Tag Archives: Stout

Emerson’s ‘Southern Clam’ Stout

Emerson's 'Southern Clam' Stout
Emerson's 'Southern Clam' Stout

This must be a pretty-damn-rare example of the Emerson’s brewers following, rather than leading. You just couldn’t say that this wasn’t knowingly made in homage to Three Boys’ ludicrously masterful Oyster Stout.1 The comparisons are as inevitable as they are apt, and the thing about Imitation’s place on the Sincerity Scale of Flattery Analysis comes immediately to mind.

It’s properly huge and rich and coffee-ish, and the briny / salt air accompaniment just touches things off perfectly, just as it does with the Oyster Stout — or with posh, rock-salt-topped chocolates. If there’s a difference, though I didn’t side-by-side them, I might say that this is ‘livelier’ in the carbonation and thereby body, but it’s still very Barry White.

Verbatim: Emerson’s ‘Southern Clam’ Stout 23/10/10 500ml $8? from Regional 6% The label actually says “Warning: contains shellfish”. The smell is gorgeous. Rich + coffeeish, with that salt-air hint. The inevitable comparison will be to the (awesome) Three Boys Oyster Stout, but you know the thing about imitation + sincere flattery, right? Quite impressive, really. Hugh flavour; a body full of chocolate with that same saltiness just blamming it up a notch like it does with the Oyster, or with posh chocolates. Possibly a touch ‘livelier’ than Oyster, but still very Barry White.

Emerson's 'Southern Clam' Stout detail
Emerson's 'Southern Clam' Stout detail
Emerson's 'Southern Clam' Stout
Diary II entry #29.1, Emerson's 'Southern Clam' Stout
Emerson's 'Southern Clam' Stout
Diary II entry #29.2, Emerson's 'Southern Clam' Stout

1: I definitely have at least one diary entry and photo for this lovely stuff; I just haven’t gotten around to uploading them, yet. Sincere apologies. But meanwhile, your homework assignment is to note it on your list of Must Haves. Unless you’re a vegetarian or something. It does have actual oysters in there. So put it on your Must Have If Ever I Deconvert list, or something.

Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout

Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout
Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout

We’ve struck censorship once before in these pages, but here I find myself doing some redaction before the paper was ever scanned. I’d had a very weird run-in with some misbehaving Police on my way home from Hashigo, so I stopped by Malthouse and raided the fridge’s supply of abandoned samples in search of something to follow ‘Péché Mortel’.

I found this, and shared it with a plural number of colleagues who I shan’t name; it’s obvious enough that I had it, but they were a little more squiffy as to its status as ‘abandoned’, despite it having laid idle for months.

Unfortunately, despite its ludicrously high scores on Ratebeer.com, I just wasn’t wowed. This could be attributable to several things (or some combination thereof):

  1. Maybe I’d had too-many high-grunt beers before it. This is definitely a factor with beer; you just can’t properly try that many ‘new’ things in a session, especially if they’re quite strong. There comes a point at work where someone will ask for one more random recommendation from me (who is, quite naturally, well stocked with such), and my frank advice will be to return to something they know. Save the new things for next time.
  2. Perhaps the beer had had a hard life before reaching me. Beers of this kind (strong, malt-driven) tend to age well, and the brewery are confident it would, but this was two years old and may have had some difficult (too hot, too rough) travels in its time. It’s a relatively-fragile product, really, and that fact is a large part of what drives the controversy over ‘grey market’ imports — about which more later, I’m sure. Or,
  3. Possibly it just Wasn’t My Thing. The subjectivity of beer tasting should never be allowed to be forgotten. That you yourself don’t enjoy something otherwise-almost-universally-acclaimed is no cause for concern. Especially if you know even just a little about what you’re getting in for, you’re perfectly entitled to not like something.

For me, at the time at least (I’d certainly give it another go, with that reputation), it was just too smack-in-the-face, too fumey — despite being only a nudge stronger than my previous beer’s 9.5%, one particularly-apt comment on Ratebeer.com has it as smelling “like some sort of solvent poured into an ashtray”. Just not nearly as lovely as the Péché Mortel.

Verbatim: Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout 07/08 13/10/10 10/6% abandoned sample @ MH. 12 floz ÷ 3 w/ [redacted] Same gorgeous colour, same espresso head, fumier, though. Tarter chocolatey flavour. Strength is much more apparent in the face, too. Rapey, says [anonymous]. As you can see from the censorship, the internet publication potential is meeting with paranoia about the exact abandonedness of these things. Possibly a bit too full-on, actually. Or maybe just mis-timed.

Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout
Diary II entry #26.1, Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout
Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout
Diary II entry #26.2, Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout

Dieu du Ciel! ‘Péché Mortel’

Dieu du Ciel! 'Péché Mortel'
Dieu du Ciel! 'Péché Mortel'

First, it must be said that a brewery which insists on ending their name with an exclamation point deserves a bucket of Awesome Points right out of the gate. Next, I’m delighted to have a second Canadian beer in my book so relatively-soon after my first.

I’d enjoyed my Tall Poppy (and its accompanying Japanese Chicken Curry pie) so much, and my ‘early’ night’s time off spent just mooching in the pub was doing my brain a world of good, so I decided to stay for another — and then spent an agonising seeming-eternity trying to decide just what my ’nother would be.

Evidently, I settled on this. Adjusting for the Frogspeak, the brewery is called ‘Oh My God!’1 and this ridiculously good little ‘Imperial Coffee Stout’ is named ‘Mortal Sin’ — though they don’t explicitly indiciate which one they mean… It’s freaking delicious. Big and gloopy and dark with an appropriately crema-looking head, it’s a lovely thing to look at, and a serious wallop of chocolate and coffee up the nose when you give a swirl. The coffee flavours aren’t all just bitter, plenty of that chocolate from the nose is there in the taste, too, along with nudges of smoke and earthy hops to dry out the back end of each sip, and send you back on another go-round of the gawp-swirl-sniff-taste cycle.

Dieu du Ciel! 'Péché Mortel'
Diary II entry #25, Dieu du Ciel! 'Péché Mortel'

Verbatim: Dieu du Diel! ‘Péché Mortel’ Imperial Coffee Stout 13/10/10 $16 @ HZ 341ml(?) What better way to visit more often than just to stay a while longer? Also, it’s a bit of a Bad Brain Day, in both senses. So: reward self. Quebecker beer. I’m told the favourite of a recent tasting. Gorgeously dark, crema-ish head, appropriately. Superblunt coffee / chocolate nose. Slightly syrupy body, borders closer to Big Dark Choc than classic dry bitter coffee. Places an even hundred on rateBeer, and some people there rightly note that it’s not all coffee; much more complex + better for it. Smoky, earthy, grassy hoppiness. No way a one-note showpony. Impressive. One of those beers you just keep taking big whiffs from.

1: Well, literally ‘god in the sky’, but it’s an idiomatic exclamation — much like the German ‘gott in himmel!’ — for surprise or suchlike.

Beer 101 Tasting Session

Beer 101 tasting session empties
Beer 101 tasting session empties

George (the gifter of the original Diary) organised a little tasting session at his house for a few friends of ours, with me playing the Informative Nerd. I’ll be the first to admit that I made them all run a bit of a marathon, but we hit most of the Big Styles, did some Interesting Comparisons, and had a whirlwind tour of the Long and Rambling History of Beer.

There’s a lot more variation in beer than there is in, say, wine or whisky, so a fairly zoomed-out overview can go a long way towards making people more ‘conversant’ in the basic styles, why they are what they are, how to figure out what they’re in for by looking at the bottle, and to help people discover what is (and isn’t) Their Thing.

I can’t help but notice, though, that I utterly failed to fulfil Jessie’s request / demand for a “super-awesome” Diary entry. I’m definitely more of an improvisational entertainer than an on-demand one — and that curry was seriously distracting. Especially after all that beer.

Verbatim: Beer 101 10/10/10 I have to write something super-awesome, says Jessie. No pressure. Tasting session & history lesson at George & Robyn’s, with Jessie + Simon + Pip. Great chance to get my nerd on, and evangelise to Robyn. We had: – Wigram Spruce Beer – Hoegaarden – Hofbräu Munchner Weisse – Köstritzer – Pilsner Urquell – Mussel Inn Golden Goose – Tuatara Porter – Invercargill Pitch Black – Emerson’s Bookbinder – Fuller’s IPA – Epic Pale Ale – Three Boys Golden Ale – Chimay Blue – Kriek Boon. And now, George + Pip have wrangled us a curry. Bloody marvellous.

Beer 101 tasting session empties
Beer 101 tasting session empties
Beer 101
Diary II entry #23.1, Beer 101
Beer 101
Diary II entry #23.2, Beer 101

Wigram Imperial Stout (with Mojo coffee beans)

Firstly, hopinators. Basically a backwards filter, these are last-minute flavour infusers you can stick in the circuit between the keg and the tap — making you a great big nerd, and giving you a chance to muck about a bit. Homebrewers make them out of water filters (plugged in the wrong way round), and the Dogfish Head brewery famously made one they called Randall the Enamel Animal, leading to the semi-popular generic name ‘Randall’ for such gizmos. Our Overboss likes to call ours the Modus Hoperandus, which is pretty cute and appeals to my Law Nerd side, but me and my flatmates preferred simpler names like Dennis (as in ‘Hopper’) or David (as in, er, ‘Hasselhopp’).

