Draught Diversions: O’Fallon Pumpkin Pack

Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and posts that don’t just focus on one beer here at The Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…

Now for a seasonally appropriate review of a variety pack of pumpkin beers less than a week before Hallowe’en, the O’Fallon Pumpkin Pack.

O’Fallon Brewery, based in Missouri, has been crafting ales and lagers since 2000 including their regionally popular Pumpkin Beer. Unfortunately, only select beers of their output are distributed here in NJ, although I recall seeing their pumpkin beers last year and I did pick up a bomb of their Imperial Stout earlier in the year. Two particular beers in  this “Pumpkin Patch” pushed me to get the variety pack, the Jack O’Latte Milk Stout and Pumpkin Bread Dunkelweizen. So, how did the whole variety pack fare? Like most variety packs some beers were, of course, better than others, but not in ways that I expected. I’ll give a mini-review of each below leading up to the one I enjoyed the most.

The beer I had first was the Pumpkin Bread, as I’ve said in some posts, I really like Dunkelweizens so I’m always on the lookout for a new Dunkel to try. In the case of O’Fallon’s Pumpkin Bread, there are definitely bready elements of the Dunkelweizen but a lot of the expected finishing notes (clove/banana) are masked or altogether not present due to the pumpkin / pumpkin spice elements. As I commented on untappd, it does exactly what the label suggests, evokes the flavor profile of pumpkin bread. That said, there’s something not quite there for me. Not a bad beer, just not quite what I’d hoped.

 

Next up (and the one I tried last) was the standard Pumpkin Beer, which was a perfectly acceptable pumpkin ale. It didn’t blow me away but it didn’t leave an aftertaste like some pumpkin ales can leave. Better than many pumpkin beers I’ve had, not quite as good as a few others, and one I’d rank in the top half of the many pumpkin beers I’ve had. In other words, a pumpkin ale I’d reach for again. I can understand why this is a local favorite in the State of Missouri, this is a very drinkable ale. This would be for relaxing by a fire pit whilst enjoying a few while the night begins to cool.

 

The one that surprised me the most was Saison De Citrouille. Citrouille is French for Pumpkin, and as the name implies, this is a Saison/Farmhouse brewed with pumpkin and pumpkin pie spices. While I enjoy Saison/Farmhouse Ales, they aren’t one of my “go to” styles. Sometimes, this style can have a bitter, earthy aftertaste that I find unpleasant. On the other hand, some of the lighter Saisons I’ve had are more crisp with a bit of a fruitiness to the flavor profile. O’Fallon’s take on the style is a nice variation and melding of styles, the pumpkin spices blend really well with esters in the beer, complementing each other for a balanced, tasty beer. A perfect beer for those early fall days that still have some warm winds and sun leftover from the summer.

Last is Jack O’Latte and the beer from this variety pack I enjoyed the most. There was a time I loved pumpkin flavored coffee and would have it every day once the leaves started changing. Since the Pumpkin Spice overkill began a few years ago (coupled with Dunkin Donuts drastically altering its flavorings), I slowed that roll and mostly drink dark roast coffee. Anyway, back to this beer… Jack O’Latte does everything right with those flavors: a stout sweetened with lactose, further enhanced with pumpkin / pumpkin pie spices for a beer that makes you want more. If this were available in 6-packs, I would make sure to pick up a pack every fall. In the end, isn’t that what a brewery tried to do with the beer it produces?

The final verdict: The O’Fallon Pumpkin Pack is worth trying if you enjoy pumpkin beers and are looking to sample a variety of styles with pumpkin/pumpkin spice flavors. Each beer is good with the Saison De Citrouille and Jack O’Latte very good. I it is impressive, on the whole, how well O’Fallon blends the pumpkin flavors into a variety of typically non-pumpkin styles.

