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Cascading off-white foam.  

Stouts and Porters

When most people think of stouts they picture that pint of Guinness; the creamy off-white foam cascading into the impenetrable blackness of the underlying beer. Porters and Stouts owe their inky color to the same assortment of deeply roasted barley and barley malts that also contribute their characteristically rich roasty, coffee, and chocolate flavors and aromas. While Porters typically exhibit less roast and more caramel than Stouts, the two styles include many sub-styles that challenge such an easy assertion. Porters are brown, robust, Baltic and even smoked. Stouts can be dry, sweet, oatmeal, or export strength. But the style reaches its pinnacle with the luscious thickness of the Russian Imperial Stout.

Enough talk. Let’s taste some beer.


  Péché Mortel (Mortal Sin)  
Péché Mortel (Mortal Sin)
Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel!
St-Jérôme, Quebec, Canada

Style: Imperial Coffee Stout

Aroma: An intense blast of espresso with accompanying caramel sweetness. Hints of chocolate, blackberries, and raisins. Light cinnamon and licorice spice with just a touch of mint. Occasional whiffs of  ashy tobacco that is not so nice.
Appearance: Huge, creamy, tan head that billows up and will not go away. Color is a deep, dark brown that does not let light through. Nice lacing on the glass.
Flavor: Massive bitter, dark roast coffee, like a strong shot of espresso, greets the tongue and then softens into a rich caramel sweetness. Highlights of earthy herbal black licorice and cooling mint with hints of bittersweet chocolate. Bitterness is high, but is more than offset by the weighty caramel sweetness. The long finish lingers on bitter/sweet coffee with a touch of alcohol on the swallow. Occasionally I get a taste of that same ashy quality from the aroma. This is off-putting.
Mouthfeel: Thick,  rich, and creamy. Medium-low carbonation and only the slightest alcohol warming.
Overall Impression: A well made beer. Complex and intense. The balance is decidedly to the coffee, which is a bit too intense for my taste. I love the rich caramel flavors. It’s like eating a caramel sundae with coffee ice cream. The roasted malt is nicely done, roasty but not burnt. The ashy flavors and aromas that were coming intermittently were disconcerting. I don’t know what this was about. A great desert beer, this would make a nice beer float. Drink this with any dark chocolate desert. I think this could even complement a dark berry cobbler.

  Dark Horse Tres Stout  
Dark Horse Brewing Company
Marshall, Michigan

Style: Blueberry Stout

Aroma: Creamy dark-roast coffee and dark chocolate with light wafts of subtle blueberry.  Blueberry notes become less subtle as the beer warms, taking on a jam-like quality. I want to smear it on toast. Hints of licorice and burnt caramel. It’s a pleasant balance of roast, burnt sugar and berry; none is over the top and all blend well,
Appearance: Dark mahogany that appears pitch black, no light comes through. Rich dark tan foam that persists and is easily roused.
Flavor: Flavors follow the aroma, presenting a nice balance of rich coffee, bittersweet chocolate, and jam-like blueberry that leans slightly toward the roast. Sweet burnt sugary notes back it all up. I even get a hint of alcohol, odd for a 4.5% ABV beer. Hop bitterness is medium-low but the perception of bitterness is bolstered by the roasted malt. Finishes neither sweet nor dry with a final bitter bite and lingering chocolate covered blueberries.
Mouthfeel: Creamy and smooth, with medium-low carbonation.
Overall Impression: Unlike the One and Too of this stout series that whacked you over the head with roasted flavors and then kicked you with them again once you were down, this beer is about subtlety and balance. The bittersweet chocolate roasted character of this beer is creamy and smooth, blending beautifully with the subtle blueberry. I could drink more of this.

