Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Stone Tröegs Cherry Chocolate Stout review

Stone Tröegs Cherry Chocolate StoutWho says homebrewers can't be famous? Two lucky homebrewers won a contest and were allowed to brew a batch of their recipe at Stone Brewing Company and had the help of Tröegs Brewing Company as well. Jason Fields and Kevin Sheppard (JF/KS) created and brewed up a collaboration beer with these two big breweries and came up with Cherry Chocolate Stout. it's listed as part of the Stone 2011 Collaborations.

This beer was purchased on a spur of the moment purchase. I saw this beer sitting as a stand-alone 12oz bottle and the words chocolate and stout had me. The bonus here is that this brew was infused with vanilla and cherries. How could I lose?

The Stone - Tröegs - JF/KS combo stout was measured at 7.3% ABV and was slated to be a dessert type brew and perhaps paired with a sweet chocolatey treat. Could they brew up the right mix given all the sweet and powerful ingredients?

Appearance: Cherry Chocolate Stout poured nearly jet black. It appeared identical to an Imperial Stout. A frothy dark brown head initially built up but quickly faded out. Held up to the light I still couldn't see a thing through the glass, not even on the edges. When swirled in the glass I couldn't get much of a head to return, even after it warmed up a bit.

Aroma: Here was where the review got tricky. I knew up front there would be cherries, chocolate and vanilla here. Being a stout, I also was expecting to get some roast and perhaps some coffee overtones. I found all of that in this bouquet plus something extra - a bit of something medicinal. In some beers the cherries blend perfectly and add a hint of itself in the aroma. Here, however, the cherries seemed to be a bit strong and reminded me of something else. Still, as the beer warmed it seemed to change a bit and later more roasty malts came through. I had to give this beer time.

Mouthfeel: Full bodied was a gross understatement. This is as thick as they get without getting syrupy. The brew coated my entire tongue front to back. The stout glided down smooth as silk with a slight drying effect on the back end.

Taste: Again, this was like a tale of two cities. The first couple of sips reminded me immediately of cherry cough medicine. It had that trademark cherry-alcohol-syrupy taste. I almost didn't want to continue. Then I decided to let it sit out for a bit and return to it a bit later.

I came back to this beer several minutes later and tasted it again. My taste buds had adjusted to the initial shock of this brew and now I could pick up more on the roasted malts and the extra flavors of chocolate and vanilla. It was quite smooth, semi-sweet and just a bit roasty. It was much better the second time around.

Overall: It's hard to judge a beer that reminded me of one thing initially and another thing later on. In my book, it needs to be good at any point of the session. While I ended up liking it in the end I couldn't help pine for a regular old imperial stout. Still, a quality beer that ended up better than it started.

Brewing with vanilla beans can be tricky is the right level isn't used. Knowing how Stone tends to go over the top on flavor in some of their brews I can understand that they felt compelled to let the homebrewers put in a bit more cherry and vanilla than usual. It was a fine line, but in the end it felt like they found a mix that could work in the right conditions.

If you try Cherry Chocolate Stout, don't let your first reaction influence your entire experience with this beer. Be a bit patient and you'll probably end up enjoying this brew for what it was - a tasty after-meal brew that can be savored slowly by itself or with a sweet chocolatey dessert. Not bad for a big batch of homebrew.

Related articles:
- Stone Imperial Russian Stout review.
- Mountain Sun hosts Stout Month.
- Samuel Adams Stony Brook Red review.

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