Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Bent River - Uncommon Stout

Well gang, I happen to be housesitting this week in the Quad Cities.  For those of you that may may missed it in an earlier post, the QC is an area that spans the Illinois and Iowa borders.  I spent a few years after college in the QC and am proud to say that the area is now up to four breweries and is going to give me plenty of material to write about regarding drinking beer from your local state or breweries.  I've reviewed Front Street Brewery earlier this month and now I'm moving on to Bent River Brewery.  Bent River has long been one of the QC's staple breweries and has recently made big strides in improving their location.  Remodeled bathrooms, updated patio area, and hiring staff that no longer has dreadlocks (I think before it was almost a requirement) has really helped the place's image in more than a few eyes.  In fact, now they even have some pretty good guest taps and bottles (Dark Horse, Stone, Founders, etc).  Unfortunately, I happened to leave my camera in my car and was not about to abandon a helpless beer while I went and got it.  "Never leave a beer behind."  So, it again looks like you'll be forced to deal with crappy cell phone shots or pics blatantly stolen from their website.  Let's pour!

Front of the brewery as stolen from their website.

Picture is my own.  Packaging art image used without permission for educational uses only.
Aroma 10/12
Right up front is an abundance of a mocha blend combination of dark chocolate and freshly ground espresso.  The dark toasted malt joins later to form a trifecta of stout wonderfulness.  If the malt does not include a bit of charring, then it comes as close as possible.  This near-charring or blackening of the malt also imparts a faint smoky note to this beer and is a great compliment to the rest of the aroma.

Appearance 1/3
Unfortunately, this stout is not black.  In fact, there are some rather robust brown ales on the market that could claim the same color.  There are tinges of brown/red visible at almost any spot in the pint glass (not just the edges).  It was also served from the tap with no head whatsoever.  The cappuccino brown is an attractive color, but even toward the top the edges appear watery, as if one had let their icy fountain cola sit around a bit too long and some of the ice water settled to the top.

Picture is my own.
Flavor 17/20
Initial flavors start slow, but soon blossom into the mocha from the aroma.  Its backbone is primarily the lightly burnt coffee with the dark chocolate taking up a supporting role.  A quick wine-taster’s slurp instantly brings the charred flavor to the forefront and a creamy taste as found in an oatmeal stout.  The finish is oddly more dark chocolate than coffee bitter and leads into a finish that is vice versa.  No hop presence of which to speak.

Mouthfeel 3/5
There is an above average amount of creaminess for the style that is not helped by the abundance of tiny carbonation bubbles.  Unfortunately, the carbonation does not fade throughout the pint, but the creaminess seems to counter that by increasing.  I’m not sure if creaminess can increase as a pint warms, but I initially had this marked as low creaminess.  Toward the end of the pint, however, there was no denying it.

Overall Impression 8/10
Most premier brewers seem to nail a style’s technical points, but fall short on some flavor/aroma aspects.  Bent River seems to have done the opposite here.  The beer’s flavor and aroma are quite good, but some of the beer’s technical aspects (color, carbonation, clarity) seem to cry for a bit of improvement.  However, a quick glance at the point distribution reveals that they got the important stuff down pat.  Besides, the areas that fell a bit short are not distracting to the beer as a whole.

Total 39/50 (Excellent)
This beer would definitely hold its own with many larger breweries’ stouts.  The flavor is more than a one trick pony, yet does not try to bowl the drinker over with pepper or dark fruits or several other ingredients that stout brewers can sometimes employ.  It is much more potent a stout than one would use to introduce someone to the style, but not as robust as some of the more extreme or Imperial offerings available.  Long story short?  Damn good stout.  In fact, it is one of my favorite year-round brews not only in this brew pub, but in the Quad Cities region as a whole.  In a small area that contains 4 ½ breweries (one has the mash sent to them), I am very pleased that Bent River is one of them.  I’ll be darkening their doorway many times.

Really cool advertising they have for this brew!

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