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The weather may be getting warmer (fingers crossed), but that doesn’t mean you have to switch to drinking light lagers.  The darker beers are often thought of as “wintery”, but they can still be enjoyed year around by all palates.  My favorite beer-myth to dispel is that non-beer drinkers don’t like stouts.  Often, I’ve found the exact opposite to be true.  Stouts can feature flavors such as coffee or chocolate that many “wine-only” patrons enjoy more than an hoppy IPA.  If you’re a fan of chocolate, coffee, things aged in bourbon barrels, or simply good beer: keep reading.  We’re going 100% into stouts this week.

In the mood for stouts: We finally cracked our home brew last night.
In the mood for stouts: We finally cracked our home brew last night.

This Saturday Sixteen Tons Beer is hosting their Imperial Stout Fest. Stouts are made with dark roasted malts given them their dark, black color.  Popular styles of stouts include Dry Irish (such as Guinness), English, American, Milk, Oatmeal (such as Oatis from Ninkasi) and Imperial stouts. Imperial stouts, sometimes referred to as Rusian Imperial Stouts, are characterized by their stronger alcohol content and full malt, roasted and chocolate flavors.  While many stouts have little to none hop bitterness, others can span the full range.

Coffee and Chocolate in Stouts: Perhaps the two flavors that pair best with stouts are the rich, roasty, earthy flavors of coffee or chocolate. Roasted barley and chocolate malt are often part of the brew recipe with stouts.  Ironically, chocolate malt doesn’t give a chocolate flavor.  It’s instead more of a carmel or vanilla taste.  The beers that really taste like chocolate actually have cocoa nibs in the recipe. The same is true of coffee.  Oakshire’s Espresso Stout is an award-winning stout that is brewed with ground coffee from the local coffee roaster, Wandering Goat. You even get a little caffeine kick equivalent to a shot of espresso with a pint. At 16 Tons Cafe this weekend I recommend trying the New Belgium Imperial Coffee Chocolate Stout. It’s a limited release beer, and if you like coffee and you like beer, then you’re definitely going to enjoy this.

Stouts are dark in color and feature rich, roasted flavors.  Photo: home brew bottles of our Imperial Stout.
Stouts are dark in color and feature rich, roasted flavors. Photo: home brew bottles of our Imperial Stout.

Barrel Aged Stouts: Many popular imperial stouts are aged bourbon or whiskey barrels to create a more complex profile. These beers aren’t for everyone.  They are often strong and boozy. At the Imperial Stout Festival there will be multiple barrel aged stouts.  I recommend tasting Block 15’s Super Nebula. It’s an Imperial stout matured in 9 and 10 year old bourbon barrels and aged on house roasted cocoa nibs.  Also at the festival will be Deschutes Abyss, 2012.  This is a must-try beer. At 11%, it’s strong and rich with notes of molasses and licorice. If you haven’t heard of Oakshire’s barrel aging program, the Imperial Stout Festival will give you a chance to try the third beer in their Hellshire series.  This Hellshire is a foreign-style stout aged in Heaven Hills bourbon barrels.

With all this talk of stouts, I was ready to crack open the first of the home brews from the recipe I shared with you a few weeks ago.  We brewed an Imperial Stout that came in at a big 9.4% ABV. It turned out just as expected with a rich roasted flavor and big aroma.  I’m letting the other bottles condition for a week or so longer, so the yeast can really carbonate the beer. Until then, I’ll be enjoying the 40+ stouts that 16 Tons has on tap.  See you on Saturday at the Imperial Stout Festival!

Cheers,

Lana

EDN's Beer Writer, Lana O'Brien, loves talking about beer as much as she loves drinking it. From bartending to home-brewing and now writing for EDN, she's on a mission to discover the best local craft beers. Follow along in her weekly column, Hopped Up, every Wednesday. Connect @lanaobrien.

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