DRAFT PICKS: Fulsome flavored stouts

In this column, I review a couple of wonderful brews that both have one thing in common – a distinct coffee and/or chocolate base.

Both are stouts which, as regular readers may remember, is my preferred genre. A good stout or a hearty American brown ale makes me a happy man.

I’ve actually reviewed quite a number of coffee flavored or coffee added beers over the past few columns. This is strictly coincidental …albeit a welcome coincidence.

Still, we might do well to discuss a bit the addition of coffee, and other ingredients, to beer at some stage of the brewing or the other. For serious beer purists, (I am not such a critter), the brewing of true beer follows the Bavarian Reinheitsgebot purity law which basically states there are three ingredients in beer – water, barley and/or hops.

Anything else is “adjunct.”

Brewers have long used different starches such as rice, corn, sorghum, wheat, rye, oats and others to beef up their brewing – either by quantity or through the creation of different flavors.

They also have added different sugars to the mix such as candi sugar, honey, caramel syrup and others in creating both a more active fermentation and a more marketable product to a larger range of potential customers.

And then … there are flavors.

Cinnamon, coriander, ginger, juniper berries or boughs, orange or lemon peel, chocolate, coffee, and much more has all been tossed into the brew pot at one point or the other – with mixed results.

Some flavors seem to be a more natural fit. Others are a bit questionable, although certainly a matter of taste. For example, I really dislike hot peppers in beer. A local homebrewer, however, LOVES the blend and brews it regularly.

Whatever the case, everything added beyond the basic three ingredients is considered “adjunct.” We’ve discussed the adjuncts before, but I thought a small reminder might be in line considering the reviews of late.

The coffee stouts, oatmeal stouts, and chocolate stouts are sometimes referred to as breakfast beers. By that same token, they are sometimes referred to as dessert beers because of the more fulsome and enhanced flavors, (and often because of a touch of extra sweetness.)

Some brewers use the very best of the best coffees and chocolates in their brewing. Others just aim at a good tasting mix.

Whatever the case, coffee stouts, oatmeal and imperial stouts are jam-packed with flavor although they may be a bit intimidating to some because of a more hefty body and mouth-feel.

The adjunct stouts tend to have a bit more muscle than most brewed beverages. They lean to being a bit thicker in texture, or at least seem to be so. They are most often much darker in color – not at all unlike a good cup of strong brewed coffee. If you are a sworn aficionado of lighter beers – pilsners or American lagers – it might be best to ease into this area of tasting.

On the other hand, if you are an American Brown Ale lover, or have developed a liking for the darker varieties of lagers and ales, the trek into the world of oatmeal, imperial, and American stouts and breakfast ales should be an enjoyable one.

Any explorer worth his or her salt knows there are some exciting brews being churned out in the malted beverage world. There are some wonderful beers out there and I’m pleased to say a number of Michigan breweries are well up in the ranks when it comes to breakfast-style beers.

Now try a couple new brews.

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Ten FidyTen FIDY
Oskar Blues Brewing Company
Lyons, Colo. 

Ten FIDY is a Russian Imperial Stout and packs a bit of punch at 10.5 percent ABV.

What really makes this brew special … at least for me … is that it comes in cans.

Russian Imperial Stout in cans. And excellent stuff at that.

Who would have figured??!!??

FIDY pours an incredibly dark black — the black hole of beers. There was just a touch of nice brown head that retained pretty well until the tasting began and then it dissipated quickly as a result of glass agitation.

This is a boisterous brew that from first sniff really strutted the coffee, chocolate, and brown sugar-esque aromas.

(I had a reader suggest there was a noticeable difference between the smells of chocolate. My wife agrees, so … this was more along the lines of a dark chocolate. Almost a cooking chocolate scent.)

FIDY is simply packed with flavor. It is a bit smoky at first wash and resplendent with roast malt flavors — deep caramel, burnt sugar, a touch of coffee, and a blast of dark chocolate.

Coming from a can, I was surprised, (although I don’t know why I should be so), at the creaminess. FIDY has a wonderful, thick mouth-feel even though it is by no means thick or syrupy.

I loved the serious hints of espresso or quality coffee.

There were also very welcome shots of dark fruits bouncing around ‘backstage.’

FIDY really has everything I could hope for from RIS – canned or bottled.

It is heartily recommended, and I suspect will become a standard in the Crees household.

Fuel Cafe
Lakefront Brewery Inc.
Milwaukee, Wis.

Fuel CafeFuel Cafe is the latest in an apparent series of American Stouts and ales that I’ve tasted which were brewed with coffee.

At the very least there are a bunch of good beers out there that have coffee added as an ingredient at some stage of the brewing process.

This doesn’t mean to say “coffee” as in the coffee-like taste imparted by the use of some malts. We’re talking real coffee.

The big difference is — Fuel Cafe is certified organic.

And it is exceptional.

Fuel Cafe pours a wonderful deep, dark brown — virtually black – with an inviting creamy beige, (even tan), head of foam that is quite thin and slips away pretty quickly. There isn’t a lot of carbonation.

No one having taken even a cursory glance at the label should be too surprised at the dominant aroma — coffee.

There is a serious coffee scent with a pleasant background of malts.

This is a pretty straightforward brew.

The coffee presence certainly carries over into the tasting, backed by a luxurious but definitely not too complex layer of maltiness.

There is a lot of chocolaty goodness in Fuel Cafe, but at the end of the day it is all about coffee.

Fuel Cafe is simply a wonderful brew for coffee lovers. It is one of the best …hands down.

It has a wonderful mouthfeel. Not thin and watery, but not too thick or overwhelming.

IT is a well balanced brew that should tick a lot of boxes for lovers of stouts and fans of good coffee as well.

A great job, well done.

This is a fine end-of-the-day beer, and could be paired well with any number of creamy dessert offerings.

In a word – Yum!

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Posted by Jim Crees

Jim is the editor in chief of the Pioneer, Herald Review and Lake County Star. He can be reached by phone at (231) 592-8360 or by e-mail at jcrees@pioneergroup.com.

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