Beer Review: Schlafly Pumpkin Ale

Name: Schlafly’s Pumpkin Ale
Brewing Company: Schlafly – The Saint Louis Brewery
Location: Saint Louis, Missouri
Style: Pumpkin Ale
ABV: 8%

From the beer’s description on Schlafly’s Web site:

Our Pumpkin Ale blends the spices of the harvest with full-bodied sweetness for a beer that tastes like pumpkin pie. Pounds of pumpkin form a malty foundation that supports the fall flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg and clove.

While pumpkin beers were produced in the early days of the American colonies, they were different from the pumpkin beers we know today. Colonists used pumpkin and squash as the fermenting medium, since malted barley was scarce. Once malt became more readily available, it replaced these alternatives to grain. In the 1990’s, American craft brewers reintroduced the style to the delight of pumpkin beer drinkers.

Pumpkin Beers are one of the more looked-down-upon styles in American Craft beer, it seems there are just as many articles in the beer-writing community decrying the style as there are variations on the style. I’ve even written one such article myself, although it was more about the ridiculous and overwhelmingly early placement of the beers in stores and not about the style itself. As I say in that post, I enjoy pumpkin beers as much as I enjoy many other styles. When done well, a pumpkin beer can be a wonderful tasting beer, just like this fine ale from Schlafly in Saint Louis, MO. The best brewery in Saint Louis.

While Schlalfly may be overshadowed in sheer size by a certain Clydesdale wagon-pulling brewery in Saint Louis, the overall quality of Schlafly more than makes up for it. I’ve had a handful of brews from them, over 50 pumpkin beers since joining untappd, and Schlafly’s is probably the most consistent tasting over the years and an example of how the straightforward approach with the relatively standard components of a pumpkin beer can produce a very tasty beer which, ultimately, has set the bar for the style.

The aroma of the pumpkin pie spices wafts from the bottle as it pours into the glass. The beer is a lovely amber-orange, exactly what to expect with a pumpkin ale. A small head atop makes for a nice presentation that is surpassed by the taste.

The spices and pumpkin are upfront and present throughout the beer. What I appreciated most about this specific Pumpkin Ale is the added sweetness. Some pumpkin beers can have a slight bitter aftertaste or (all I can think of) is too much earthiness. The added sweetness in Schlafly’s version balances out and just about removes that aftertaste. The end result is the gold standard for Pumpkin Ales, or in this case Orange-Amber standard.

I’ve had other pumpkin ales (over 50, according to untappd) and for the straight-up Pumpkin Ale, just about all others are in the shadow of what Schlafly has been consistently brewing for years. The recipe seems relatively unchanged and the beer is model of Autumnal consistency.

Only one other pumpkin beer for me hits as many notes as well as this one does and that one is technically not a Pumpkin Ale, but rather a stout with Pumpkins and the associated spices.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-star rating.

Draught Diversions: Breweries to Visit, Part 2

Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and posts that don’t just focus on one beer here at The Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…

Here’s the second on my potentially ongoing series featuring breweries I would like to visit. The first five were easy, the next five are also relatively easy, too. A combination of historical importance to beer and the products I’ve enjoyed from them pushed these breweries to my “wish list.” The breweries in today’s post are largely in the Northeastern US. As I’ve intimated, distribution for some of the smaller breweries that seem to offer products I like (Schell’s in Minnesota, for example) doesn’t make it easy or convenient for me to even taste beers from breweries who don’t distribute into NJ, thus the geographical bias.

Like the first installment of this “series,” I’ll use the arbitrary ranking of “From Which Brewery Does Rob Have the Most Unique Untappd Check ins”

Southern Tier Brewing Company in Lakewood, NY (2002)
Total Southern Tier beers checked into untappd: 25

I’ve been enjoying Southern Tier’s brews for as long as I can remember enjoying craft beer. Being only one state over from their home base, their tasty brews have almost always been readily available. They’ve been a trusted brewer of delicious beer well before I was on untappd, their range of styles is impressive from their wonderful “Blackwater Series” of stouts (Choklat, Crème Brulee, and Choklat Oranj Stout) to their ales Citra Hopped Live Pale Ale, Tangier, 3 Citrus Peel Out to their legendary Pumpkin beers: Pumking and perhaps my favorite Pumpkin beer Warlock, Southern Tier brews beer in styles that please just about every palate.

