great, but since you can find it in a supermarket it is the Chinese beer to grab for a decent experience when you can’t find a more dedicated craft beer merchant.

Background: Tsing Tao turns up quite a bit in the UK – it is an ok lager – nowt special but I can drink it. In China there are so many different versions of the lager, varying in abv and quality – some ok, some bleeding terrible. The most common one at restaurants seemed to be Tsing Tao draft, which was a less flavoursome version of standard Tsing Tao. Anyway, being in China I figured I should do at least one set of notes of its most famous brewery – so, when I saw this stout in the supermarket I decided to grab I can. I didn’t even know they did a stout. Also, while I was in China I asked locals how this was pronounced to settle a long standing debate we have had – the best way I can write the response given is “Ching Dao” which is quite close to how I thought it was. Go me! Then again, I’m guessing the answer would vary by area and and accent so don’t take that as the definitive answer. This was another one done on the boat in a room I shared with another random traveller from China. Since he didn’t speak English and I don’t speak Chinese I do wonder what the heck he thought I was doing when I started taking photos of my beer.

Great Leap Brewing: Liu The Brave Stout (Nitro) (China: Stout: 7.1% abv)

Visual: Black. Still. A good centimetre of creamy head.

Nose: Creamy coffee. Dry roasted peanuts and general roasted nuts. Slight bitter cocoa.

Body: Creamy and full bodied. Light milk. Milky chocolate. Buttery shortbread. Lactose. Light toffee.

Finish: Light mint. Charring. Milky chocolate. Buttery shortbread. Cocoa. Nutty.

Conclusion: This feels like a very big and more robust than normal take on a milk stout. A kind of imperial sweet stout if you will. Mainly I say that as it is very creamy – which I would suggest is probably the nitro influence giving it a boost to the character already in the main beer – overall it deliverers a creamy, coffee heavy, beer.

The aroma hints at a more nutty ale, with dry roasted notes especially coming out, but then it vanishes, hiding before poking its head out again in the finish. So, the main body is generally that creamy coffee, with soft, gentle cocoa coming out late on.

As seems to be the trend so far on this trip, it is a solid, high quality but not pushing the boundaries beer. Still, it is a very balanced, creamy stout, the most unusual element I can find is a buttery shortbread backing which helps develop the robust character.

Over time, as the beer warms the cocoa character manages to build to a more bitter expression adding edge to the smooth beer – but Great Leap really seem to have taken its cue from the American use of nitro and uses it here to really show off the creamy character as the main thing.

Not unusual, but polished as heck.

Background: Second beer I tried at the Great Leap Brewing brewpub no. 6 – this one a stout on nitro. Looking online, it is apparently infused with spices, which I would not have guessed at the time – and the beer is named after the breweries founder’s father. I had a smoked lager after this but did not do notes on it – it was not bad – the smoke was gentle and just added a bit of backbone to the beer.

Brewdog: Semi Skimmed Occultist (Scotland: Stout: 8% ABV)

Visual: Black with dark brown edges. Inch of mounded, brown creamy froth head.

Nose: Light roasted nuts. Cashew nuts. Light milk. Quite clean. Milky coffee. Light greenery.

Body: Milky and creamy. Creamy chocolate to chocolate liqueur. Rich chocolate cake. Thick mouthfeel. Milky bitter coffee. Fudge. Vanilla.

Finish: Chocolate cake. Light hop earthy notes. Milky coffee. Scones. Bitter chocolate shavings. Vanilla.

Conclusion: This thing uses a shit-ton of ingredients to work out the one thing it wants to do, and then does it well. Basically this takes all the core stout elements spread over several beers, and epitomises them in a single beer. It takes a lovely thick texture, creamy flavour, varied chocolate and coffee notes, and sweet vanilla and just crams them together. It has a few other rounding notes, but basically this concentrates on the core stout concepts and does them very well indeed.

Strangely, I had no idea of this going in as the aroma announced pretty much none of that. In fact it instead brings in the one stereotyped stout style that the body missed -a rough edged nutty character. Overall though the aroma is pretty simple and gives no hint of the rich creaminess to come.

Warning then, since the aroma does not – this is a very sweet stout; Though it is delivered in a creamy, not a sugar shock way. It manages to wear the creamy chocolate styling alongside mild bitter chocolate and coffee opposition so that the base sweetness is big, but not sickly. In fact the biggest sweetness, and closest it gets to sickly is from the strong vanilla backing, it is quite sweet and slightly syrupy, but manages to to only appear for long enough to make an impact, not dominate the beer.

So, yeah, the oats, wheat, et al have all given this a fantastic smooth and thick mouthfeel so it can put on a lesson on how to do a luxury stout. There is nothing unique here, but it does everything well.