  DeStuise Black Albert  
Black Albert Royal Stout
De Struise Brouwers
De Panne, Belgium
Style: Imperial Stout

Aroma: An explosion of coffee and cocoa. Background of ripe bananas and smoke with whiffs of molasses, brown sugar, earthy mushrooms, spices, and dried fruit. Light herbal hop character.
Appearance: Creamy dark tan head that would not go away. Looks like the foam on a cappuccino. Pitch black. Blacker than black. No light gets through this beer.
Flavor: Rich coffee and bittersweet chocolate carries over from the aroma with mellow roasted malt, not burnt. This tastes like nothing so much as the cookie part of an Oreo. Oh, for some milk to dunk this beer into. Alcohol is noticeable, but not hot. Brown sugar sweetness on the tip of the tongue compliments the complex subtle fruit flavors, cherries, prunes, figs. There is a bit of a bitter bite in the middle, but the 100 IBU is balanced by the huge malt. An appealing hint of earthy funkiness and sourness comes in as the beer warms. The roast carries into the sweet finish and lingers for a long time.
Mouthfeel: Full body, but not as chewy as some Imperial Stouts. I like this. Creamy with low carbonation. Nice warming alcohol.
Overall Impression: This is a world class beer. It is probably not worth $10 for an 11 oz. bottle, but excellent nonetheless. It carries its 13% alcohol extraordinarily well. It is beautiful to look at, easy to drink, and tremendously complex. Roasty, but not bitter or astringent. I find myself wanting to dunk chocolate chip cookies into this beer. A bowl of chocolate chip ice cream would also be nice. It would be a fine accompaniment to a rich, saucy roast beef preparation.

  Dark Horse Too Cream Stout  
Dark Horse Brewing Company
Marshall, Michigan
Style: Cream Stout

Aroma: Roasted coffee and sweet caramel. Very light chocolate. Hints of anise and cinnamon. Café Vienna.
Appearance: Creamy, dark, tan head disappeared quickly but left some lace on the glass. Impenetrably opaque Black.
Flavor: Acrid, bitter-coffee roast flavor is dominant. It’s actually a bit puckering from the intensity of the roast. A touch of black licorice floats around in the background joined by the same hint of cinnamon from the aroma. Slight piney hop notes. Caramel sweetness comes early and fades fast into a very dry finish that lingers on bitter, burnt coffee.
Mouthfeel: Medium-light body. Medium-low carbonation. There is a puckering effect from the roast bitterness like that from tannins in red wine. The dry finish makes my mouth water as if the beer were sucking the moisture right out of my mouth.
Overall Impression: For a sweet stout, this beer is intensely bitter, but from roasted malt instead of hops. The sweetness of the lactose makes only a brief appearance and even then doesn’t quite manage to balance out the acrid roast. I found this burnt character to be a bit off-putting. The aroma holds out great promise that the flavor does not quite deliver on. It’s better than the One, but I probably wouldn’t order a second pint. This intense beer needs intense food to go with it. Try it with a pepper-encrusted grilled steak.

  Dark Horse One Oatmeal Stout  
Dark Horse Brewing Company
Marshall, Michigan
Style: Oatmeal Stout

Aroma: Sweet caramel, toffee, and coffee. Slight burnt roast character. Like a lightly sweetened toffee macchiato.
Appearance: Low dark tan head that dissipated very quickly. Ominously black and opaque even when held up to the light.
Flavor: Burnt sugar notes up front followed by rich roasted coffee and chocolate. Intense roast. Perhaps a little too intense. This is like the bottom of a cafe mocha with too much Hershey’s chocolate syrup. Light woody hop notes with medium-high and slightly harsh bitterness, in part from the intensity of the roasted malt. A long finish that lingers on cookie-dough oats.
Mouthfeel: Thick, silky, and oily. Medium-full to full body. Some alcohol warmth. Low carbonation. There is an odd graininess to the mouthfeel as though there are coffee grounds suspended in the beer.
Overall Impression: I couldn’t find anything to tell me what the ABV is on this beer, but the full body and warming mouthfeel suggest a fairly high alcohol content. There is an intensity to everything about this beer from the roasted and caramel/toffee malt to the thick mouthfeel that makes it all seem a bit over-the-top. I feel like my teeth are being eaten away. And then there is that odd grainy character. I had no problem finishing this one, but I wouldn’t seek out another one. Save this beer for desert. It would work well with vanilla ice cream or a mocha cheesecake.

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