Good craft beer is widely available these days. In the last few months I have sampled many different beers with the intention of posting reviews. Unfortunately for you, my writing has not kept up with my beer consumption. Here are a couple more reviews of some good beer, both brewed by Stone. Please read responsibly.
Bastard’s Midnight Brunch: Stone Brewing, Escondido, CA; 12.7% ABV (2016 release).
Stone offers a wide variety of limited release, specialty, and barrel aged ales in their line-up. Bastard’s Midnight Brunch is Depth Charged Double Bastard Ale aged in bourbon barrels and maple syrup barrels (refer to my review of Depth Charged Double Bastard, posted December 2, 2015, for more information about the base beer for Midnight Brunch). Depth Charged is Stone’s Double Bastard Ale brewed with espresso coffee beans, so Midnight Brunch is twice removed from it’s foundation, Double Bastard Ale, which itself is an excellent beer [Double Bastard » Depth Charged » Midnight Brunch].
This beer pours a murky reddish-brown with a 1/4″ cream colored head that fades fairly quickly. The aroma is sweet: toffee, chocolate and maple. The flavor is . . . WOW!. It’s slightly sweet, with dark fruit, raisins, coffee (very slight), and tobacco. These flavors fade to a slight bitter chocolate in the aftertaste. After some time, the vanilla and coconut notes from the bourbon barrel step forward and linger for awhile. This too fades, to a hop bitterness. At the end of it all, the bitterness lingers. As it warms, the Double Bastard roots become more obvious, and a nuttiness comes through. What great flavor progression!
This beer is full bodied, quite thick and smooth. The carbonation level is low to medium. A 1/8″ ring of foam persisted throughout the session, but left no lacing in my tulip glass.
Sweet is the overall impression, but not so much that one feels the need for insulin. It is very malty like Double Bastard, but is much more complex. The coffee flavor from the Depth Charged is quite subdued, and the alcohol, although high, is only slightly evident to the palate (but will definitely do some damage). This is an interesting beer – very good. I prefer the regular Depth Charged, but it’s more to my liking than regular Double Bastard Ale. Sorry I can’t give you pricing information – this beer was a gift to me from Sheila (now, is that a thoughtful gift, or what?). I would guess about $18 – $20 for a 500 ml bottle.
Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout: Stone Brewing; 9.2% ABV (2008 & 2016 releases).
In 2008, Stone Brewing released Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout as their 12th anniversary ale. This beer was an instant success, but since it was their anniversary brew, it was not repeated, nor was it added to their stable of regular offerings. During 2016, in honor of their 20th anniversary celebration, Stone re-released several of their special and/or anniversary ales. Lucky for me (and all of you), Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout was one of those that Stone released again.
Beers like this are widely available today, but in 2008, they were relatively rare. When I first tasted BCOS (in 2008) I fell in love with it, and purchased numerous bottles to enjoy over time. Imagine my shock when I saw a shelf full of this wonderful beer at Costco a few months ago. Did I buy some? Oh yeah, numerous bottles. I’ve consumed a few of them already, and have several of them cellering now for future enjoyment.
Since I still had a couple of bottles of the 2008 release, I sampled a 2008 bottle and a 2016 bottle in a side-by-side comparison for this review. Imagine my pleasure as I consumed two different vintages of this treat at the same sitting (that’s two 22 oz. bombers of high alcohol imperial stout). DO NOT try this at home, folks – I am a professional, capable of such exploits. Well, enough background; you all paid full admission, so here is the review of the two vintages of this monster . . .
2008 – Pours black with a thin, medium cocoa-colored head that fades immediately, leaving a micro-thin ring around the perimeter of the glass.
2016 – Pours black with a 1/2″ medium cocoa colored head, which also rapidly fades, but leaves a 1/8″ foam ring that persists.
2008 – Sweet, nutty, vanilla (no coffee; much sweeter and nuttier than 2016).
2016 – Sweet, coffee, nutty (the coffee is very noticeable, as is expected with a stout).
2008 – Semi-sweet chocolate, dark fruit, cherries, vanilla, nutty. This vintage is very mellow, easy to drink, thick, and velvety smooth. There is no bitter chocolate in the aftertaste, just a lingering semi-sweet chocolate. No alcohol is noted in the flavor at any time (from cold to room temperature).
2016 – Coffee, semi-sweet chocolate, a little raisin, somewhat sweet, but balanced. There is a lingering bitter chocolate in the aftertaste, along with a hint of nuttiness. As this vintage warms, the coffee subsides from the flavor and the chocolate dominates. The alcohol is definitely noticeable in the flavor when compared to the 2008 version, although it is not hot or unpleasant in any way.
There is a huge difference between these versions. There is no coffee aroma or flavor in the 2008 release. The mouthfeel and viscosity of the two is the same, and the alcohol is noticeable in the non-aged version (that’s to be expected). It is really amazing to drink these two identical beers and taste the huge difference due to aging.
I purchased the 2016 release at Costco – $6.39 for a 22 oz. bomber. I purchased some more at Total Wine – $7.99 per bomber. Costco has been out of stock for a long time, but it is still available at Total Wine.
I recommend both of these Stone beers. The Bastard’s Midnight Brunch is very good, but is undoubtedly more expensive than Depth Charged Bastard. For that reason, I recommend Depth Charged over Midnight Brunch; I also preferred the deeper coffee notes in Depth Charged (that’s saying something, considering I don’t even drink coffee). I highly recommend Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout, and in fact I currently have a number of bottles aging at Mac’s (including one remaining bottle of the original 2008 release). This is a complex stout and is the brew that started me drinking “big” beers, especially imperial stouts. Now, go buy some (caveat: fizzy yellow beer drinkers, don’t bother; you will hate it).