Background: Usual disclaimer – I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. Anyway, this is their most recent canned release with neat art. I’m not going to complain at that trend – I do like how they are making cans something that are visually appealing, which is seemingly a tad harder to do than with bottles for some reason. This is a stout (Possibly imperial stout – it is right on the line for me on that) made with (deep breath) wheat, oats, cocoa nibs, lactose, coffee and vanilla. None are too unusual, but it is rare to see them all shoved together in one beer. Anyway, due to having grabbed tickets to see NXT Wrestling later this year, this was drunk while listening to a one hour long version of Shinsuke Nakamura’s theme. Yes I am odd sometimes. However it is awesome, and so is he.

brewdog-tropic-thunder

Brewdog: Tropic Thunder (Scotland: Stout: 7% ABV)

Visual: Black. Large creamy brown head.

Nose: Mocha coffee. Choc orange. Orange juice. Kiwi. Slight cloying touch. Grated bitter chocolate. Blood orange. Tropical fruit juice.

Body: Bitter chocolate front. Light earthy bitterness. Kiwi and grapes. Orange juice. Slight grapefruit. Tart grapes. Bubblegum. Coconut and very slight rum.

Finish: Coffee. Choc orange. Slight dried pineapple. Light tart grapes air. Orange juice. Slight sour cream twist. Tinned tropical fruit.

Conclusion: an unusual beer! I was expected the orange – since it was used in the brewing that was pretty much a no brainer. However I wasn’t expecting how much of a tropical fruit punch this stout was actually going to be.

Now the base stout is there – pretty bitter chocolate, mocha coffee and that light cloying twist I associate with foreign stouts – but everything from the nose to the finish shouts out fresh tropical fruit drink.

The bitty orange juice pocked throughout the chocolate is the first element, but it rises into tarter blood orange and from that bursts open into kiwi, tart grapes and grapefruit notes. The solid stout back counterbalances it with weight and restrained bitterness but it feels like the fruit is what makes it shine.

It is wonderfully fresh, while still keeping the stout weight. The stoutier notes last long into the finish as the freshness fades, leaving your final impression of that base weight and stout taste. It both keeps it loyal to the base style and means that each sip refreshes anew with the fruit mix.

Far better than I expected the mix to be – heat really helps bring out the fruit notes as the base weight also grows, fills the beer with utterly tropical flavour and makes it rewarding as heck. I’ve very much enjoyed this one.

Background: I think this is predominantly available through Tesco stores and was made for them, I think, but I grabbed it direct from the Brewdog online store. The winning HomeBrewDog entry and now made by Brewdog this is stout brewed with orange peel. Also it shares its name with a Dugges/Stillwater collaboration, and a Hollywood film. So a popular name then. Anyway, sounded interested, though, as always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beer. This was drunk while listening to more Two Steps From Hell, love the epic feel of their work.

hubris-id-ix-mint-chocolate-stout

Hubris ID: IX Mint Chocolate Stout (England: Stout: 5% ABV)

Visual: Black and still. Thin grey dash of a head.

Nose: Peppermint and After Eight mints. Slight sour cream and chocolate shavings. Slight brown bread. Crushed mint leaves.

Body: Slightly thin when chilled. Bready. Malt chocolate drink. Mint. Milky coffee.

Finish: Mint leaves and peppermint gun. Brown bread. Slight milk. Chocolate dust.

Conclusion: Very minty. Very minty indeed. Seriously, if you like mint – here is all the mint you could want. You are welcome. Possible could do with some work on the chocolate side though.

The aroma has the mix just right – lots of peppermint and crushed mint leaves as you would expect, but also a luxurious, kind of After Eights mint like, chocolate character. So, spot on, and at this point I was expecting good things ahead.

The body goes very heavy into the mint character, doubling down and giving a very natural mint character. A lot less artificial and sweet than most mint interpretations; Instead closer to, well, ya know, mint – the whole leafy, green thing in nature. Normally something less artificial would be something I would applaud – I am all for things tasting like what they are, as opposed to the image of it we have been sold in synthetic versions in other foodstuff. However here it makes it a drink that is all mint, and very little stout. There is some chocolate, and a kind of bready base but it is so very far at the back. It feels like the base beer needs a bit more of a robust character to balance everything out, and to match the overall concept better.

So, as mentioned, if mint is your thing then this is epic level mint. Personally I think it needs a bit more work aside from that though – I gave it time to warm, which gave it a tad more body, but it still felt like it needed to grow a little more as it still kind of lacked body.

So very good at half of its concept, not so good at the other half (or third and two thirds if we are including stout as a separate part from mint and chocolate). Interesting but a tad overwhelming due to the mint excess. As always, your mileage may vary depending on how much that idea appeals to you.

