Thursday, September 29, 2011

Bent River - 2 Dave Stout

Despite my promises of reviewing New Glarus beers for the foreseeable future, I have to dally from that plan. The key word in that sentence is "foreseeable."  What I could not foresee is my wife needing to stay late at work, giving me ample time to sample from the local microbrew scene.  For those intent on reading reviews full of New Glarus goodness, fear not.  There are still plenty of those left and I'll definitely be getting to them.  Today's beer is Bent River's "2 Daves Stout."  The waitstaff seems to think it's an oatmeal stout while sources online list it as an imperial.  Only one way to find out.  Let's pour!

A mandatory stop in the Quad Cities.
Aroma 9/12
The aroma is primarily a chocolate malt and a lesser citrus, grassy hop leaning.  As it warms in the glass little bits of molasses and warmth lift their heads, but they are far behind the main notes.  From time to time a faint smoke can also be detected.  Not very strong, but the separate notes are easily discernible.

Appearance 2/3
Not the blackest stout I’ve ever seen, but I don’t know of any rule requiring them to be.  Held to light it is a nearly opaque glass of dark cola browns and cherry highlights.  The head, while far short of being even moderate in size, remains persistently in my glass for quite some time.  It texture looks thin and wet.

Picture is my own.  Logos are theirs. 
Flavor 18/20
There are a lot of dark, dark flavors going on in this glass and sometimes it can be difficult to pry them apart from each other.   While initial sips are creamy, but otherwise fairly neutral, the backbone is alive with dark flavors.  It backbone begins as a very earthy chocolate, but gradually adds a distinct pepper flavor.  Other flavors emerge, such as coffee, cocoa nibs, and a healthy amount of char, but the chocolate and pepper are clearly in charge and dominate the mouth.  If you can hold this beer in the back of your mouth and avoid drenching the sides of the tongue (shape your mouth as if lightly sucking on a straw, but with closed lips), the other flavors have a chance to stand out more from the pepper.  As the beer warms, more and more chocolate joins in to blend with the pepper and char.  The finish is alcohol warmth in molasses, earth, pepper and the faded sour hop note from the aroma.  The aftertaste is bitter and the spiciness of pepper on your tongue leaves the mouth watering.  A wine-tasters slurp reveals this stout’s oatmeal roots.

Mouthfeel 5/5
Great job by the brewer here!  It’s like a checklist for a stout body: creamy & thick, without being worthy of a spoon, and ridiculously smooth.  Carbonation is not in great quantities, but what is present is tiny & prickly and eventually fades.  And while prickly might not have much place in a stout, the rest of the mouthfeel is good enough to forgive this temporary infraction.  I was only able to down two of these (of the glasses shown in the above picture - not even a full pint!) before feeling extremely full.  Talk about drinking your dinner!  The 10.3% ABV is almost imperceptible and only shown in glimpses throughout the glass.

Overall Impression 8/10
This beer has a lot going for it: complexity, unique flavors, great body, and lots of sharp bitter.  The strong char/pepper tends to overwhelm a few of less aggressive flavors, but in a time when Black IPAs (BIPAs) are becoming more and more popular, this will appeal to a growing number of drinkers.  This beer’s flavor certainly fits the blackened guidelines, even if the color does not.

Total 42/50
This is a unique stout!  Not the sweetened versions that so many of us are accustomed to drinking with large helpings of dark fruits, milk chocolate, or caramel, etc, etc.  This beer is unapologetically bitter, but without completely sacrificing its chocolate flavoring.  Credit to the brewers for successfully blending so many similar flavors because while the beer still has a main flavor theme, it lets many of the other lesser flavors have their brief moments.  Not an easy task when combining so many dark, closely-related flavors.  I would love to blend this with one of their aggressive IPAs someday and make one helluva BIPA.  It has all the black, bitterness and all it lacks is a hop aroma and wallop to send this over the edge as a BIPA that would be worthy of national recognition.

As it stands by itself, it is not the biggest stout on the block, but its raw, simple bitterness separates it from the pack.  Definitely worth trying this limited release from Bent River!

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