Wigram Imperial Stout and Mojo coffee beans
Wigram Imperial Stout, in and on the Hopinator

Secondly, what you can do with them. The obvious use for these gadgets is increasing the hoppiness of a hoppy thing. But that’s also the least-creative use of them, if you ask me. It’s occasionally fun, sure — and the Wig & Pen IPA (brewed by the man who built and installed the Modus itself, no less) was perfectly suited to such — but the more-random stuff is just more My Thing. So you can crank a wheat beer full of strawberries, a golden ale full of kiwifruit, a traditional IPA full of mandarins, or, as here, a stout full of coffee beans. The latter has an absurdly-beneficial aesthetic effect on ours, gloriously hewn from steel and glass as it is. (Weirdly, despite their usual — and shared-by-me — fondness for Steampunk-ish things at Dogfish Head, you’d have to say that ours is much more in that mode; it just should’ve been brass…)

Thirdly, this particular thing. If there was a Heaven, this would be one of those Matches Made There. Wigram is a charming little battler of a brewery, with moments of genius and moments of naff — like most operations, I suppose. Their Imperial Stout is definitely one of the former, and is in the British Imperial mold rather than the Russian, so has a massive dryness absurdly-well accommodates the flavours from the coffee. It’s big, dry and fabulous. It is Stephen Fry.

Wigram Imperial Stout and Mojo beans
Diary II entry #5, Wigram Imperial Stout and Mojo beans

Verbatim: Wigram Imperial Stout & Mojo Beans 10/9/10, guest on the Hopinator, loaded with coffee 8%. Transforms the Modus from a murky fishtank of hop flowers into a pillar of obsidian; like a tube of captive midnight. The stout is serious, dry and delicious — ‘British Imperial’, they say, lacking the sweetness of a Russian ~. But whereas I found the Townshend #9 a bit limp, this is big and dry and fabulous. Like Clive James, or Stephen Fry. Doesn’t feel boozy at all. The dryness and the coffee are just made for each other.

O’Hara’s ‘Celebration’ Stout

O'Hara's 'Celebration' Stout
O'Hara's 'Celebration' Stout

I’d been meaning to have this for ages, and the occasion of KT’s birthday — her being a good friend and fellow stout drinker — provided the perfect excuse, since it’s one of those beers that the brewery made for their own birthday. As if I really need an excuse. But it is awesome, this. Superbly big and smooth, tilting more towards the coffee-ish notes than the chocolatey ones, unless the chocolate you’ve got in mind is the savagely dark bitter yumminess that kinda blurs the difference right out.

O'Hara's 'Celebration' Stout
Diary entry #69, O'Hara's 'Celebration' Stout

Verbatim: O’Hara’s Celebration Stout. 10/1/09 750ml 28$ @ work 6%. Belated birthday drink with KT. And it’s awesome. Super big and smooth. More coffee-ish than chocolate, very nice sideline of yummy dark bitterness. Perfect for the occasion.

Afterthoughts, November 2010: I do like to drink occasion-appropriate beers when I can, and I’d had this in mind for KT’s birthday for weeks after seeing we had this in the fridge. KT is one of those wonderful women I cite as a counter-example when I’m grumping about how people talk about “girly” beers, and seem to have something irrelevantly particular in mind.

Dux de Lux ‘Sou’wester’ Stout & Three Boys Pils

Dux de Lux Souwester & Three Boys Pils
Dux de Lux Souwester & Three Boys Pils

Verbatim: Dux de Lux ‘Sou’wester’ Stout. The Dux was nominated in the “Best Pub” category this year at the bar awards, and so was a certain little pub in which this photograph was taken. But the Dux won. And they brew. Fairly well. The Stout isn’t nearly as smooth as the Emerson’s or the Pitch Black; it’s a lot ‘livelier’ where the other two (especially the Emerson’s) go silky. This may well be Your Thing. It’s not quite mine.

And Three Boys Pils. A not-well-enough-known microbrewery from Christchurch (and so a fellow survivor of that Blight on the Universe, with Dux de Lux), and home to a similar range of uniformly better beers, I say. The Pils is a solid lager offering, with a good deal more presence and punch — and altogether more Interestingness than Dux Lager (just for instance). Closer to the lagers most people are used to than the Emerson’s would be, but conspicuously head, shoulders, and Big Tall Green Bottle above the Heinekens and Steinlagers of the fridge.

Invercargill ‘Pitch Black’ Stout

Invercargill 'Pitch Black', handpulled
Invercargill 'Pitch Black', handpulled

Verbatim: Invercargill Brewery ‘Pitch Black’ Stout. Again from the hand pumps at Old Malty, and in many ways one step further down Black Beer Boulevard from the aforementioned (and aforedrunken) Tuatara Porter. Bigger, darker, and stouty, basically. But still (I think) fairly accessible. Something of a favourite for a few of my female friends. But that might just indicate my peculiar taste in female friends. Who knows?