Additionally, Southern Tier became partners with perhaps my favorite brewery, Victory Brewing, last year as

Artisanal Brewing Ventures. Since I’ve visited Victory a few times, it only makes sense that I visit their sibling brewery.

Samuel Adams / The Boston Beer Company Boston, MA (1984)
Total Samuel Adams beers checked into untappd: 24

Let’s face it fellow “craft beer enthusiasts,” if not for Jim Koch and the Boston Beer Company, many of us may still be drinking Michelob, Miller Lite, or Coors. For me, Samuel Adams was my big introduction to good tasting beer. When their beers hit the scene, my father converted from Anheuser-Busch, primarily the Michelob product line, to the Church of Koch. I really didn’t enjoy beer until college and getting the Samuel Adams Holiday Sampler back in the mid 1990s was a taste-bud opener. I recall the packaging to this day and getting bottles of Cranberry Lambic and really enjoying it despite not knowing what the hell a Lambic was. I also really liked the Cream Stout, too, but the highlight was always the Old Fezziwig Ale.

My preference for their brews has waned over the years (I still say that Boston Lager is the weakest of all their beers), but I do appreciate their experimentation with styles and variations, like the latest Harvest Hefe (I’ve yet to try). Where they’ve not quite hit the mark is falling a little behind on the IPA craze as Jim Koch has admitted to not being a fan of the style.

Their seasonal offerings are quite good, the Summer Ale is always a favorite. In fact, the most refreshing beer I ever had was a Samuel Adams Summer Ale after spending over 12 hours putting up a fence around my pool. The Old Fezziwig ale is still sought after and a beer EVERYBODY wishes would be distributed in six packs. One of the beers I enjoyed most from them, and I wish would return is the Honey Porter, that’s the beer that really introduced me to what a Porter was.

If I can really say anything negative is that the constant label changes for their beers are a tad….frustrating. I miss the old ones with Samuel Adams hoisting a tankard of ale on every label like the one to the left from a couple of years ago.

I visited the Samuel Adams Taproom in Boston on my last business trip up there about 15 years ago but didn’t do a full tour of the brewery. However, a full tour of the facility is a must for anybody who enjoys craft beer, it would seem especially after hearing what the folks at Flounder Brewing had to say about their experience at the brewery.

Two Roads Brewing Company, Stratford, CT (2002)
Total Two Roads beers checked into untappd: 15

I’ve had only about 10 beers from Two Roads, but their consistency for those beers is extremely impressive. One of their best beers is their Workers Comp Farmhouse Saison. This shouldn’t be too surprising since Two Roads’s Master Brewer Phil Markowski literally wrote the book on Farmhouse Ales. Lest you think this is all Two Roads brews, their portfolio runs the gamut of styles and influences, from their wonderful Ol’ Factory Pils Pilsner, the delicious No Limits Hefeweizen to the outstanding Honeyspot Road IPA and one of the best pumpkin beers produced annually, Roadsmary’s Baby (Pumpkin beer aged in Rum Barrels!). Like the breweries already mentioned, Two Roads brews styles to match most beer-drinker’s palates.

Over the past couple of years, Two Roads has begun an impressive program of Sour Beers. Last winter, I had Bog Wild a cranberry-sour and I thought it fantastic. As part of the push for Sour Beers, Two Roads uses an old milk truck to allow the beer to sour for what they’ve dubbed the “Tanker Truck Sour Series.” They recently broke ground on a new brewing facility, Area Two Experimental Brewing on their property for sours and spirit-based barrel-aged beers. Given that, I may want to hold off on visiting until that facility is up and running.

