I use this picture I took above as it was my inspiration for this post. It’s not just about Imperial Stouts it’s about education leading to appreciation.
Imperial Stouts are not on the top of my list as my favourite beer style but before you click away or scold me keep reading as every once in awhile I find one that pulls me in and Dark Hollow Imperial Stout Aged in Oak Bourbon Barrels was one of those beers …fantastic! Barrel aged beers can blend the beauty of two crafts, brewing and distilling to create a work of art greater than the sum of its ingredients and I appreciate that.
Though Imperial Stouts are the least prominent in my fridge / cellar I still like to sip them and share with friends as I can recognize a well-done beer in this category.
You see this is important as both a beer drinker and a talker abouter for many reasons such as; giving the beer a fair review, offering constructive criticism, recommending to others that may ask about that type and it helps too understand more about beer and all the ingredients involved and what they contribute. I encourage you to learn more about the styles near the middle or bottom of your list of favourite styles as beer styles lay a foundation for understanding a particular beer and what it should be giving you. Style guides help you recognize what you want, as example, if you order a taco and it comes on a bun you’re confused just as you should be if your pilsner tastes like cloves and banana.
IPA's are still a popular style these days and though that category has broadened if an IPA is your go to I bet you know a lot about the style. Different profiles hops can bring, what dry-hopping means, what makes it hazy and even that it can be easier to cover up some mistakes with the power of hops. So now ask yourself how much do you know about your less favourite style? Do you know how it should taste? Shouldn't? What off-flavours can be common to that style and exactly what flavour should be shinning through?
This is where I fell in love with beer and learning about it and my past weekend at Beer Blogger's and Writers Conference was a great reminder that there is much to learn, study and enjoy along the way.
At BBC, in addition to having a session on tasting Lagers and focusing on positive and negative flavours in them, put on by Devil's Backbone, I got to participate in our famous live speed beer blogging where we taste ten beers in one hour each presented by the brewer or rep almost like speed dating but with more flavour. This is a fantastic event we look forward to every year as you get to drink out of your “comfort zone” if you will and explore some styles you know but tend to not order. As in the for mentioned Dark Hollow! Though at the end you may have come to the end of your tasting wits if you create a tasting system you can therefore still figure out what you like and why.
Here were my notes on Dark Hollow an American Double / Imperial Stout ABV 10% by Blue Mountain Brewery in Virginia, USA as per my “system”
Appearance- Pours a dark cola brown with some tan foam and some noticeable lacing as I drink it down.
Aroma- Bourbon booze and roasted malts are prominent upfront. Tiny hints of chocolate, vanilla and oak, which in a larger glass may have peeked through as it warmed up.
Taste- Almost the opposite of the aroma I picked up more wood character than expected and a little less roast the sweet chocolate came through and of course the bourbon booze. A hint of vanilla.
Finish- Was warming but mildly boozy with a lingering bitterness that aided me in wanting more.
I wasn't sure at first as I held up my guard but a couple sips in I loved it!
As described on Blue Mountain’s site:
Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout. Dark Hollow An Imperial Stout has been aged in charred American oak bourbon barrels still dripping with uncut whiskey. For 100 days the young beer patiently breathes in and out of the wood, gaining complexity, character, and serious attitude.
Now by talking about recognized styles I am not suggesting that modern twists and experimentation don’t work, just that they work best when a foundation of solid styles has been established. How are you suppose to make a desirable coconut coffee stout if you can’t make a good regular stout? Creative breweries like Dogfish Head (since I was just there), Grain & Grit and Left Field Brewery (both more local to me) are shinning examples of this.
My takeaway here is simple don’t put “baby” in the corner if you’re looking to expand your knowledge on beer and work on your palate. Learn what a styles typical guidelines are and work on appreciating those styles you may not necessarily love and find that beer that deserve recognition that "Dark Hollow". Drink what you like but be knowledgeable about what you don't. Get around people that inspire you!
Here are some resources I like to use and recommend to keep you moving forward in both your learning and tasting of the worlds best beverage BEER!
What styles do you want to learn more about?
Yours in exploring,
Want to join us next year at the conference now called BEER NOW then check it out here