'Tis the season for stouts, and appropriately enough, Stout Day 2012 falls on Thursday, November 8. As a long-time fan of bitter, hoppy IPAs, I've only recently come around to the rich, dense, smoky beauty of a good stout (and damn; am I ever glad that I have).
In terms of all-time favorites, there's Founders Brewing's Breakfast Stout (hooray for Grand Rapids, Michigan!), but sadly, Founders is not yet available in Florida. Locally, I've been digging on the easy-drinking but full-of-flavor Roasted Cocoa Stout by Boynton Beach's own Due South Brewing.
To get a well-rounded list of stouts, Clean Plate Charlie sought out the advice of two of South Florida's more passionate (and knowledgeable) craft beer fans. Put down the Guinness and prepare to expand your stout horizons with these suggestions after the jump.
Joel Kodner, a local beer geek and part-time beer slinger at the aforementioned Due South Brewing, was kind enough to offer his stout recommendations. The new co-host of the United We Drink podcast also happens to be a huge stout fan, so he really knows his stuff.
Though many of Kodner's favorites aren't sold in Florida (we're looking at you, Founders), he had plenty of good things to say about locally-available beers. One stout Kodner recommended is Great Divide Brewing Company's Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout. "(It) just came out again. There's likely still some on shelves from last year, which is fine to drink, but fresh is when the oak really shines (bottles are date-stamped)."
"Total Wine has an exclusive from BrewDog called Old World Russian Imperial Stout, and it's an absolute steal at $5.99 for a 22-ounce bottle," Kodner said. "South Florida recently started getting beer from Green Flash, and their Double Stout is phenomenal. North Coast Brewing's Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout is always a good go-to stout and widely available."
Not fully committed to having a stout? There are similar alternatives.
"Some people debate the difference, if any, between stouts and porters, and Thursday Funky Buddha Lounge is tapping Wide Awake It's Morning, their imperial version of their Maple Bacon Coffee Porter," Kodner said. "Southern Tier Creme Brulee is perfect for a liquid dessert and could probably substitute for vanilla extract in any recipe."
For the really, really good stuff: "South Florida got a very limited amount of what I consider the best stout made; Cigar City Marshal Zhukov's Imperial Stout. There's a very small chance you'll still find it buried on a shelf at Whole Foods or a small, independent liquor store that carries craft beer, but it's still plentiful on Florida's west coast at Total Wine (saw a picture last week of at least two cases on display in Naples)."
Finally, Kodner recommends Oskar Blues Ten FIDY, priced at $4.50 each for a 12-ounce can or $15 for a four pack. "Seems pricey until you look at, like, 24-ounces for $7.50. Fresh cans are available at Total Wine; pretty sure the date stamp is mid-October. It's like delicious motor oil."
Lauren Bowen, another South Florida craft beer guru and the creative director at Tap 42, seconded the recommendation for Oskar Blues Ten FIDY (calling it a "pitch black, bittersweet, roasty, chocolatey can from the Gods. It's extraordinarily rich and perfect for the coming winter season"), and added her two cents about several other stouts worth a sip on Thursday (or any day, for that matter).
"There are many different types of stout -- milk/sweet stouts, Irish stouts, imperial stouts, and even oatmeal stouts," Bowen said via email. "They all are different but maintain a few of the same characteristics like being roasty, chocolatey, and coffee-like."
"At Tap 42, we always have Left Hand Milk Stout on our nitrogen tap," she said. "Left Hand Milk Stout is a stout that has lactose added. The lactose makes this stout sweeter, richer, smoother, and a bit creamier. Milk stouts are also known as 'sweet stouts.' Left Hand Milk Stout is a great introductory to stout because it's sweet and extremely drinkable...scary drinkable."
For fans of rare and hard-to-find brews, note that Tap 42 this week got one case of Cigar City Moat Water, a limited release, 8% ABV sweet stout.
"Moat Water is brewed with lactose and also water collected from Tampa's local skatepark. It's aged on coffee, vanilla beans, and Canadian maple wood," Bowen said. "It's said to be a one-of-a-kind incredible creation from our favorite local brewery Cigar City. These bottles are going to go fast so get them while you can."
Also available at Tap 42, Bowen recommends Stone Mint Chocolate Imperial Stout, a limited release available in small quantities in Florida. The brew is an "extremely decadent delight; a pleasurable mix of sweet and rich chocolate and cool mint."
Like Kodner, Bowen has a fondness for some stouts that simply aren't available in Florida or have already run out of stock. Among those is Kodner's personal favorite, the Cigar City Marshal Zhukov's Russian Imperial Stout.
"It's an outrageous chocolate and bittersweet treat; Zhukov is a rarity. Even here in Florida, the home of Cigar City, these bottles were sold out in the lucky liquor stores that actually got them," Bowen said. "At Tap, we sold out in about a week. But I put some aside and added them to our Tap 42 cellar, where I'm currently cellaring a couple dozen special brews. Stouts are extremely cellarable. In a couple years expect to be drinking some cellared Zhukov at Tap."
Something else to keep an eye out for in the stout stratosphere:
"The Bruery from California brews probably one of the rarest and most wanted stouts out there. Every year, they brew Black Tuesday, which sells out in minutes," Bowen said. "Even though we get The Bruery down here in Florida, Black Tuesday sadly does not make its way here. It's an imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels for over a year. It's only available at the brewery. This monster is roasty, full of vanilla, smoky, rich, and boozey. Hands down a winner."
What stout will you be drinking on Thursday, or, for that matter, this fall? Let us know your favorite stout(s) in the comments.
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