Background: Another new local brewery – this one a tiny brewery heading by a previous brewer of Wild Beer co. I’ve tried a few of theirs before, on tap, but this is their first bottled product (I think)– one which I found at Independent Spirit. It is made with cocoa nibs, mint oil and spearmint. This was broken open to chill out after getting back from an awesome Against Me! gig, Absolutely great time, so was ready for something nice to cap off the evening.

Brewdog Beatnik Brewing Collective Bounty Hunter Coconut Milk Stout

Brewdog: Beatnik Brewing Collective: Bounty Hunter Coconut Milk Stout (Scotland: Stout: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Creamy beige cm of a head that leaves suds.

Nose: Coconut. Lightly nutty. Creamy. Lactose. Milky chocolate.

Body: Roasted. Milky. White sugar. Light coconut. Sugared almonds. Light orange and fruit sugars. Very milky coffee. Vanilla. Caramel undertones.

Finish: Lactose. Light fresh and slightly fruity notes – ester like. Cane sugar. Bitter coffee. Coconut. Chocolate.

Conclusion: Ok, it is well known that I love coconut. Therefore this is the greatest thing ever. Review over. Natch.

Or is it?

Well it depends, chilled down this is a pretty standard, if well done – milk stout. Ok, I lie, maybe not quite standard but close to it for the most part. The sweetness is high even for the style, with the milky coffee made more flamboyant by sweet sugar and fruity notes that remind me of Belgian yeast ester. The fruit is a very subtle note, but gives a kind of jolly rancher hard candy thing going on there.

Warming it brings out the beloved coconut, not pushed heavily, but there is a coconut macaroon base that the milk stout is sieved through to get to your tastebuds.

So, how does it all come together? Well I know this called a Milk Stout, so calling to the sweet stout style but it is really pushing that – with toffee coming out on the body on top of everything else. An Imperial Stout can manage to soak up all that sweetness, but here it is a big deal, and comes through a bit too heavy.

Yet, somehow, it isn’t bad. It overdoes everything but the coconut (warm it gets it about right, cold the notes are nigh non existent) but those lovely fruit touches, and the combination with milky coffee is actually quite charming – if not on the style guidelines I would expect. Fun, but not one that gets beyond charming.

Background: This was brewed by Brewdog shareholders, after voting and discussion by Brewdog shareholders. It is pretty hard to get if you are not, in fact, a Brewdog shareholder. Sorry. I’m doing a tasting note for posterity anyway. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers as you may have guessed from the above. Drunk while listening to some calming Ulver. Was unsure on picking the style, flavour wise it aims for sweet stout, but abv plops it as a more standard stout.

Brewdog Stereo Wolf Stout

Brewdog: Prototype: Stereo Wolf Stout (Scotland: Stout: 5.2% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Inch of chocolate coloured froth that leaves suds.

Nose: Roasted. Milky chocolate. Lots of bitter coffee. Vanilla. Brown bread.

Body: Roasted and bitter. Thin when cold. Nutty. Walnuts. More roasted than thick as it warms. Bitter chocolate.

Finish: Roasted nuts. Bitter hops. Chalk. Rounded bitter coffee. Bitter chocolate. Lightly earthy. Very bitter.

Conclusion: So, about three months after the rest of the prototypes arrived, this finally deems us worthy of actually turning up – shuffling its feet and pretending it had always been there. So, was it worth the wait?

Actually it is pretty solid – though it needs a bit of warmth to it, it doesn’t play well when cold. I had chilled it down a bit too far initially and it felt quite thin – however given time and heat it rose back to become a robustly bitter stout.

It is very roasted like that, with lots of nut character backed by a nicely rounded bitter coffee character – especially in the finish. The depth they put in the coffee is probably my favourite element, they do use it very well, especially considering no actually coffee beans were used in making it.

It is never remarkable, but it is definitely the best Brewdog prototype of 2014 – there is the growling hop bitterness in the finish and a more roasted bitterness throughout that makes it different to most stout interpretations in Brewdog’s existing range.

As well as being different from what they already do, it is also good quality – nothing too unexpected – bitter coffee and chocolate – everything bitter, and very little in the sweet range. Pretty standard flavours, just done in a way the Brewdog tend not to emphasise. The texture is never massively thick, I’m guessing that is deliberate as thicker stout texture can interact badly with the more hopped beers. This way, and at the abv, you can drink several without too much bother, and the roasted character covers for the lower thickness.

Not bad, nothing stand out, but a solid hopped stout.

Background: The final of the Brewdog Prototype beers from 2014, this is a hopped stout. Now, Rate beer lists this as a Black IPA, and I can see why, with the hopped character – however I decided to go with stout, as it is the aimed for style and it does seem to match it despite the hop levels. I don’t often get along with highly hopped stouts – the thickness of character tends to make the hop levels stick around too long so they start getting leaden, but there are exceptions. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers.

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