Afterthoughts, November 2010: Here’s a very-minor example of a common rebellion, with me; I’ll have absolutely no part of this frequent talk of what might be a ‘girly beer’. I just know too many exceptions in both directions (girls who drink “non-girly” beer, and non-girls who drink “girly” beer) and am too-easily bored by blokey sexist blahblahblah to tolerate it much.

Also, the whole question of what divides ‘stout’ from ‘porter’ is a controversial one, despite my breezy invocation of a commonly-understood difference, above. I’ve always had it in my head that stouts will tend to be drier and coffee-ish-er, while porters will tend towards the sweeter and chocolatey-er end of the spectrum. Apparently, though — just like all other putative distinctions — that’s not really very historical of me. Martyn Cornell has written a pretty damn definitive account entitled ‘So what IS the difference between porter and stout?’, which — spoiler alert — basically concludes: there isn’t one.

Beer history is tricky like that. And I’m just going to keep on using my non-historical terms anyway. I’m stubborn like that.

Emerson’s Oatmeal Stout

Emerson's Oatmeal Stout
Emerson's Oatmeal Stout (overseen by Wolf Blitzer)

Verbatim: Emerson’s Oatmeal Stout. This is how I started my day, at 10.00am, watching CNN for coverage of the U.S. Presidential Election. As we all know by now, the Good Guy won.

It pours as absolute darkness in a glass, and is ludicrously smooth to drink, with a great big chocolatey afterglow that tickles the brainstem a few moments after each sip. If Barry White were a beer, this may well be him.

Afterthoughts, November 2010: That line about Barry White was very useful. I tend to describe beers very idiosyncratically — I’m much more of the impressionistic style than the fine-detailed sound-like-a-wine-wanker sort. (Though the latter does have its place.) I loved this beer, and recommended it by saying that it was Barry White reincarnated in beer form; big, black and deeply sexy.

And yes, past tense; “was very useful”, “loved this beer”. Emerson’s sadly ‘retired’ this beer, and I mourned. You suspect I’m not even being metaphorical, don’t you? Well done.

James Squires IPA & Grand Ridge ‘Hatlifter’ Stout

James Squires IPA & Grand Ridge 'Hatlifter' Stout
James Squires IPA & Grand Ridge 'Hatlifter' Stout

In this, the first double-whammy entry, mine is the IPA. It’s a tasty, mild brew which is still very-definitely an IPA. It’s gently hoppy (Fuggly, to be specific) and nicely malty, and is a perfect Gateway Beer to introduce people to pale ales.

I do like the Squires beers. On my way over to the Big Country for this trip, I asked the flight attendant what they had by way of beer, and her answers were Something Horrid; Something Awful; Something Forgettable; and James Squires Golden Ale. No contest, obviously.

The beers from the the Malt Shovel Brewery, as they’re officially called, are really useful. They’re like Mac’s or Monteith’s were here before being bought out by the Bigger Boys. Some beer nerds look down their noses at Mac’s and Monteith’s, but we’re a zillion times better off for having them as the nearly-ubiquitous beers-on-tap than we were when it was DB versus Lion brands, with smatterings of the provincial “Draughts”. They are Gateway Beers; milder versions of the various different styles that give people a low-risk way to Try Something New. My suspicion is that the (inevitably, but lamentably) stronger regionalism in Australia will get in the way of something similar happening over there. But if anyone manages it, it should damn well be Squires.

Toby’s beer — that’s him not doing very well at Guitar Hero in the background — is Grand Ridge ‘Hatlifter’ Stout. Another from Mirboo North, this one was definitely my favourite when we visited a few years prior, and was still freaking gorgeous. Unfeasibly smooth and easy to drink, and so a perfect Introductory Stout to anyone silly enough to resist such an idea.

James Squires IPA
Diary entry #53, James Squires IPA

Verbatim: James Squires IPA. 3/10/08 $3 @ IGA. Had the Golden Ale on the plane yesterday, too. Big fan of these Malt Shovel boys. Lovely mild IPA, but still an IPA. Gently hoppy and malty, very good gateway beer(s) for evangelism. (Fuggled.)

Afterthoughts, October 2010: A fairly ruthless Editorial Policy is in effect, it seems. ‘Hatlifter’ is denied an entry, despite not already having gotten one at the brewery itself, just because it’s Toby’s beer, rather than mine. And it’s possibly not very fair to say he wasn’t doing very well at Guitar Hero; really, he just wasn’t doing well compared to me — few people do. I’m a severally-faceted Nerd.