How about some November nuggets. Every time I post, I make a vow to become more consistent, and this time I really mean it. I've had lots of good stuff recently, from tasty porters and stouts to hop heavy fresh-hopped IPAs. November's been good to me, and here are some of the reasons why:
Michigan Stouts. In a three-day span I tackled New Holland The Poet, Dark Horse Tres Blueberry Stout and Bells Kalamazoo Stout. First time for each. Surprisingly, the blueberry stout took the honors for me. Surprising, perhaps, because anytime a fruit is mentioned in a beer's name, flags fly up the pole. I've had a lot of good fruit-infused beers in my time, but I can't help but conjure the horrifying thoughts that accompany Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat anytime I see a fruit on a beer label.
Subtlety is the key with Tres. And the fact that blueberry pairs very well with those rich stout flavors. The blueberry is quite present in the beer's smell, peeking out behind the malted wall of oats. The flavor is truer to a traditional oatmeal stout, with the blueberry shining on the back end of each swallow. Not overpowering, and a wonderful choice for a one-beer night.
The Poet gave me that classic silky oatmeal stout texture that goes down well on a chilly fall evening. You'd be doing these beers if you tried them in summer; the circumstances under which a beer is sampled factor largely into its reception. In this case, I picked the perfect night for the Poet. Well balanced sweetness to accompany the oats, with just enough bubble to keep the mouth lively.
The Kalamazoo Stout entered the unintentional derby as the favorite, and while it certainly didn't disappoint, it didn't pay out as its odds suggested. If this were a boxing title match, the pundits would be telling you none of these beers deserved to lose. What I liked about Kalamazoo: it's only 6% ABV, which is low by today's stout standards, so the complexity of flavors takes over. With the booze factor out of the way, you get a heavy dose of licorice and a nice vanilla sweetness. It has a very long, roasted linger that lets you keep tasting each sip long after it's gone. I also liked the earthy quality it possessed. Very different than the imperial stouts I've been trying, and part of me thinks I wasn't ready for that distinction. I'd like to have another.
What else excited me? Local upstart breweries, as in Fulton. Gives all of us homebrewers hope, doesn't it, that a couple garage brewers can make their way onto the tap list at the Muddy Pig. their debut, Sweet Child of Vine IPA, was a pleasant surprise. And a telling title: this IPA was especially viney--lots of garden fresh hops present. I swear I tasted basil, and strong. There are only five reviews thus far on this guy, and I seem to be the only one detecting that. I'm either getting better at flavor identification, or I'm still way off. Or I don't care. I like the cloudiness, and the hops struck me as a citrus/pine hybrid. Burps like a pale ale. In case you were wondering. All in all, a very nice debut. Next post: The Brewmasters Series/Single Batch/Unleashed/Unchained/Limited Release fad. Hits and misses.