Our Local Beer Experts Blind-Tasted Stouts. Guess Who Won?
For this month's blind beer-tasting, we gave in to the dark side. Stouts originated in England in the mid-18th century, and might have fizzled out had it not been for the Irish. Deriving its name from particularly strong or "stout" porter, stout is heavy on roasted malts and typically light on hops. We tasted classic Irish Dry Stouts and richer Export-strength stouts, saving heartier or flavored varieties for later.
B. Yaeger The lineup ranged from Anglo to Cali.
Apart from this blogger, panelists included Daddy's Chocolate Milk Stout home brewer Richard Brewer-Hay and his wife, Allie, publicans at Noe Valley's Elizabeth Street Brewery (798 Elizabeth at Douglass). Also Bill Yenne, author of Guinness: The 250-Year Quest for the Perfect Pint. We sampled the beers ― all widely available for $2-$5 per bottle or can ― in this order:
1. Deschutes Obsidian Stout (Bend, Ore.): 6.4 percent alcohol by volume (ABV)
2. St. Peter's Cream Stout (Bungay, England): 6.5 percent
3. Moylan's Dragoon Irish Dry Stout (Novato, Calif.): 5 percent
4. Bear Republic Big Bear Black Stout (Healdsburg, Calif.): 8.1 percent
5. Guinness Draught (Dublin, Ireland): 4.2 percent
6. Guinness Extra Stout (Dublin, Ireland ― but really Canada): 6 percent
7. Marin San Quentin's Breakout Stout (Larkspur, Calif.): 7 percent
Each beer was scored on a 1 to 10 scale and given a sum total. The benchmark, Guinness Draft, stood atop the podium with a total score of 28. Allie picked it for its semblance to Daddy's Chocolate Milk and Yenne appreciated its creamy head, calling it his "favorite by a narrow margin."
B. Yaeger The panel (left to right): the author, Allie and Richard Brewer-Hay, Bill Yenne.
In contrast to the velvety version from the can with the nitrogen widget inside, Guinness Extra Stout comes carbonated in a bottle. Everyone noted its "fruity" or "tart" flavors, garnering it a 19.
In a photo-finish second, San Quentin's Breakout Stout scored 27. Yenne quoted German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen who said, "I demand two things from a composer: invention and that he astonish me." The consensus leaned toward astonishing.
Sister pub to Marin Brewing, Moylan's Dragoon stood in contrast to Breakout by being dry and light. That warranted "not a big fan" from Richard and "not interesting" from Yenne, whereas this blogger found it to be "easy drinking, pleasantly mild." 20 points.
The overarching theme for Obsidian Stout was "dry," and Yenne went so far as to liken the burnt-roast flavor to an ashtray. 22 points.
Tying for cellar dwellers at 17, St. Peter's Cream Stout and Big Bear Black Stout seemed to suffer for having off-putting aromas and scored a pair of 20s. Allie dinged the former for it's "citrusy, tinny qualities." The ursine power of the latter made this blogger give it high marks for being "full-bodied, almost gamey."
Tune in next month when a new panel will blindly taste hefeweizens.