I know we've already had post upon post upon post upon post about SB 224, and I promise you, this is not one, but I want to make a point that I hope the Wisconsin Distributors Association, Miller Brewing Company, and our state legislature (who are beholden to the Distributors) can hear, see and taste.
You see this logo to the left there? The one for a little brewery in Sonoma Valley California? The one that won Small Brewer of the Year in 2006? The one that makes a world-class IPA distributed in many fine bars here in this state? Yeah. That one. You see it? It could be illegal under the law under consideration in this state. I won't belabor the point, but this brewing company is both a Nationally distributed brewery and a brewpub. If the distributors had their way, this type of startup would not be possible here in Wisconsin.
But, this post is not about SB 224. It's about getting ready for winter and finding that one stout that you want a case of to last you. Last winter it was Bell's Java Stout - an excellent, full-bodied, coffee stout. This year, find a bottle of Bear Republic's Big Bear Stout. It's a great dry, roasted stout with a surprising citrusy/hoppy finish. Best served chilled, but not cold - let's call it about 50 degrees or so; too cold and the flavor is stifled, and while it warms up well, there is a nice sweet spot when it is slightly chilled that makes it seem much lighter than it actually is. Very nice. Very drinkable. Get a few bottles and cellar them; it should cellar quite well as the malts should calm down with age - though it may lose some of the bright hoppiness that really makes this such a fun beer.
Appearance: creamy, tan head with lots of small bubbles; dissipates quickly; dark, dark brown, virtually black; the color of coffee; strong lacing clings to the sides of the glass
Aroma:malty and roasted but very bright; subtle earthiness mutes a grassy almost lemony hoppiness;
Taste: strong chocolate, caramel and roasted specialty malts dominate the front giving a pronounced toffiness, while the base malts add some complexity; hops flush out the taste, but add a lasting citrus-like bitterness that reveals itself more in the aftertaste than in the bulk of the flavor profile; as it warms up the hops become more prevalent, and the flavor really smooths out. (ed: the website mentions brown sugar and molasses, which adds to the "toffee" like taste here)
Body: thick, but not nearly as chewy as expected; while very thick, it is not syrupy; the malts dominate, but the hops add a nice twist to keep the flavors fresh;
Drinkability: I drank an entire bomber by myself. Oh. It's over 8% abv, too. Yeah.
Summary: Poured into a snifter; the citrusiness of the chinook and cascade hops really help keep this beer fresh and make it distinctly American - this is a very nice stout that I could really make a consistent player. I'd love to have this on tap at my local bar. Typically I'd rail against the over-use of cascade hops. Having said that, there are two factors that I would note: 1) this beer actually IS from the American Northwest (Sonoma, CA); 2) it's use is somewhat antithetic to the general, more irritating, uses. Cascade hops are, to me at least, associated with the start of the American craft brewing movement. Now that the movement is out of its infancy it would be nice to see some creativity and diversity. Thus, I get very frustrated that every Pale Ale (India, Extra, or otherwise) has cascades and that distinctly citrusy, orange-like bitterness. However, I have no inherent problem with the cascade hops - it has a nice flavor and aroma that can really impact a beer's taste. So, to see it used in an atypical application, like in a roasty stout, is (excuse the pun) refreshing.
Website Notes: ... a blend of Belgian and English roasted barley and crystal malts ...Louisiana sweet molasses and dark brown sugar ... well hopped with Chinook and Cascade hops ... OG 1.076, ABV 8.1%, IBU 68.