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Nation Sessions

Nation Sessions 1: Stouts

Welcome to Nation Sessions, a monthly glimpse at six beers reviewed by yours truly. Your six pack of the week: Stouts.

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about Stouts: Stout and porter are dark beers made using roasted malts or roast barley. There are a number of variations including Baltic porter, dry stout, and Imperial stout. The name Porter was first used in 1721 to describe a dark beer popular with street and river porters of London that had been made with roasted malts. This same beer later also became known as stout, though the word stout had been used as early as 1677. The history and development of stout and porter are intertwined.

Let’s dive into the pack.

Strike Out Stout
Brewed by: Cooperstown Brewery

A black beer if there was one, Strike Out Stout will get you looking. It carries a taste rich in barley, but the barley isn’t strong enough to overpower you. Instead, it’s softened by a hint of cofee beans. The aftertaste remains for a moment, a very biting hazelnut flavor. Very satisfying. I’d rank it high among traditional stouts, but it lacks just a tad of the strength that makes them so fun. A quality stout that — if available — you should at least purchase once.

How many can you drink in one sitting? Three. You can only drink two of an elite stout.

Grade: B


Wagner Valley Oatmeal Stout
Brewed by: Wagner Valley Brewing Co.

This is clearly a stout — dark, robust. But ultimately, Wagner Valley Oatmeal Stout doesn’t quite have flavor. Where’s the oatmeal? Instead, it’s a bland, unknown taste, even warm at the end. Stouts should project warmth, not taste like it. It doesn’t even taste strong either. Sure, some may like a beer they can drink over and over again, and you can drink this over and over again, but when I want an oatmeal stout, I want something close to a meal in a bottle. Overall, I was disappointed by something that’s close to being good.

How many can you drink in one sitting? Four. That’s how strong it wasn’t.

Grade: C


McGovern’s Oatmeal Stout
Brewed by: Belfast Bay Brewing Co.

Oatmeal stouts — as I wrote already — should taste like a meal. McGovern’s Oatmeal Stout is just that: hearty, rich, filling, flavorful. It has a big barley bite that sticks around for a few moments before slowing down the throat. It goes down smooth, but not really smooth, which brings it back just a tad. Still, this is a winner. It’s a potent dark brown beer that tastes like it’s been hanging around for a while. Great stuff.

How many can you drink in one sitting? I’d advise on two. It’ll fill you right.

Grade: A-


Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout
Brewed by: Samuel Smith Old Brewery

The British can do stouts. It’s just in their heritage. And Samuel Smith, possibly the most famous of British brewmeisters, has forever touted their oatmeal stout, kick-started in 1980 after a 100-year absence of them in beer culture. And with good reason — it’s a fulfilling slow drinker. It’s not quite a meal of a drink, but it’s hearty enough to keep your attention. Hints of chocolate wrap around the drink as it sails down the throat. It’s easy to drink, but complex in taking it down. The aftertaste lingers for just a moment, but overall, it’s a fine experience, close to sipping a bowl of Quaker Oats.

How many can you drink in one sitting? Two.

Grade: A


Fort Collins Chocolate Stout
Brewed by: Fort Collins Brewery

A chocolate stout is supposed to taste like chocolate. Fort Collins Chocolate Stout? Not really. Instead, it’s a rougher trip, dark in taste but nothing resembling the “velvety smooth” flavor it boasts. It certainly is bitter, with the hops percolating at all sides. It’s not entirely smooth, which isn’t that bad, but it just doesn’t distinguish itself in its strength. If anything, it veers toward a coffee stout, or even a pale ale. Not the best example of a chocolate stout.

How many can you drink in one sitting? Three.

Grade: C-


Le Coq Imperial Extra Double Stout
Brewed by: Harvey & Son

When it’s called “Imperial Extra Double Stout” you know you’re in for a treat. At nine percent alcohol, this Harvey & Son product, which is a Russian stout, is a tremendous beer. The 2003 that I tried tastes fluid and flavorful at first bite — hints of oatmeal, syrup, vodka and prune, among other things. First, you have to pop a cork to get to this baby, so that’s your first hint the drink will be an experience. It surely is. The aftertaste lingers for a moment before going down pretty smooth, but not too smooth. Remember, stouts have to have some bite back. This does. It’s a meal, it’s a good meal, and it’s a delicious drink that can compete with any hard liquor.

How many can you drink in one sitting? Two. Any more and you’re falling over.

Grade: A

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