Thursday, September 1, 2011

Blue Cat - Mississippi Mocha Coffee Stout

Blue Cat Brewing Co has long been a staple in the Quad Cities area.  Heck, it even gets to claim that it is the second longest running brewpub in IL!  I have spent countless nights there during, but mostly after, college and it is definitely a favorite hangout for many.  A relaxed vibe, two stories (the upstairs being solely a bar area), and their own varieties of craft beer all go toward making this brewpub a both a general crowd pleaser and still friendly to the craft beer drinker.  From time to time they also serve ridiculous 4-5 course beer dinners with the type of gourmet dishes and ingredients usually reserved for more upscale urban establishments.  These are always paired with their beers and finished with a cigar (if you so choose).

All this in mind, a review of a Blue Cat beer has been absent too long!  On Wednesday I got my first paycheck in almost 9 months and I knew of no better way to celebrate than to head down to the bar that has helped me celebrate (or drown) so many other events.  This review is not for their stout that is part of the “regular rotation.”  Let’s pour!

Aroma 10/12
There is plenty of exactly what the name implies.  A light char, mocha powder, and an aroma of cold coffee are abundant, but not overwhelming.  Just for fun, there are some toffee notes thrown in the background for good measure.  Simple, but very nice and well-blended.

Appearance 1/3
Served from the tap with no head, but a gorgeous espresso black hue with subtle walnut edges.  No clarity.  No lacing.

Flavor 15/20
This starts out remarkably crisp for a stout with the relatively zippy carbonation and some lighter malts.  The backbone gets progressively darker, but never really delves into the realm of a big bodied, bitter, heavy stout, instead preferring to keep things light and refreshing without the sacrifice of flavor.  The main theme here is chocolate malt which is gradually joined by a very light coffee bitter and that is about it, though a “milk stout” flavor does emerge more as the beer warms.  Genuine coffee was definitely used in the brewing as it has a similar finish to my morning cup o’ joe, but with that tinge of mocha sweetness before beginning its descent.  The aftertaste is also very coffee-like though the bitter is more pronounced than in other areas of the beer.

Mouthfeel 4/5
There is a nice level of carbonation going on here.  More than a stout usually has (perhaps because I’m used to sampling from bottles and not taps), but this is not a problem in this craft beer.  The bubbles are tiny enough to not be prickly, yet more present than usual to make this stout refreshing and not heavy.  The lighter body also helps this by weighing in at “medium” at best.  Despite these “lighter” qualities, it still achieves a pleasant level of creaminess that is not contradicting to the rest of the beer.  This is especially apparent when held in the mouth.

Overall Impression 7/10
This is a lighter offering for a stout and would be considered anything but large.  However, it is over 90 degrees today and a huge stout would definitely not fit the bill; this did.  The simple coffee flavor, delicate cocoa proportions, and complimentary mouthfeel are all components to a unique idea: a summer seasonal stout.  It was not laborious to drink, nor too thick, nor syrupy.  Not necessarily my cup of tea, but still a good beer.

Total 37/50
I normally take offense at stouts that would attempt to offer me a flavor this simple or this light.  However, in most of those cases, they have promised me a big bodied, full, warming, flavor-laden stout and then fallen far short.  This brew, long name aside, does not insinuate those promises.  This is perhaps due to the distinct lack of marketing, but with its 15 IBUs (!) and 6% ABV, it makes no “robust” claims and results in an pretty good stout for the summer months.  If it were a stout I was randomly trying and assumed it to be a regular stout I would probably be not pleased, but because I know this is not their “standard stout” (the Arkham Stout), I can safely classify as almost a seasonal offering even if it does not get placed on their seasonal beer list.  While this beer still has the coffee and bitter to keep away those more accustomed to the macrobrews, it is something to seek out for the regular stout crowd  during these hot summer months when a thicker, less carbonated brew simply will not do.  If you’re looking for a light stout flavors that probably come as close to sessionable as a stout gets, seek this out.  If you’re still looking for big flavors and mouthfeel, look elsewhere.

Photo blatantly stolen from their website.

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