IF YOU’RE LOOKING FOR A BEER THAT’S ROASTY WITH VARYING IMPRESSIONS OF DARK CHOCOLATE, VANILLA BEAN, CARAMEL, AND COFFEE, THEN YOU’VE FOUND THE PERFECT ARTICLE.
Stouts are one of my absolute favorite styles in the beer world. The decadent beauty of this style ranges from Irish Dry Stouts to aggressive styles like the Russian Imperial Stout or Bourbon Barrel Aged Stouts – there really isn’t a limit to how this style can be utilized. Not only will you find variations in flavor profiles, but the alcohol content can range from 5% to as high as 21%, as in the case of the Black Tuesday Reserve.
Below you will find my exhaustive list of the 12 stouts that CM of @iamcmbryant and I tasted over a 12-episode series, which you can find here on YouTube. We rated these beers on their darkness, thickness, roastiness, sweetness and the lit-ness. All beers were rated on a five-point scale. You will see our individual scores, plus an overall average score for all the beers.
Now lets get to it.
*listed in order of ranking
** noted Richmond, VA breweries
#1 Hidden Springs Ale Works | Black Aggie Maple Variant | 13%
I’ll never understand how breweries in Florida, known for hot/humid climate, shine at making big stouts. Hidden Springs’ Black Aggie Maple Variant proved to be a star example of Big & Delicious. This well balanced, oily stout was full of sweet maple goodness, a deep rich thickness, and hidden booziness that makes me yearn for more.
#2 Horus Aged Ales | Goshawk’s Return | 13.2%
Goshawks Return is balanced blended of sweetness, roast, and nutty. For a double coffee stout, I was initially surprised at how balanced this turned out. The aroma of hazelnut was most pronounced but took me back to happier days visiting local coffee shops. This brew exemplifies quality in the choosing of Geisha beans and Tongan Vanilla which along with the medium thick mouthfeel rounds this out to be a very solid stout for 2021.
In 3rd place we find a tie between Chicago’s Goose Island and Harrisonburg, VA’s Brothers Craft Brewing.
#3 Goose Island | Bourbon County Stout | 14.6%
The Bourbon County Stout is a classic Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout and should be respected as such. Coming in at 14.6%, BCBS is a robust stout with aromatics that boast straight bourbon on its entry. Pours beautifully with a creamy and tan head. Chocolate mousse, dark chocolate, burnt sugar and mild espresso all lead the way to to a rather present and clear oak and bourbon finish. (
#3 Brothers Craft Brewing | Gingerbread Yuletide | 14%
This was a special one. Aged for two years in bourbon barrels, the Yuletide is a complex Russian Imperial Stout with ginger, honey and holiday spices. It pours nearly black and the aroma is dark espresso, chocolate and loads of cinnamon. Drinkability is on high with a 14% abv.
#4 The Veil Brewing | Holiday Treat Whangdoodle “Enhanced” | 11% **
I love the whang! Veil always pushes the boundaries and here’s another fine example. This brew was blended with vanilla whangdoodle in bourbon barrels along with coffee, maple, cinnamon and vanilla. The result: A dark & viscous medley of prominent coffee with a touch of dark cocoa, however vanilla & cinnamon took a backseat. This one will keep you up for sure!
#5 The Answer Brewpub |Double Barrel Mother of Coconut | 12% **
It’s in the name. Loads of coconut on the nose followed by some minute alcohol heat. Doesn’t pour as dark as I hoped, which led to the soft roastiness that came from this selection. This is so wild because it’s equivalent of drinking coconut water with this strong and pleasant presence of milk chocolate. It’s sweet. I also love the rather confident alcohol heat in this. It isn’t harsh or aggressive, but it balances the sweetness quite well. If you’re a fan of coconut, this will get you right.
#6 Hardywood Park Craft Brewing | Kentucky Christmas Morning | 11.6% **
A local seasonal delight that brings holiday memories with every sip. I love that this beer used locally sourced ingredients from VA farmers. This year’s batch had spices and ginger prominently present that was balanced nicely with honey sweetness and Kentucky Bourbon barrels. I did not get much coffee this go around but for me that’s not a bad thing.
#6 The Bruery | Black Tuesday Reserve | 21%
We thought a 21% Stout would be proper to ring in the new year! Black Tuesday Reserve will take you on a big boozy bourbon filled trip! Ridiculously smooth with oak and vanilla in every sip. However, this does have a bit of heat so give this one some time to simmer.
#6 Guinness Open Gate Brewery | Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout | 10.3%
The Imperial Stout is on the lighter spectrum of stouts, but is incredible easy to drink. Guinness’ ImperialStout comes in at 10.3% and pours a dark brown color. The nose is minute, but there is some barrel character that entices notes of dark cola and vanilla. The alcohol is well hidden as well. This is a perfect start to a relaxing evening.
#7 Richbrau Brewing | Church Hill Morning | 12% **
Church Hill Morning is an Imperial Stout aged in Wheat Whiskey, Bourbon & Maple Syrup Barrels, refermented with Virginia Maple Syrup and Blueberries. The Morning pours a dark brown, not completely night. Blueberries explode in the aroma and gives way to a moment during the holidays. Blueberry cobbler. The roastiness was good, as it really allowed the barrel character to shine through. It is a bit on the sweeter side, but not overwhelming by any means.
#8 Strangeways Brewing | Stark Silhouette | 12.5% **
Pours an impressive darkness with some intense bourbon aromas on the nose. A little more bodied than medium with some oily residue on the glass. Unfortunately, the taste was pretty harsh and leaves the burning sensation you get after a shot of bourbon. The roastiness that is there is drowned out by the pungent & soured barrel character.
Please check out the full video reviews on YouTube. Share , like and comment.