Tröegs Independent Brewing, Hershey, PA (1996)
Total Tröegs beers checked into untappd: 10

I know, I know, Tröegs is only one state away in Pennsylvania. But Pennsylvania is a big state and for my beer purchasing dollar, one of the best beer states.Hershey is just outside of a day trip, so this one would likely be an over-night trip so a trip to Hersey Park could be part of the journey. Logistics aside, as I pointed out in my review of their wonderful dopplebock Trogenator, Tröegs is one of the foundational breweries of not just the Northeastern US, but of the American craft beer scene. In the midst of several mergers, acquisitions, and ownership splits for other brewers, Tröegs has remained fiercely independent, family owned, and community committed.

Like Southern Tier, I can’t recall a time where I haven’t seen Tröegs beers available on shelves in my area. I’ve extolled the virtues, at length, of Trogenator but that is just the tip of the iceberg for these brewing brothers. Their Dreamweaver is a fine, widely available Hefeweizen, Sunshine Pils is a terrific pilsner, and Mad Elf…Mad Elf is legendary American Christmas Ale and an annual holiday beer tradition for me.

Tröegs also has an experimental series of beers they’ve dubbed the “Scratch Series,” and I need to try some of those.

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Milton, DE (1995)
Total Dogfish Head beers checked into untappd: 8

I know I’ve lauded many of the breweries I’ve highlighted here and the earlier post for ingenuity, but when it comes to experimental, “off-centered” beers, few can compare to the output of Sam Caligione’s Dogfish Head Craft Brewery. Sam’s got the personality to keep his beer in the spotlight, he even had a television show a few years ago, Brew Masters.

For whatever reason, I haven’t had nearly as many Dogfish Head beers since joining untappd, but the brews I’ve had have been great to outstanding, just look at what I said about Oak-Aged Vanilla World Wide Stout a few months ago. Their Namaste White is a nearly perfect Witbier, Indian Brown Ale is a tasty brown ale (a very underrated style), and Festina Peche is a great take on the classic Berline Weisse. For years I would try to get a six pack of Raison D’Etre when I could but it seems much harder to find now. I can’t think of any other beer off the top of my head that features beets and raisins, but damn was this a good beer. I recall sharing a bottle of the rare Fort years ago and loving it.

Right, for the quality of their beers, what Dogfish means to the American Craft Beer Landscape and some of the fantastic brewery only releases (like Carobock, a chocolate-banana Weizenbock!) make this another must-visit.

Ein Prosit!

Beer Review: Heavy Seas Blackbeard’s Breakfast

Name: Blackbeard’s Breakfast
Brewing Company: Heavy Seas Beer/Clipper City Brewing Co.
Location: Baltimore, Maryland
Style: Porter / Imperial Coffee Porter
ABV: 10%

From the beer’s description on Heavy Seas Brewing Company’s Web site:

Blackbeard’s Breakfast is a robust porter with a new world twist. Aged in bourbon barrels and brewed with Chesapeake Bay Roasting Company’s Dark Sumatra coffee, this porter is flavorful and complex. Featuring unique English malts, this brew will have strong notes of caramel and a slight nut character. Paired with bourbon notes and the sumptuous Sumatran Coffee, Blackbeard’s breakfast will please coffee and beer connoisseurs alike.

Heavy Seas has been brewing beer out of Maryland for over two decades and their beers can be found on shelves up and down the East Coast. I’ve had a couple of their beers, found them tasty (especially The Greater Pumpkin) so when I saw this beer at my local bottle shop a few weeks ago, I knew I’d want to give it a try especially since Porters are one of my favorite styles of beer. There have been debates for years in the beer community about the differences between porters and stouts, I just know I like both.

I’ve had my fair share of “Breakfast Stouts” the best of which come from Founders. Not many Breakfast Porters, though. As the description above indicates, this one has the added complexity of having been aged in bourbon barrels.

The most noticeable element of this beer is how dark it is. The beer pours even more black than the Allagash Black I reviewed a couple of weeks ago although not quite as thick. The head on Blackbeard’s Breakfast is a tannish brown and makes for an appealing looking beer. The second most noticeable element is the aromas of coffee and bourbon.

