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You remember George Costanza from Seinfeld? He’s short, a little tubby, and someone you really want to like, but for some reason just really can’t stand. For some people, that exactly describes a stout beer. But for others, it can be more like the chiseled hunk that is Gerard Butler in 300 yelling “THIS IS SPARTA!” right before he slow-mo front kicks all that is good and holy out of some dude into a giant hole. In this issue, we’ll unearth some strong, dark, and handsome beers that can just as much lull you to sleep as they could beat the crap out of all your enemies.
Stouts are actually a variety of Porter, though today the “stout” moniker makes people feel much better about themselves while drinking it, so it has naturally stuck. Some breweries whose stout game is already on point, such as Left Hand, Breckenridge, and Deschutes (in Oregon, which we thank for Voodoo donuts and hate for giving us the Portland variety of hipster, which everyone knows is the worst), have come out with some good Porters too. Stouts are ales, which means they use the ale species of yeast and high temperatures (as opposed to Lagers, which use lager yeast and are brewed and cooler temperatures) to brew. Stouts are smooth, as dark as the 7th Harry Potter book, and often sweet and heavy. Some varieties have a slight hoppy bitterness, but most do not. If you hated my last recommendations (which I highly doubt), then I bet you’ll find something that suits your fancy here. The barley that is used to make Stout malt is first roasted, which is where the toasty flavor of stouts comes from. They originated in Ireland, and have contributed much to Irish culture, having been the inspiration for many a drinking song and bar fight since the early 1700s. The most familiar stout you can find is the classic Guinness, served in a formidable black can and drank almost exclusively by those who studied abroad in the UK. Today, stouts are often marked by having entered a more gourmet setting. Think Julia Child meets John Belushi, and you have your modern stout. Today’s stouts come in many varieties, including Oatmeal (brewed with oats for added sweetness and richness, and always part of a balanced breakfast), Milk (brewed with added lactose and milk sugars, designed specifically for young children), and Chocolate (when chocolate is added during the boiling or fermenting stage of brewing to make them perfect for coping with bad break-ups). Modern stouts come in handy for trying to appear dark and mysterious while at a bar, or for impressing Russian Czars, as the Imperial Stout was originally intended to do. It is commonly known that the Imperial Stout is made from hops, dark-roasted malt, Vladimir Putin’s musk, and a LOT of booze. So now, for this issue’s recommendations:
Available anywhere that recognizes both the Old and New Gods of brewing (GoT fans unite!)
IBUs (International Bitterness Units): 30 (pleasant and surprising, like random 70° degree days in February)
ABV: 5.2% (you feel it more at altitude) | $10-$12 (because it’s imported from a foreign land)
For those who aren’t quite ready to leave the comfort of their hops-adorned lives, but are ready to settle down and meet someone nice, this beer has an exciting kick at the front, but ends in a toasted, chocolaty finish, like every relationship you’ve had in college. This beer is complex and requires a bit of thinking to get through, but this philosopher’s delight could satisfy even the simplest of minds.
Left Hand Milk Stout – Longmont, Colorado (shout out to my home town!)
Available in half of these United States – the good half.
IBUs: 25 (at this point, it hardly even matters)
ABV: 6% (it looks stronger than it is, kind of like that one time you air high-fived your friend through a window but it actually shattered)
Price: Doesn’t matter. Worth it. (about $10).
What do you get when the Pope, the Dalai Lama, Steven Hawking, Rabbi Yossi, and Tom Cruise make a beer together? One hell of a religious experience, which is exactly how I would describe this beer. Sweet and smooth, this beer is everything anyone could ever want. Even with almost no bitterness and a pleasant finish colored with chocolate and toffee, you can feel the power of this great concoction. If you aren’t sure that beers are your thing, but you know that you live in Denver and that’s not really an option, your love affair with beer could easily begin here with this enjoyable brew.
In our own backyard (if you don’t know this place, you definitely should)
IBUs: 65 (out of nowhere!)
ABV: 10% (this beer invaded Russia in winter…and won) | Price: Variable, only available at their Evans tap room
This beer has a strong hop character that is a really shot in the pants, but is balanced with a ton of darkly roasted malt. Darker than the farthest reaches of the gulag, but with a peppery finish (like Rasputin), this beer designed to impress the Czars also has a pleasant terroir undertone that really makes us feel tied to our Siberian roots.
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