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Always Bet on Black

Posted: March 13, 2009

By Chad Wulff

I’m really not much of a gambler and no; I’m not talking about Schwarz biers.  Porters and Stouts are the topic in this piece friend.  OK, not all porters are dark as stouts and still show some hints of deep ruby, but roll with me here.  It’s almost the end of 2008 and Chicago is nothing short of the Siberian tundra.  Fortunately, we have the advantage of the World Beer Championships Porter and Stout tastings falling on a rather appropriate time of year to keep us warm and satiated with malt bomb bliss.  Let’s see what happened….

In the Porter category we were treated to a handful of excellent examples.  Upland Brewing gave us the Bad Elmer’s Porter (87 points), Williams Bros. Brewing Co. the Midnight Sun Porter (91 points), and Samuel Smith’s Old Brewery, the Taddy Porter (91 points). Many may reach for some roasted or grilled meat to pair with these, something I would recommend.  However, I recently saw some seared scallops on a menu and thought they may work with the caramelized flavors of the porters as well.  If you are a fan of these naturally sweet delicacies from the sea, I suggest you give it a go.

In the flavored porter category we sampled a plethora of unique flavors infused into these dark ales.  Smoke from the Issaquah Brewhouse Smoked Frog Porter (94 points) a great one to pair with some BBQ to keep the fires burning.  To experience and little more dynamic flavor lineup, pair this smoky brew with a bowl of gumbo rich with sausages.  Deep vanilla and cocoa flavors from The Breckenridge Brewery Vanilla Porter (89 points) would make a great beer float to wash down the BBQ or Gumbo.  Lastly, a truly unique brew from the North Peak Brewing Co. Honey Mint Porter (84 points) had subtle notes of chocolate and mint.  I didn’t really think it was going to work; surprisingly it did, in a Willy Wonka kind of way!

In the Dry Stout category, the Jopen Extra Stout stood out at (91 points), a powerful stout for the style, but none the less a great stout with depth and complexity.  If you ever see on this one on the shelves, do not pass it up!  Bring that bad boy home and enjoy with some rich nutty cheese or some chocolate truffles.  Speaking of truffles, another must try is the Brewery Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence Stout (92 points).  Liquid dessert, ‘nuff said.  Also, in Flavored Stout Category, the Wells & Young’s Brewing Co. Ltd. Sent over their Double Chocolate Stout (89 points). Another example of liquid dessert and still dry enough to session with for a few rounds.  New to the WBC was the Harmon Brewing Co.  They sent in their Swashbuckler Stout (92 points).  This fine brew was aged in rum casks and would make a perfect compliment to a fine cigar.

Last round and it’s the Imperial Stouts.  A personal favorite. Soul warming goodness to help one through the doldrums of the long Midwest winter.  Liquid warmth is what I call these rich beauties.  Must try’s from the tasting include Bastone Brewery’s The Midnight Oil Imperial Stout (90 points), Oskar Blues Breweries Ten Fiddy Imperial Stout (92 points), Moylan’s Brewing Co.’s Ryan Sullivan’s Imperial
Stout (94 points), and one that is definitely a pick for the cellar, The Goose Island Brewing Co.’s 2008 Bourbon County Brand Stout (97 points).  The latter is a true collectible and will cellar wonderfully for quite some time as long as it is kept in proper conditions.  Although these bold stouts are meals in themselves, I love to have a little cheese to nibble on while savoring the deep roasted flavors.  For some contrast, try a blue veined cheese like Stilton or Maytag Blue.  For some complementing flavors, nutty and rich aged Gouda is a good pick as well.  Feeling decadent?  Go ahead and have some chocolate confection of your choice with any of these fine ales.

In conclusion, the tasting was a welcome break from the dark of winter, and quite an experience of quality and creative ales.  Thanks to the Brewers for brewing and thanks to the World Beer Championships for a unique and inspiring event.  Cheers!

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