One of the greater things about watching football in America is that most matches, especially those of the EPL, are early in the morning American time, giving people an excuse to day drink. This is part of our series discussing exactly what to drink when you’re at the pub, presented by our resident homebrewer, Keith.
The Beer: Barrel-Aged Cappuccino Stout, Lagunitas Brewing Company, Petaluma, California
The Pub: The Black Squirrel, in Adams Morgan, Northwest DC
What You Need to Know: The stout style is basically an evolution of the porters that we’ve covered earlier in this column. The beer started out as “stout porter,” a roastier version of the wildly popular porter style; stout porters were first created around the late 18th century. On a state visit to England, Russian empress Catherine the Great fell in love with the style, and began ordering barrels to share with her court. Unfortunately, stout porter was not stout enough for sea travel, and the first few shipments to the Russian ports arrived spoiled. But brewers possess nothing if not ingenuity. The Barclay brewery stepped in, and created a high-octane version of stout that would be so preserved by the hops and alcohol content that it could survive any trip. And thus was born the Imperial Stout, with which American brewers have found many different ways to play with the style, adding coffee, barrel aging, hop bombing, adding fruits, souring the beer, & c. In the case of this one, Lagunitas have added coffee and aged the beer for a year in bourbon barrels.
Lagunitas was founded in 1993 in the town for which it was named, before quick growth required they move operations to Petaluma within its first year of existence. The brewery is, almost like a California vintner, known for its use of big flavors and high alcohol contents. You’d know them for their IPA, Brown Shugga strong ale, and Lil’ Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Pale Wheat Ale.
So, About this Beer: Pours a dark brown with ruby highlights and a thin off-white head. Aromas of malt, oak and vanilla as the glass raises. Heavy malt and alcohol flavors at the first sip fade to a nice coffee, roast and hop bitterness. Syrupy mouthfeel cut wonderfully by the carbonation. It’s almost like the bubbles act as a cleaning crew to cleanse the palate after the circus of flavors parades by.
The Verdict: While barrel-aged stouts have become trendy to the point of lunacy over the past year or so, they’re really good when they’re done right. And this one is done right. Despite being a BIG beer, the Cappuccino Stout is quite well balanced. I’d absolutely recommend it, though take heed- it’s a 9 percenter, so don’t have too many.