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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Tuesday Tasting: Remembering Three Remarkable Stouts

Tuesday Tasting is a regular feature of Lyke2Drink that explores some of the best beers, wines and spirits on the market. This week we make a slight departure from our normal tasting regime and, in honor of the approaching St. Patrick's Day celebration, recall three stouts that have passed into brewing history.

Stout is my favorite style of beer. The reason I enjoy it so much is that stout is not one style of beer; it is actual a wide range of ales hiding under a dark colored cloak. You can have a dry stout or a sweet stout. You can enjoy a low alcohol session stout, or a high octane stout that will rock your world. They come smoky and sweet, or you can find them flavored with everything from chocolate to coffee.

Over the years I've had some fantastic stouts. I have a great respect for the three Irish classics: Guinness, Murphy's and Beamish. You can put me in a dive bar in just about any place in the world and, as long as they know how to build a proper pint using one of these three stouts, I'm happy to hang out and listen to bad music on the jukebox and watch the fuzzy picture on an old 25 inch television set.

While I have a pretty good collection of stouts that I currently enjoy from a number of U.S. craft brewers, there is also a list of stouts which have left the scene that I wish were still around so I could enjoy just one more pint. Here is my ode to three stouts that passed long before their time was called:

Empire Black Magic Stout: Empire Brewing opened in my hometown of Syracuse, N.Y., in 1994 and they had a ten year run before the financial difficulties brought on by expansion locations in Buffalo and Rochester caused the company to fold. The closure took with it what I still believe is one of the finest versions of a dry Irish stout produced by an American brewpub. Black Magic was rich and slightly chewy, with plenty of character. It could ward off the Syracuse winter, but it was equally refreshing on a hot August evening. There are rumors that the old Empire site in Syracuse could reopen as a brewpub sometime soon. I wonder if someone still has the Black Magic recipe?

Oasis Zoser Stout: Brewed in Boulder, Colo., first at the company's brewpub and then at the Rockies Brewing Co./Boulder Beer Co. in Boulder. Zoser Stout was actually an oatmeal stout with plenty of nice characteristics. This was a thick, dark as dark gets stout with a hint of chocolate and a faint smoky finish. I had my first Zoser Stout during a visit to Denver one year and it was always a beer that I would look for at the Great American Beer Festival.

Brock's Extra Stout: Made by Ontario's Niagara Falls Brewing Co., Brock's was a very dark brew that poured a rocky brown head. The flavor profile told you it was packing a little extra alcohol, but it was a well balanced beer. Niagara Falls is still brewing today, but it discontinued making Brock's a couple of years back. This was a great beer that deserves reprising as a seasonal or as a limited release brew every couple of years.


tedo said...

I thought about our recent Session when I read your comment and once again realized how much I love this style of beer. So with that in mind I went to the store and picked up a four pack of North Coast Imperial Stout. Still as good as I remembered, now I'll just have to get around to writing about it.

Garrett said...

Are there really stouts flavored with chocolate? I thought the name "chocolate stout" indicated the chocolate malt they use in the brewing process. (And chocolate malt doesn't refer to actual chocolate, but rather the dark, smoky color that the malt gets when it is roasted.)

I think they add actual chocolate to the Rogue Chocolate Stout, but beyond that, I think most of them are referring to the malt in the name.

Rick Lyke said...


You are right that often the reference to chocolate is the malt, but there are brewers using actual chocolate or cocoa in the brewing process.

Rogue is one and I have a bottle of their Chocolate Stout waiting for me in my refrigerator. Two others that are very nice are Young's Double Chocolate Stout and Bison Organic Chocolate Stout.

Garrett said...

Rick- I'll have to try those. Thanks for the clarification.

Anonymous said...

7.13.7 - The Empire is open again and I had a Black Magic Stout last night. Awesome as always.