Sunday, 21 June 2015

Beer: Dark States - Some US Stouts

The US has has always been a bit of a draw for me beer-wise. It probably comes from listening to too many Brewing Network podcasts and reading online articles about US breweries and beers that basically says, 'Jaysus, we're great!' - but in the local words and dialect of whatever US region the writer is based obviously!

A good few of the better US breweries have made it to these shores but there are a fair few on my radar that haven't too. Names like Hoppin' Frog, Crooked Stave, The Bruery, 3 Floyds and many others don't appear anywhere near me anyway. Even when so-called better beers do get here they can be a little long on the water and might be missing that zing of freshness that makes them great. I remember having a Bear Republic Racer 5 a year or more back that was fresh off whatever mode of transport got it here, and it was probably the best IPA I have ever had - mostly due to its freshness I have always presumed. (Recently the Irish brewers have cranked things up a notch so sourcing decent IPAs is less of an issue here, although they do differ from what I've tasted from the states. 8 Degrees' Full Irish and Brehon's Stony Grey are just two that spring to mind.)

Anyhow, to get back on track, a few weeks ago I had the chance to get my hands on a some beers that are hard to source here. I picked up the odd Belgian and a few others too, including a selection of beers - mostly dark ones that I thought might travel better- from the US. I was still a little concerned about the freshness, as they hadn't come direct from there to here, but nevertheless I jumped at the chance to acquire them and soon they were secreted in my stash under the stairs, the coolest place in my house. (Memo to self - buy a freakin' beer fridge!)

Deschutes Obsidian Stout from Oregon tasted of sweet, smooth, unburnt coffee with a lightly-perfumed backwash and a great, full body, with a dose treacle and honey. Added to that was a hint of Bourbon biscuits I often get with good stout. Drinking it I was strangely obsessed at how it would taste on nitro - although I'm not sure if it is ever served this way. It was an excellent beer, even though the best before was 3/2/2015. I'd imagine that served fresh it would be immaculate.

Dark Horse Too Cream Stout from Michigan had a dark head and tasted of sweet liquorice with a semi-dense and slightly-syrupy texture, but was perhaps a little light given the flavours. I got a sourness there too, and a pleasant chilli-like burn that must have come from somewhere, but I can't figure out how! This one came across as a rich, slightly boozy drinking chocolate that wasn't quite tip-top. Freshness an issue again I think, although there was no date on the bottle.

Still Water Folklore Stout from Maryland was my last to taste. The carbonation was a lot lower in this, again maybe down to age, and the head disappeared quite quickly. Bitter cola cubes assaulted me here, with even a light, fizzy, tingly sweetness. There was a tiny bit of smoke there too. Once it warmed up I got more of a rich cocoa flavour and a hint of scotch whiskey, with some fruity esters that reminded me of sultanas maybe. Like the previous one it seemed just a little light in body for me, although it was more than pleasant. The bottling date was the end of March last year, a factor no doubt.

So what's the moral of the story? I'm not sure if there is one. as I enjoyed all the beers and that's what it's all about surely. Admittedly I'd like to try all of them fresh and maybe on draught (or draft) but that won't happen soon.

As a beer ticker I'll always be drawn by the elusive and hard to source but it's fair to say that many of the current batch of Irish stouts would stack up well with these highly rated US beers and perhaps like IPAs, freshness holds the key too. Look at Porterhouse Wrasslers, O'Hara's Leann Follain and Galway Bay Buried at Sea for example, and a few others too.

But I'll keep trying to get a few different beers every now and again. After all, it's only fair that something gets to travel on this blog!

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