This is the fourth of 11 installments chronicling the BJCP classes held by the North Texas Homebrewers Association. Our tasting session for this class included two categories: European Amber Lager (BJCP Category 3) and Stout (BJCP Category 13).
Apologies for how far behind I’ve fallen in getting my tasting notes from my notebook to this blog (two months late is better than never, right?). To keep things moving quickly (and because it’s been too long since this tasting), I’m going to skip a lot of the fanfare from the previous posts and provide short and sweet descriptions for the beers. Descriptions with asterisks (*) denote beers that I really enjoyed.
For a reminder on how the tastings are organized, click here.
3. European Amber Lager
This category includes only two subcategories: Vienna Lager and Oktoberfest/Marzen. Typically smooth and easy-drinking, these beers tend to be very accessible to most people.
Subcategory: 3A. Vienna Lager
Most people have had a Vienna Lager without knowing it. Negra Modelo is the most common example of this style, even though it is brewed in Mexico (which had a significant influx of Austrians, as well as Germans, in the 1800s who brought their brewing traditions with them). Similar to the more common Oktoberfest style, Vienna Lagers are less intense than Oktoberfests and a bit drier and possibly lighter in body.
3. Negra Modelo
Aroma: Clean malt, cereal, a bit of toastiness
Appearance: Light brown with amber hues
Flavor: Sweet maltiness, hints of prunes, and hop bitterness but not much hop flavor.
Mouthfeel: Medium-light body and very smooth.
2. Boulevard Bob’s 47 Munich-Style Lager
Aroma: Sweet and bready malt
Appearance: Medium amber
Flavor: Slight noble hop flavor with subtle and smooth malt character.
Mouthfeel: Creamy with a dry finish.
1. Great Lakes Elliot Ness
Aroma: Clean malt with hints of toast and hops
Appearance: Medium-dark amber
Flavor: Very subdued malt with hints of toffee. Spicy hops on the finish and a faint plastic-like phenolic note.
Mouthfeel: A little higher in carbonation than the other two and maybe a bit sweeter.
Subcategory: 4B. Oktoberfest/Marzen
This style has a richer malt profile than Vienna Lagers, but is otherwise pretty similar. In my opinion, these beers are typically more characterful than Viennas.
9. Gordon Biersch Marzen
Aroma: Slightly fruity with bready malts.
Appearance: Light brown with orange hues.
Flavor: Full Munich malt flavor, but not very complex. There is also a hint of diacetyl.
Mouthfeel: Medium carbonation and a bit lighter in body than expected. Fairly Vienna-like.
7. Spaten Oktoberfest
Aroma: Ceral, cardboard (oxidation, and a hint of mercaptan (skunkiness).
Appearance: Medium brown
Flavor: Oxidized and stale. Cardboard. This beer comes in a green bottle.
Mouthfeel: Medium carbonation.
1. Paulaner Oktoberfest*
Aroma: Malty, bready, toasty, lots of melanoidins, and a discernible hop sharpness.
Appearance: Dark amber.
Flavor: Rich and complex, the Munich malt flavor really shines through. Toasty and faintly nutty.
Mouthfeel: Lower in carbonation than the other two and a bit creamy.
The Stout category is a big one, having SIX subcategories or styles. These range from dry stouts (Guiness being the classic example), to sweet stouts and oatmeal stouts, to the very interesting foreign export stouts, to American stouts, and rounding out with Russian imperial stouts. These run the gamut from very dry to very sweet and very low alcohol to near-barley wine levels of booziness. The commonality amongst all stouts is the use of roasted barley and an inky black color.
Subcategory: 13A. Dry Stout
Roasty, coffee-like, jet black, and not sweet at all. Dry stout is the traditional style of Ireland and unsurprisingly, Guiness is the number one example of the style. These tend to be low in alcohol (under 5% abv) and are a traditional session beer.
4. O’Hara’s Celtic Stout (bottle)
Aroma: Dark and fruity with blackberries, currants, roast, and coffee.
Appearance: Dark, dark brown but not quite black.
Flavor: Acrid smokiness, coffee, roast.
Mouthfeel: Smooth and creamy, but with the requisite dry finish.
2. Murphy’s Stout (can with nitrogen widget)
Aroma: Roast with espresso notes.
Appearance: Black with a creamy head.
Flavor: Thin tasting, like roasted water.
Mouthfeel: Low carbonation and with a slightly sweet finish.
1. Guiness Draught Stout (bottle)
Aroma: Faint but with coffee, malt, and cereal notes.
Appearance: Black with a foamy head.
Flavor: Strong mineral with roast following.
Mouthfeel: Very dry and vanishes off the palate.
Subcategory: 13B. Sweet Stout
As the name implies, this style has a sweet flavor and a sweet finish with a lasting aftertaste. These beers typically employ the use of lactose (an unfermentable sugar that comes from milk) to increase sweetness.
9. Left Hand Milk Stout
Aroma: Coffee and roast with a malt background.
Appearance: Black with a thin tan head.
Flavor: A full, round flavor with coffee, roasted malt, slight cream/milk flavor.
Mouthfeel: Medium body with a sweet finish.
4. St Peter’s Cream Stout*
Aroma: Dark fruits, diacetyl (appropriate for the style), and a bit of band-aid-like phenolic.
Flavor: Fruity like a Baltic Porter but with strong coffee notes on the finish.
Mouthfeel: Sweet, medium-low carbonation, smooth.
