28 January 2016

Warming up with a Stout

You need this in your life.
Long, cold nights followed by short freezing days is what winter brings to Canada. While this year has been milder than most, it is still not summer. I don't complain about winter, I love all the seasons and the differences they bring both in the weather and my beer. It seems only right that I take a moment and salute those brews that bring warmth to my belly when the temperature falls.
When I was a younger man, I avoided stouts. Although, given the state of the beer world in those days , it wasn't like I was given much choice. For the most part, the only stout we had access to was Guinness and it held no appeal to me. Oh, I would choke one down on St. Patrick's Day when we would start our pub crawl in Hess Village (think lots of bars, little self control) but then it was on to green food colouring in my beer and the sweet release of blackout drinking.
Hmm. This seems wrong.

My recurring them from the last two years has been how craft beer saved my life and with stouts and porters, it is particularly true. Lagers and IPAs can be very crushable (Easy drinking) and even as I was beginning to understand how destructive my drinking was to myself and others, I could still get ramped up when drinking those as well as any macro lager.
Enter the humble Mill Street Vanilla Porter. This is one of those beers that changed everything for me and one of the reasons I will not drop this brewery from my regular rotation despite their being bought out by Labatt's. It is a creamy, vanilla, coffee bean and chocolate dream. I often refer to it as ice cream in a glass. It is just so smooth and tasty, I found myself lingering over each glass and when I would look up at the clock, an hour had gone by and it was time for bed. This was a new development for me, as I would most often race to cram as many Old Milwaukee's as I could down my throat before passing out. I loved how it warmed me up and filled my senses with wonderful flavours. This was a something different.
I was moving forward with porters, but still struggling with stouts. They are generally have a higher alcohol content and the roasted malt can give you at bitter note that, when you are starting to try them, can turn you off. I know it did for me and much like the amazing IPA, it took some time for the changes to my palate to take hold. Slowly I began to purchase and consume more stouts as the weather turned cold and they began to make sense to me. The thicker mouthfeel helps you to really experience the most common flavours of the roasted malt, dark chocolate and the bitter coffee beans. Most often, a stout slows you down with its large body and high ABV. You don't want to pound a 10% Oatmeal stout, it is something to sip and savour. This was the essence of my discovery. I had found a style of beer that really held me back and slowed me down.
Grab a Kentucky Bastard from Nickel Brook, a Winter Beard from Muskoka or maybe a Chocolate Manifesto made by Flying Monkey's. You do not put these beers in a funnel. Well, you shouldn't, but it's your life. These beers will force you to sit up and  notice the flavours they impart. They are big bold beers that make you pause as you drink and feel the warmth spreading through your heart. Stouts can range from smooth and creamy to strong and biting. there is something for everyone and most assuredly you can find one that speaks to you.
When I grab a dark beer and settle into my chair for a night of hockey watching or maybe a movie or two, I like to think of it as my Hi-beer-nation. Just letting go and putting myself in the mood to shut out the world and relax.
 I have an Amsterdam Brewing Company Tempest Imperial Stout that I have been ageing for a year and a bit chilling in the cold cellar and I think tonight is a good time to see how it has changed since last year. That's one of the other things about higher ABV stouts that I was surprised to learn. You can age them for a few years and really see how the beer changes. It never occurred to me that I would want to save a beer for that long, but I have cellared a Kentucky Bastard and a Cuvee from Nickel Brook from this year as well to see where they go next year or maybe even into 2018.
So if you are hesitant to get into a stout, give a porter a try. they are generally less bold and have a thinner mouthfeel and flavour profile. They have many unique takes and they should help you to ease into the often bigger, stronger notes that stouts bring to the table.
But don't give up on these dark angels, it is in the attempt to find the Perfect Beer that I have come to love them and you could too. They bring so much to the table and while it is the season of snow and ice, it is also one of robust flavours. It will soon enough be time to break out the saisons, lagers and IPAs. But for now, why not get your snifter or pint glass and pour some warming love into your life.

No comments:

Post a Comment