The Session #1: Five Stouts

Today marks the first instalment of The Session, a new event that will see beer bloggers around the world drinking & posting about a different style of beer on the first Friday of every month. This month’s theme as chosen by the founder of The Session – Stan Hieronymus of the Appellation Beer blog – is “Not your father’s Irish stout”. in other words, any stout(s) besides Guinness, Murphy’s or Beamish are fair game.

First, some bitching: Ontario is a bit of a wasteland when it comes to stouts. There are only a half-dozen or so available at the LCBO on a regular basis, and just a handful more from a few local microbreweries available on tap at a few places around town. But thankfully, I had a few interesting ones in my stash from trades and travelling, so I worked through some of them over the past few nights.

I was originally going to pick one favourite to focus on, but I couldn’t decide, so here’s a little bit about all of them:

Garrison Martello Stout
This Halifax brewery tends to be hit-and-miss for me, but I quite enjoyed this one. The colour is on the dark brown side, and it has a good aroma with notes of roast malt, coffee and a bit of smoke. The flavour follows the aroma, with the smoke notes becoming a bit more prominent in the finish. I like a bit of smokiness in my stouts, so it’s well appreciated. The body is a touch thin, but otherwise, this is one of the good ones.

Big Rock Espresso Stout
Another dark brown one, looking a lot like a glass of cola. Mild aroma with the expected roasted malt and coffee notes, although it’s more stale coffee than the fresh roasted coffee beans I was hoping for. Thin body, quite disappointing. Flavour is OK – roasted malt, coffee, a bit of bitter cocoa. Not bad, but it didn’t wow me.

Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout
This is an old favourite that I don’t get to enjoy nearly as often as I’d like. I’ve got a couple of bottles in the stash, but my most recent taste of it came at the Brooklyn Brewery dinner at beerbistro this past Tuesday, when it was served with a dessert trio that had been made using the beer. This is a world classic when it comes to Imperial Stouts – black as midnight, huge aroma of charred malt and chocolate, creamy mouthfeel, big flavour, nice alcohol warmth in the finish. Oh yeah, always a treat!

Scotch Irish Tsarina Katarina Imperial Stout (2005)
I’d been hearing some mixed messages about how this beer has been aging, so I had a bit of trepidation when I found a couple of bottles in the back of my stash recently. Thankfully, I needn’t have worried, as it’s still in pretty nice shape. I don’t know if it’s necessarily improved with age, but it’s still a big and complex beer. My tasting notes from my first bottle mentioned the aroma as being “rich and roasty with notes of toffee, chocolate, smoke and alcohol”, and flavours like “coffee, burnt malt, dark chocolate, dried fruit (prunes, raisins, figs), licorice, and a wonderful hit of hop bitterness in the finish.” All I can add is that there’s a slightly lactic end note to the flavour now – perhaps a sign of age, but I enjoyed it, so I’m not complaining.

Arcadia Imperial Stout (2005)
Another back-of-the-stash surprise – I picked this up during my trip to Ann Arbor last summer, and recently found it lingering with a few other strays. Another pitch-black beauty, it’s got lots of espresso and bitter cocoa in the aroma and flavour, and a fair amount of warmth from the 8.4% alcohol. It’s quite generously hopped as well, with gives it a finish that it a bit unique for the style. And I’m not sure where it came from exactly, but as it warmed, I found an interesting saltiness developing in the flavour. It was a bit strange at first, but I actually liked it.

Posted with 10 minutes to spare! Thanks for Stan for getting this thing rolling. Participating bloggers have been linking to their posts in the comments of his contributing post, and he’ll be setting up a list of links to all participating blogs by Monday. Next round is on Alan at A Good Beer Blog, who should be announcing April’s theme soon.

5 Responses to The Session #1: Five Stouts

  1. Greg:

    I’m glad to hear about a couple of worthy Canadian stouts, since I understand that one of my all-time favorites, Brock’s Extra Stout from Niagara Falls, is no longer produced.

    Great reviews. Gives me something to look for the next time I head north!



  2. Rick…

    Oh yeah, Brock’s is long gone. I vaguely remember having it once, but it was before my serious beer hunting days, so I don’t remember much about it.

    The three Canuck stouts I mentioned are pretty regional in their distribution. Garrison is available mainly in Nova Scotia, the Big Rock stout is a limited release available only out west, and the Scotch Irish is an annual limited release that you can only get directly from the brewer.

    A bit more widely available – and probably my favourite Canadian stout – is St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout from McAuslan in Quebec. I suspect that you’ve probably already had it, but if not, boy howdy are you in for a treat when you do!

  3. Love the St. Ambroise as well Greg.

    I was at Vollo Tuesday and they have a chocolate cherry stout on tap – terrific stuff, imo – I guess its from Black Oak in Oakville, according to another blogger.

    And one I tried a while back – got a bottle from a friend – was Rogue – it too was chocolaty and I think I saw it advertised at Vollo as well.

  4. This year’s batch of Black Oak’s Chocolate Cherry Stout is very nice. Last year’s was a bit to sweet, but they got the balance right this time.

    And yeah, I love me some of the Rogue Chocolate Stout. The wife and I have one or two bottles left from the last time it was available at the LCBO. It ages surprisingly well.q

  5. Brooklyn Black Chocolate is one of my faves, and very easy to get a hold of here in the Trenton/Princeton New Jersey area. $10 US for a six pack generally speaking, and well worth it. Here’s my latest reviews of imperial stouts, although it’s not Friday, and it wasn’t done session style, I love what you’re trying to do here.


    Great Divide Yeti Imperial Stout
    • May 10, 2008

    Posted in Great Divide, Imperial Stout, small snifter | Edit | No Comments »

    Dogfish Head World Wide Stout 2007
    • May 9, 2008

    Posted in 4 oz wine, Dogfish Head, Imperial Stout | Edit | No Comments »

    Stone Imperial Russian Stout
    • May 9, 2008

    Posted in Imperial Stout, Stone, snifter | Edit | No Comments »