Thursday, September 13, 2012

New Glarus - Coffee Stout

Well, gang it was the first blustery, cold day of the season and that put me in the mood for a stout.  Also, today the Chicago Bears play the Green Bay Packers and I'm going to need a good, sturdy beer to fuel me through that 60 minutes of intense rivalry.  Not that I'm a fan of either team (go 49ers!), but I always enjoy watching a hard fought game.  Football aside, I have no idea how long this beer has been in my fridge.  I assume somewhere around the 18 month mark.  It's not one that New Glarus currently brews and they currently have it listed in their "Beers We Have Known and Loved" section on their webpage.  I don't know if they'll brew it again, but I sure hope so because it's a solid go-to offering when it's available.  Let's pour!

Aroma 11/12
This is an absolute truck load of delicious malts.  Chocolate comes first, is followed by some smoke, and a lovely dark roast.  The coffee is very muted until the beers warms to an appropriate level and then... Look. Out.  The aroma almost doubles in intensity and richness as a rich, dark coffee jumps out of the glass and all but covers the chocolate.  

Appearance 3/3
A gravity-defying tan head floats atop an all but completely black beer.  True to its name, only some coffee-toned browns are visible at the top most edge when the beer is held to light.  The head offers excellent size and retention.

Flavor 17/20
A surprising sweetness starts this beer.  It's a much brighter sweetness from the malts than one would expect in a coffee stout and feels like a combination of chocolate and black malts, but also gives a hint of lactose as in a milk stout.  The beer then flashes the palate some rich coffee goodness before fading gradually back to a smoother blend between the coffee and the darkly roasted chocolate/mocha malts.  A nice light char has been overseeing this whole process and making its presence known throughout - another nice layer of flavor complexity.  The finish again provides that lighter, brighter malt sweetness and mixes it with the coffee, which seems to rob the brew of some of its richness.  There's plenty of coffee flavor, it just doesn't seem as bold and dark as it could be.

Mouthfeel 3/5
This category is clearly the weakest part of the beer.  One generally expects a thicker, chewier experience in their stouts.  The label claims this beer to be "full-bodied," but it's medium-bodied at best.  If it is truly a full-bodied, then it is done a gross disservice by both its boisterous carbonation and the coffee.  As in the aroma, the coffee pushes the malts around in every aspect of this beer and mouthfeel is no exception.  The big chocolate malts are made to feel thinner by the coffee, just as a glass of chocolate milk would suffer a lighter body if you poured an iced coffee into it.

Overall Impression 8/10
The lightening of key elements by the coffee is truly the beers Achilles' Heel.  When the beer is cold the malts are quite impressive and shine on their own, AND there is a point in the temperature transition that is ideal where both of these elements embrace each other and absolutely sing in harmony.  However, past that point, the coffee sandbags what could be a remarkable beer.  Not that it's short on flavor by any means!  It has loads of flavor, unfortunately it's all too easy to see what this beer could be.

Total 42/50
For a beer sold in a six-pack, it's definitely one to purchase.  Heck, the aroma alone is almost worth the price of admission.  As indicated in the previous paragraph, my main problem resides where the coffee meets the malt.  A coffee stout needs to have that big body to carry the big flavors.  That in mind, a coffee stout should always be malt-based with coffee added and not appear to be coffee-based with malts added.  That in mind, this is a super tasty stout that I have enjoyed, and will continue to enjoy, if and when it becomes available, on a number of occasions.  The lighter mouthfeel and carbonation keep it ridiculously drinkable for a stout with this much flavor, but the char and coffee give it enough bitter so that it falls far short of being a lackluster brew.  I don't know when New Glarus is planning on brewing this again, but it would be a welcome addition to any fridge for the fall season.

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