The bourbon and coffee elements hit you straight away and are present throughout the beer. I’d say the two flavors blend together to the point that they are one flavor. Usually when beers are aged in liquor barrels, the liquor is a secondary presence. Not quite the case here, for me they came together as one flavor, or at least two halves of a whole flavor rather than a layered set of flavors, if that makes sense.

The 10%ABV for this beer isn’t immediately noticeable, although the bourbon presence lets you know this isn’t a beer to drink quickly especially given that it was in a 22oz. bottle. I find myself saying this often, but I took my time with this one, enjoying the beer over the course of well over an hour. The flavors came out only a little more as it warmed, which made for a really consistent flavor for all 22oz of the beer.

I appreciated that the aging in bourbon barrels really reduced the bitterness of that coffee can sometimes impart in a beer. If anything, the coffee-bourbon flavors overpower the flavor of the beer a little bit. Coffee and bourbon are flavors I happen to enjoy a great deal, so that was fine by me.

All told, Blackbeard’s Breakfast is a flavorful beer that should please beer drinkers who enjoy coffee-infused beers, porters, or beers aged in bourbon barrels. At the price point I purchased it (only $8.49 for the bottle) I would consider it a bargain. I know I’ll be grabbing a bottle next year should Heavy Seas brew it again.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

Beer Review: Saugatuck Brewing Blueberry Maple Stout

Name: Blueberry Maple Stout
Brewing Company: Saugatuck Brewing Co.
Location: Douglas, Michigan
Style: Milk Stout
ABV: 6%

 

From the beer’s description on Saugatuck Brewing Company’s Web site:

A rich, sweet stout with classic malt characteristics with a bold, unique twist. This beer tastes like you crammed a fat stack of blueberry pancakes into a pint glass and smothered it with maple syrup. Channel your inner lumberjack, because it’s in for a real treat.

Sometimes a beer grabs you because of its name, because of how that name is translated into the taste of the beer and because that beer is off the beaten path. Such is the case with Saugatuck’s Blueberry Maple Stout.

Sounds odd, doesn’t it? Stouts allow for a great variation of flavor enhancements and beers with syrup flavoring are not uncommon. Founders, another Michigan brewery, has a few that are even aged in Syrup barrels. I’ve had a few beers with syrup as a flavor enhancement/component, usually stouts and sometimes porters, but there’s something even more “enhanced” about this one, from what is touted to be a complex flavor profile.

The beer pours very black, but is not quite as thick as other stouts. There’s blueberry on the nose and that’s the first taste to hit my taste buds when I sip the beer. I’ve had my share of beers with blueberry in them, usually wheat based ales and naturally some were better than others, but I can’t quite recall having a stout with blueberries before this one.

It works pretty well. I suppose the closest comparison would be chocolate covered blueberries for the richness of the stout. With the blueberries upfront, the beer finishes with the maple sweetness. It makes for a good combination and an interesting flavor profile overall. The maple is overpowered by the blueberries, at least for me. Sure the maple is present, but it doesn’t assert itself to the extent that the blueberries do up front and throughout the whole beer.

Like a lot of stouts, this one benefits a great deal from warming up to room temperature. The flavors just become even more prevalent. Although I liked the first beer from the six pack I had, I think I enjoyed the second and third days later even more. I wasn’t sure if I would even want to finish the whole six pack, to be honest. By the third or fourth beer, I began to enjoy the beer more. Sometimes with a six pack I’ve never had, the remaining beers will sit in the fridge for months on end as I avoid drinking the beer, not so with this one. I found it to be a nice dessert beer, largely because for me, the tastes and flavor profile are complex enough that I think it would stand better on its own. I’m not sure why, maybe because I didn’t initially know what to expect with the first beer and my taste buds “knew” what to expect on second consumption and could enjoy the beer more. Regardless, this is an interesting, tasty beer.

