WHEN THE WEATHER turns cold, thoughts in the beer world turn immediately to dark beers. Pints of warming, inviting black pints of stout are what is needed to combat snow piles awaiting the shovel. Light hefeweizens, airy witbiers, and quenching Berliner weisses remain excellent selections when the mercury starts to rise. They are classic choices, obvious to many. But in the summer months, we rarely contemplate taking a walk on the darker side. And that is unfortunate as I find stouts and porters a surprisingly impressive accompaniment to scorchingly hot evenings.
For many consumers, Guinness remains the only stout and perhaps the only dark beer they have ever tried. While the dry Irish stout style remains a classic, there remain many other dark beer styles that consumers should be encouraged to explore. The export, milk, and oatmeal stout styles offer drinkers expressive aromas and flavors beyond the more conventional and widely available Irish stout.
Milk stout is a relatively recent newcomer to the beer style scene, having first been released by Mackeson’s in the early 19OOs. The addition of a substantial portion of lactose was an early defining trait for the style.
There is charm to be enjoyed in sipping a fuller bodied pint of opaque, creamy darkness, while enveloped in the steamy, thick humidity of a summer night. The darkness can be surprisingly cooling, working an odd bit of reverse psychology on your heat-plagued brain. For summer drinking, I tend to avoid the more roasted flavors in favor of creamier, less aggressive options. Let’s explore some summer dark beer drinking options.
AUTOCRAT COFFEE MILK STOUT
narragansett brewing company
providence, rhode island
The melding of two classic Rhode Island brands, ‘Gansett’s Coffee Milk Stout is a staple in my fridge all year long. Packaged in 16-ounce pounder cans long before it was cool to do so, the beer is a blend of the brewery’s milk stout with the iconic and quirky coffee milk product from Autocrat. The official state drink of Rhode Island, coffee milk is made from a mixture of coffee syrup from Autocrat and milk, resulting in a slightly more toasty chocolate milk. When mixed with the Narragansett stout, the fun drink jumps up a notch. It pours with a substantially black hue with a solid whip of off-tan foam. The aroma is a surprisingly complex mixture of roasted coffee, dark malts, milk chocolate, and light fruits. The flavor focuses heavily on an interplay between mild roasted bitterness and pleasing creaminess. Flits of chocolate and roasted malt characters make themselves known. This stout is never sweet or cloying but also does not fall exclusively on the drier side. An excellent and easily portable choice for summer months or a day at the beach.
COFFEE MILK STOUT
stone brewing company
A coffee milk stout of another origin, Stone’s version does not employ the funky local flavor of Providence but instead focused more on the usual addition of roasted coffee beans, this time from Ryan Bros Coffee of San Diego. First released in 2O14, the stout trends more traditionally towards an English style milk stout. The brewery uses a British mild ale malt base as well as adding milk sugar, which is left unfermented. It pours with a jet black color and a substantial thick off-brown head. The aroma is largely of big roasted dark malt and coffee notes, with hints of wood and light tobacco. The flavor remains true to the aroma, with substantial coffee and dark roasted malt notes mixed with a healthy dose of chocolate and dark pitted fruit hints. With the unfermented milk sugar comes a surprisingly substantial body, like consuming a big fluffy pillow.
firestone walker brewing company
Originally named Velvet Merkin, an ode to the not-safe-for-work film prop, the beer’s name changed when the brewery started bottling it in 2O1O. Brewed with Marris Otter malt and a dose of 15 percent oats, Velvet Merlin is a complex but approachable beer. The pour starts solidly opaque and black with a well-sustained and impressive dollop of tan foam. The aroma boasts big notes of sweet chocolate mixed with light touches of cream and roasted malt. The beer falls on the slightly sweeter side of the stout spectrum, with beautiful malt notes and a touch of bitter coffee. Brewed with 1OO percent American grown Fuggles hops, the Velvet Merlin is a touch hoppier than is typical in the oatmeal stout style. Typically a winter seasonal offering, you can often find it on store shelves later in the spring and early summer season and it remains entirely drinkable for quite some time.
DOUBLE CHOCOLATE STOUT
wells & young’s ltd
If your customer is looking for a tried and true sweet stout that pours like Guinness, look no further than Young’s Double Chocolate Stout. Part of the Young’s portfolio, which merged with the Charles Wells Breweries in 2OO6, this stout is most often found in the 16-ounce can with a nitrogen kicker. As with cans of Guinness, the beer pours with a thick dollop of off tan head and a creamy character. It is stark black in hue and offers aromas of deeply roasted malt, milk and lactose sweetness, powdered and milk chocolate, and touches of cream. The flavor closely follows the enticing aroma with a balance of roasted malts and playful chocolate characters. The nitrogen smooths out the body, leaving you with a creamy pint. There is a touch of residual hop bitterness in the finish which nicely balances out the other flavors.