3. Farson’s Lacto Stout
Aroma: Diacetyl, cherries, figs.
Flavor: Very sweet and with a very unnatural flavor like a flat Dr Pepper. Yuck.
Mouthfeel: Smooth and creamy.
Subcategory: 13C. Oatmeal Stout
Oatmeal stouts are sweet, but not quite as much so as the previous subcategory. They tend to have a bit of a nutty or earthy flavor imparted by the oats that they are made with.
6. Anderson Valley Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout
Aroma: Roast, coffee, earthy.
Appearance: Black (seeing a trend?)
Flavor: Sharp roast, not too sweet, clean.
Mouthfeel: Medium carbonation and creamy.
3. St Ambroise Oatmeal Stout (McAusland Brewing)
Aroma: Coffee and cream, faint roast, chocolate.
Appearance: Black, deep tan head.
Flavor: Not as full or as enjoyable as the aroma. Roast and minerals.
Mouthfeel: Creamy but with a dry finish.
1. Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout
Aroma: Mild dark fruits, plums, currants.
Appearance: Black, light tan head.
Flavor: Sweet, dark fruits, malty, but low on roast.
Mouthfeel: Creamy and smooth.
Subcategory: 13D. Foreign Extra Stout
This is a very interesting subcategory in that it is the only one within the BJCP guidelines that has sub-subcategories (technically called “types”)–Export, which follow the style in which Foreign Extras were originally made in Britain, and Tropical, which tend to be made in former British Colonies and are much sweeter and fruitier.
3. Ridgeway of Oxfordshire Foreign Extra Stout
Aroma: Burnt and acidic, peanut butter, cashews.
Appearance: Dark, dark brown.
Flavor: Tart, sour, light roast.
Mouthfeel: (notes missing)
2. Guiness Foreign Extra Stout
Aroma: Butterscotch diacetyl, slight dark fruit notes, raisins.
Flavor: Buttery, dark fruits.
Mouthfeel: Smooth, medium carbonation.
5. Jamaica Stout*
Aroma: Strong rum, vanilla, and oak notes with dark fruits (especially plums and raisins).
Appearance: Black, medium tan head.
Flavor: Wood, vanilla, roasted coffee.
Mouthfeel: Creamy, low-medium carbonation.
1. Lion Stout (from Sri Lanka)*
Aroma: Roast, port wine, sweet, alcohol.
Appearance: Black, medium tan head.
Flavor: Very complex sweet malt, dark fruits.
Mouthfeel: Alcohol warming, sweet finish.
Subcategory: 13E. American Stout
Take a an Export Type Foreign Extra Stout and blast it with hops. I thought two of the three examples were pretty unenjoyable, with the third being very tasty.
(unlisted). Mendocino Brewing Company Black Hawk Stout
Aroma: Floral hops and roasted malt. A bit of a weird pair.
Flavor: Hops and malt are balanced, with hops being a bit more prominent, but seem to cancel each other out.
Mouthfeel: Medium carbonation, not as smooth as other stout styles.
7. Lost Coast 8 Ball Stout*
Aroma: Floral, spicy hops, roast, malty.
Flavor: Sweet, roasted coffee, a bit of hops.
Mouthfeel: Medium carbonation, very smooth.
3. Sierra Nevada Stout
Aroma: Citrusy/grapefruity Cascade hops, some bitter roast.
Flavor: Prominent hops that mask other flavors, roast on the finish.
Mouthfeel: Les smooth than the 8 Ball Stout, medium carbonation.
Subcategory: 13F. Russian Imperial Stout
And here’s where things really get interesting. Russian Imperial Stouts (RIS for short) are intense. Big flavor, high alcohol, in your face. Beers in this style are some of the most sought-after in all of beer geekdom, and for good reason. This style was originally brewed in Britain for the Russian imperial court back when the plutocracy of Britain, Germany, and Russia was one big inbred mess. Or something.
5. Samuel Smith Imperial Stout
Aroma: Dark fruites, overripe banana.
Flavor: Complex malts, prunes, hop bitterness, and a bit of adhesive phenolic.
Mouthfeel: Yes. Creamy.
3. North Coast Old Rasputin Imperial Stout
Aroma: Very hoppy in an American way, citrus, some roast.
Flavor: Very bitter, sweet, roasty finish.
Mouthfeel: Medium-high carbonation (for the style), dry finish.
2. Bell’s Expedition Stout***
Aroma: Dark fruits, prunes, figs, currants, alcohol, and angel farts.
Appearance: Opposite of white.
Flavor: Very sweet, complex malts, roast, coffee, dark fruits, and on and on.
Mouthfeel: Sweet finish but not cloying, alcohol warming.
Sidenote: Seriously one of the best things I’ve ever ingested. Buying me a bottle or 6 of this would buy you some serious brownie points.
1. Three Floyds Dark Lord
We didn’t actually taste this in the class, but Chuck has several bottles in his closet so I stole one. I’ll drink it later. Don’t tell Chuck.
I starred my favorite beers from the class above, but just to recap, they were: Paulaner Oktoberfest, St Peter’s Cream Stout, Jamaica Stout (not available in Texas), Lion Stout (not available in Texas), Lost Coast 8 Ball Stout (not available in Texas), and Bell’s Expedition Stout (which is, of course, not available in Texas). The real disappointments were the Spaten Oktoberfest (seriously, start using brown bottles) and the Farson’s Lacto Stout.