 

Recommended, link to Untappd 3.75-star rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

So Udderly Sweet (Level 8)

Wouldn’t it be nice if milk stouts came directly from beer producing cows? While this unfortunately isn’t the case (yet) they do have a full body and sweetness due to a larger amount of lactose and sugars. 

Draught Diversions: Beer Ratings

Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and posts that don’t just focus on one beer here at The Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…

This is probably something I should have posted earlier in the life of this blog, but I thought giving a brief overview of how I rate the beers from a number standpoint and how that translates into what the beer actually fits into my refrigerator rotation. I’ve recently started rating beers on Beer Advocate, but this post is mostly about my ratings on Untappd.

Untappd, for the uninitiated is a social media platform for sharing thoughts and ratings on beer with their friends, both in “real life” and on the intarwebz and social media. There are various “rewards” like a badge for checking into distinct beers of a specific style; every 5 distinct beers gets you a level in the badge. There are also some promotions for local beer fests and similar beer-related things.

Most sites / apps like Untappd feature a ratings scale of some sort. Untappd uses “bottle caps” rather than stars, allowing users to rate from one to five bottle caps in increments of quarter bottle caps. The ratings scale at Beer Advocate is even more granular than untappd. Understandable since BA is THE online institution of beer communities. Another example, though not for beers, is goodreads, an online book sharing/rating community where I’ve been a member for quite a few years. The rating scale for goodreads is a scale of 1 through 5 whole stars.

So, how do these “bottle cap” ratings translate for me?

4.75 to 5 Bottle Caps
The Best of the Best for me, beers like Founders KBS and Backwoods Bastard, Carton Brewing’s Regular Coffee and Weihenstephaner’s Hefeweissbier. Most cases, these are beers that are limited release but I always try to get them when they are released.

4 to 4.5 Bottle Caps
These are the beers I’ll consider “go-to” beers in constant rotation. For example, I usually get about two six packs for myself when I visit my local bottle shops. Often, one six pack may be of something new, but usually, the other six pack is for one of my favorites that is always good to have available and pairs with just about anything. Beers like River Horse’s Oatmeal Milk Stout in winter, Victory Brewing’s Kirsch Gose in summer, or Great Lakes’s Edmund Fitzgerald Porter and Two Roads’ Honeyspot Road IPA year round. Like the above grouping, I’ll check beermenus.com to see where I can find these beers.

3.5 to 3.75 Bottle Caps
Middle of the road beers for me. A 3.75 is a beers that I liked and might try again but probably won’t go out of my way to hunt down. Something in the beer worked well enough for me that I’ll get it again when I see it among the sea of craft beers, beers like Brooklyn’s Oktoberfest or Magic Hat’s #9. These are beers I’m happy to see among the choices at a bar with limited taps.

3 to 3.25 Bottle Caps
These are slightly below average beers for my palate. In many cases, the exact rating of 3.25 Bottle Caps is an indicator of a beer that isn’t necessarily to my taste but still a quality beer. One example is Saranac Caramel Porter, a style I like, but one that had one thing very off about it, in this case too much of a cloying sweetness. Similarly, the 3.25 I gave to Sixpoint Brewery’s Bengali IPA: a beer not particularly to my palate, but I recognize the beer is well made.

2.5 to 3 Bottle Caps
Anything below three bottle caps didn’t do much for me. In a case like Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale which I gave 3 Bottle Caps, it isn’t something I can even drink, but I recognize that the hop level is what people want. Brooklyn’s Summer Ale is listed as a Pale Ale with an IBU of only 18, but I recall a very strong aftertaste that wasn’t refreshing at all. Another good example in this range is Great Divide’s Hibernation Ale which I liked on the initial taste, but the aftertaste threw the whole beer out of whack for me.

