Friday, March 02, 2007
Foothills Sexual Chocolate Imperial Stout: Not Your Father's Irish Stout
According to the Brewers Association 2007 Beer Style Guidelines listing 125 different recognized beer types, there are eight styles of stout: British-Style Imperial Stout, Sweet Stout, Oatmeal Stout, Classic Irish-Style Dry Stout, Foreign (Export)-Style Stout, American-Style Stout, American-Style Imperial Stout and Specialty Stout.
The truth is there are even more flavors of stouts than there are styles. There are brewers using ingredients like coffee and chocolate to brew up stouts. There are those that let more of a smoky, roasted flavor get into the beer, while others concentrate on delivering a creamy or sweet flavor profile. Some stouts are fortifying like liquid bread. Others are less heavy, but carry a punch.
For this first edition of The Session organized by Stan Hieronymus at Appellation Beer, I did my homework, tasting several different styles of stout. I used Guinness Stout as my control, so I had a good starting point from which to find something beyond the traditional Irish stout. I journeyed a little bit, stopping to admire the earthiness of Wolaver's Oatmeal Stout and the thin, but nicely sweet and roasted characteristics of Left Hand Milk Stout. Then I came across a brand new brew and its name alone told me it deserved a place in The Session: Foothills Sexual Chocolate Imperial Stout.
Foothills Brewing is located in Winston-Salem, N.C. Founded in 2004, I was lucky enough to visit the brewery a couple of years ago in its early days. The beers turned out by brewmaster Jamie Bartholomaus have impressed me since that early visit. At the Great American Beer Festival in Denver this past September, the Lyke2Drink team selected Foothills Baltic Porter as one of the 24 selections in the GABF All-Festival Case. The beer also happened to win the Gold Medal in the first ever GABF Pro-Am category. I'll let you decide which is the bigger honor.
Foothills Sexual Chocolate Imperial Stout is a 10 percent alcohol by volume beer with 70 international bitterness units. Foothils infuses organic Peruvian cocoa nibs in the beer. Unlike Young's Double Chocolate Stout, which is a sweet beer, Foothills Sexual Chocolate is somewhat dry and displays a likable bitter baker's chocolate flavor in the finish. The draught I enjoyed was also just slightly tart and had a relatively small brown head, which remained until the end as a ring around the rim of the pint. According to Bartholomaus, the stout is made with three varieties of crystal malts, a blend of chocolate, black and roasted barley malts. The cocoa chunks are placed in muslin bags and Foothills racked the beer onto the cocoa. It's left that way for two weeks and then the beer is kegged.
For the trivia buffs out there trying to recall, Sexual Chocolate was the name of the band in one of the scenes in the 1988 Eddie Murphy comedy, Coming to America. This Sexual Chocolate from Foothills, however, is no laughing matter.
Interested in the other stouts consumed during The Session? Head over to Appellation Beer.