Beer has a long history of being what was handed out as a substitute for a meal to workers, and thus many heavy, rich brews survive to this day. Whenever I’m out late with friends, and I starting to feel peckish, instead of leaving the bar for a bite I order something meant to fill me up. Dark beers, with a creamy base and a complex flavor, are, in my mind, the best thing a brewer can produce. Hence: my love of the milk stout.
The Left Hand Brewing Company makes a marvelous Milk Stout, which is smooth, not hoppy. Its a very creamy brew without being too complex. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it is one-note, but this is definitely not a beer I would order to ponder over the flavors of. If you were to pair this with a burger, it would be like eating two burgers. With both orders of fries. The milk stout is something you order instead of getting pub food, not with your pub food (unless, I suppose, you haven’t eaten all day and plan to be up drinking all night). A Nitro Milk Stout is definitely a good choice for someone just starting to foray into the world of stouts, as long as he’s had his introductory Guinness first.
Reference Point: DRINK IF YOU LIKE Guinness BUT WISH IT WAS less bitter
Every now and then, I come across a beer that I really only get a sip of. This is because, as soon as I taste it, I immediately start pressing it on everyone around me. This was the case with Founder’s Breakfast Stout. As I’ve written previously, I am an avid fan of milk stouts. I prefer nursing a complex, hearty beer to throwing back a dozen run-of-the-mill light beers. With this in mind, I had gotten myself a mix-a-six of stouts at my local distributor to try out something new, and picked up the bottle largely because the idea of double-chocolate-coffee-oatmeal-beer actually being had for breakfast tickled me.
Though I did, in fact, only drink about a quarter of this bottle (the rest zealously shared with bewildered passers-by whilst I was camping) it left an impression. The beer was, yes, heavier than my beloved Kozel Cerny, but not quite as heavy as a Guinness or Nitro is. This is a nitrous beer, creamy with no hops to speak of; it was smooth and sweet. The distinct aftertaste of chocolate and coffee was there, but the flavors were complex enough that I wouldn’t want to pair the drink with anything.
Reference Point: DRINK IF YOU LIKE Guinness BUT WISH IT WAS sweeter and more complex.
I rarely go for a beer that isn’t dark or, if they have it, red. But when it gets hot, or if you’re eating something with complex flavors and don’t want to overpower it, you need to grab a light beer. So, I have been making an effort to get into light beers by way of ambers. On my way there, I’ve discovered a fantastic brew, Palm.
One thing that struck me about this Belgian beer when I first drank it was the almost apricot-like fruityness that immediately hits the palate. There are layers of flavor to this beer, but it isn’t so overwhelmingly complex that you have to drink it on its own to really enjoy it. If someone is just starting out into their beer drinking, this would be among those that I would point them to for a first drink. It’s smooth and light without being watery and tasteless, like I find so many lighter beers to be, and is not plagued by the overwhelming bitterness that hops so often give to light beer. Happily, Palm is readily available in the US as well as Europe, and I’m seeing it more and more often in bars and distributors.
Reference Point: DRINK IT IF YOU LIKE Heineken BUT WISH IT WAS tastier.
It’s no secret that I’m not a big fan of hoppy beers, nor of anything particularly heavy. So it was with great delight that I came across a beer to fit the grad student budget while I was in Europe, and it quickly became my favorite beer. Up until that point, I hates beer, having only known of mainstream American fare. Happily, it seems as if the brew has finally made its way across the ocean to North American stores, and it will hopefully be only a matter of time before it comes into the US market. The beer comes in about ten varieties, ranging from Cerny (dark) to Svetly (pale), but this review will focus on the dark brew, as I only had the time to re-familiarize myself with one Kozel brew while passing through Canada and picked my old favorite.
This is, as stated, a dark beer, not hoppy. Surprisingly, though, it is light for its creamy texture and rich base. It has a malted, almost nutty flavor, without being sweet. As it is strong without being too complex, I enjoyed pairing it with spicy pub fare, like hot wings (being vegetarian, I can’t speak to how it tastes with chicken, but it goes well with tofu and seitan).
Reference point: DRINK IT IF YOU LIKE Guinness BUT DON’T LIKE how heavy it is.