Below 2.5 Bottle Caps
These are mostly drain pours. I haven’t rated many beers in this range, to be honest. These are perhaps poorly made beers or some combination of ingredients and style that didn’t work for me. Lagunitas’s Dopple Weizen is an example of a beer I rated .5 bottle caps. This was perhaps the most disappointing beer I’ve had in years. I was expecting a smooth, sweet, caramelly, low-IBU weizenbock but what came out of the bottle was a mild IPA. It was the exact opposite of what a weizenbock should be in nearly every way imaginable and just about made me gag. The only reason I gave the half star was because it actually looks like some other weizenbocks I’ve enjoyed when poured into the glass.  Thinking about this beer months later still has me angry at it. Another one was Long Trail Brewing’s Summer Ale which was a bland, bitter Golden Ale.

I suppose the bottom line is that it is easier to rate a beer I really like high, a beer I strongly dislike low, while those middle of the road beers are the toughest to “rate.”

Beer Review: Allagash Black

Name: Black
Brewing Company: Allagash Brewing Co.
Location: Portland, Maine
Style: Belgian Style Stout / Belgian Strong Dark Ale
ABV: 5.2%

From the beer’s description on Allagash Brewing Company’s Web site:

Technically, there is no such thing as a traditional Belgian stout, but we went ahead and made one anyway. In creating the beer, we took the aspects we loved in Belgian beers and used them to craft a stout. Allagash Black is brewed with 2-row barley, torrified wheat, oats, roasted barley, chocolate malt, black malt and hopped with Northern Brewer and Glacier. A generous portion of dark caramelized candi sugar produces a hint of raisin in the finished beer. The addition of oats lends Black a silky mouthfeel, which is enhanced by rich flavors of coffee and dark chocolate.

Allagash is another American Craft Beer pioneer located in the Northeast, and like Victory, because of their tenure and reputation in the industry, their beers are available throughout a majority of the United States. Their most famous beer is White, the standard bearer for the American interpretation of a Belgian Witbier (despite what you may hear under a blue moon). This beer is it’s opposite? Or cousin? However you would like to map the relationship between the two beers, the simply titled Black is a fantastic and unique brew in the American Craft Beer landscape.

But wait, aren’t there thousands of stouts (which is probably not too much of an exaggeration) on shelves? Aren’t Belgian beers and beers brewed with ingredients and in the Belgian style almost as prevalent? Sure, but as founder Rob Tod posited when he first brewed this beer, there really aren’t any Belgian stouts, so he created this mainstay masterpiece.

The beer pours, in a shocking turn of events, black. There’s a little lightening of the color as the head develops, but the cocoa and roasty aromas mingle in a very inviting way. There might be a hint of the Belgian yeast floating under current of at all in the aroma.

The first up front sip gives the classic stout flavors we’ve all come to expect, dark, roasted malt with a smooth mouthfeel. There’s a slight taste of cocoa and coffee that complement each other nicely; one doesn’t overpower the other.

At the back end of the taste; however, is where this beer stands apart from other stouts and dark, malty brews. The Belgian yeasts come into prominence, transforming those expected stout flavors into something more robust and unexpected.

I’ve been well aware of Allagash’s respected, Belgian-inspired output for years and now I’m kicking myself for not giving this one a try earlier. Although Black is part of Allagash’s year-round portfolio, this one will now be a stout return to regularly; a dependable, well-above average beer that is a nice outside-the-box stout.

The beer’s reputation precedes itself so my endorsement can be added to the many who count this among their favorites. There’s a bourbon barrel aged version of Black I *need* to try.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Iron Man (Level 3):
You don’t have to be a superhero to enjoy a strong beer. Boasting a higher than average ABV, these styles really do pack a punch, so be ready for it. That’s 15 different beers with style of Strong Ale – American, Strong Ale – English, Belgian Strong Ale, Belgian Strong Dark Ale, Belgian Strong Golden Ale or Lager – Euro Strong.

The Dark Side (Level 5):
At first taste, dark ales can be overwhelming for even the most skilled of beer drinkers, but your will is weak and with time you will eventually turn to the dark side. That’s 25 different beers with the style of Dark Ale, Belgian Strong Dark Ale, Lager – Euro Dark, Lager – Dark or IPA – Black / Cascadian Dark Ale or IPA – Imperial / Double Black.