During a day that dragged on, waiting for kegs to come into Mountain Goat, I saw Miro was having a stout tasting for the bar staff, and decided to attach myself to it to add my own thoughts to the group.
Starting with what I ended up calling the 'Corona of the stout world' (hey, I love Guinness, but I know it's place) the classic Irish draught actually smelt and tasted much fresher than I anticipated from the widget can. Was not getting much bitterness til the end, and combined with the dryness did not linger long. The malt character came through a lot better with this freshness and with that the creaminess. Still not like what you get in Ireland, but is good to see that decent Guinness can be found here in it's standard form.
While on the 'dry' end of stouts, an Orkney Dragonhead was cracked open. I had not actually tried this before, and the smell of robust malt and chocolate made me do a double take at thinking this was meant to be a dry stout. However, when I tasted it, there was not the sweetness I could smell as more roasted malt came through, combined with a smoked/woody character towards the back that combined well with the dryness of the beer. As it warmed up this smoked/woody aroma came through more, and was good to see this from a Scottish beer which I seem to get as a style trend for big beers from this part of the world. I prefer this approach to a dry stout than I do with bitterness that I sometimes get from beers of a similar style. A real eye opener.
Moving to a North Coast Old No. 38, I am not sure if I am just getting confused, but may have been used to display sweet stouts, which I did not get. There was good malt character and there was some sweetness in that, but it was predominately dry, especially with that bitter finish that I recall from having this beer previously.
Then one I was really looking forward to when I saw it in the esky. The St Peter's Cream Stout is one of those beers I have seen around but just never tried, so the time was now. Explaining milk/cream/lactose beers to the gang I could feel my own anticipation grow, and I have to say it didn't disappoint. One of the girls noticed a red skin (lolly/candy) smell and taste, which I added a chocolate coated red skin to the comment, while others found more dark fruit/raspberry in it. A good texture (from the bottle) with the sweet condensed milk flavour over the top of the dark malt/fruit background. While these elements did not integrate as well as shown in the Thirsty Crow Vanilla Milk Stout or the Southern Tier Creme Brulee, it definitely showed off the style and got the team interested to try more of this style...which I was happy to oblige.
Stepping up in the style, Miro pulled out the imperial stouts, with the North Coast Old Rasputin and the home grown Red Hill version. We were pretty disappointed by the Rasputin as it seemed just too cold, which separated the malt from the alcohol and created like a soy flavour to fill the gap between, add the alcohol spike and some bitterness at the back, and I was hankering to get onto the Red Hill. Again, it was cold, but I could get licorice over the robust malt aroma which for me helped integrate the malt with the alcohol on the palate. We also pulled out the Abbey Collaby, where I could really pick up on the rum character in comparison.
Waiting around at Goat for friends to arrive, I saw the bar had probably the last keg of our Rye IPA on, so had to have a go of that to see how it had aged. It had been tapped for a beer judging event (it won gold from it I think) a while ago, and of course had lost some freshness in the hop, The malt character also seem diminished from what I had remembered from it. While I did not agree with it, they also had the Surefoot Stout through coffee in the Randy. The beer had been sitting in there for a few hours, so it had imparted a lot of coffee flavour...to the point I could not taste any stout in it. Of course once it started getting poured from more, there was less infusion of the coffee, and it was actually tasting alright. I ended up getting on for Denewey once her an Iain arrived, while I stepped up the Abbey Collaby again.
With a quick taste of the Saison to give them an idea of what beers could be available at Goat for their wedding reception in January, we left there and came back to my place where Stew and the growler of Renaissance Craftsman Chocolate Oatmeal Stout lay waiting. Off the tap it really holds up a bitter sweet chocolate aroma, which translates really well into flavour. Personally I would love to have some more body to the beer and not so much of the bitter finish, but these are minor things, which just makes me think of how close this beer is to my ideal of a Rouge Double Chocolate, or Holgate Temptress/Empress, or Thirsty Crow Vanilla Milk Stout.
While I would like to say I will be off beer for a ay or two, unfortunately the Twoks have their first residency gig at the Rainbow tonight, and being the Rainbow, there will be good beers on offer, so won;t be able to stop myself.
Life is tough...