DRAFT PICKS: Please your palate with a chocolate stout

One of the beers I’m reviewing this week is a chocolate stout. Stouts in general, and chocolate stouts among them are very malty brews.

Frankly, this is the type of ale I deeply appreciate. I understand my appreciation may well be a matter not only of personal taste, but also of personal prejudice to a degree.

I not only enjoy the malt-forward brews, but I think — justifiably or not — that they best demonstrate a brewer’s imagination and skill.

Still, I feel a need to review the malt thing — especially for newer readers.

I have used some of this material before, but there’s always room for a simple refresher.

Let’s try and understand a bit better the important role malts have in the brewing process — from the start.

Malt is a basic ingredient in brewing (and in making Whoppers and some very healthy breads).

In very general terms, malt comes into being as the result of malting different cereal grains.

The grains are first germinated by soaking them in water. Then, just before the process is completed, these grains are force dried (today with blowers blasting them with hot air.)

Malting grains changes the chemical structure of sugars and starches, and makes everything more accommodating to the yeasts used in a brewing process.

Malted grains are used in brewing beer — both lagers and ales. They also are used in distilling whiskey, (hence the terms “single malt” or “double malt.”)

Some malts are used in baking, but not too often and not in things usually marketed in your average grocery stores.

Barley is the cereal grain most often used in malting for fermented beverages like beer.

Malts give beer (usually the ales) very distinct tastes and aroma.

When we talk about beers being “malty” the sweet, grain-ish, sometimes even bread-like tastes are very much “in your face.”

When dark beer and ale lovers speak of beer having a caramel flavor (or chocolate, or coffee), this is not necessarily because some syrupy ingredient has been added, but rather is the result of  special malts being specifically treated to bring out the sweet, often starchy hints.

Malts add color and substance to brews.

When experienced drinkers talk about the “body” of a beer, they are most often referring to the “muscle” that is added by malts.

Just as “hoppy” beers have their fans, so too do “malty” beers — especially among those who lean toward a less bitter lager or darker ale.

Good malts in judicious measure can give beer and ale a creamy quality.

A good example of this (very reasonably priced, on shelves everywhere) is the Leinenkugel Creamy Dark — a dark lager, or dunkel.

Some people lean toward hops, other prefer the influence of malts.

Beer has both. It’s all a matter of degree.

The real joy of beer drinking is finding the balance that most pleases the palate.

Enjoy the search!

Chocolate Stout

Fort Collins Brewing


The Fort Collins team is really typical of the people who have dedicated themselves to turning out a quality product consistently. They are more than able to turn out the ol’ standards that keep beer lovers coming back for more, while at the same time not being afraid to produce such exotic brews as Red Hot Chili Porter and a fascinating Major Tom’s Pomegranate Wheat.

Chocolate Stout pours just as one would expect — with rich color and a little tan head that stayed a short while. Stouts often have a hard time working up a froth and maintaining a well established head. Chocolate Stout has an inviting, even tempting medium brown color.

As one might expect, the chocolate tones lead the show, but not in an overwhelming way. There is certainly a malty stage with hints of an almost burnt caramel scent — even a muted molasses or brown sugar. There also are definite hints of licorice in the background.

Still, it is chocolate all the way.

I found the Fort Collins offering creamy and smooth, which is certainly what I expect from this type of ale. There are strong hints of roasted grains well bolstered by the chocolate. There really isn’t a lot more to search for in this brew. The name is honest and fully descriptive.

This is a welcoming stout — a good after-dinner ale or well poured as a stand-alone offering.

It should be well chilled and allowed to breath just a touch to calm it down before sipping.

This isn’t one of the best stouts of its kind that I’ve had in recent months, but it is not only perfectly acceptable, but also refreshingly delectable.

It’s a good, sturdy, salt of the earth stout, and I’d never turn it down.

Maybe not as “artistic” as some, but then maybe it wasn’t meant to be.

Well recommended.

Irish Red

Four Horsemen Brewing Company

South Bend, Ind.

I was really looking forward to giving this brew a try since I have been hithertofore unacquainted with the Four Horsemen brand.

I was ... disappointed.

On popping the cap, the beer virtually exploded out in a tsunami of foam.

Talk about head ... it was ALL head.

So ... I took a second bottle and set it standing up, all alone, on a counter with no disturbance, and waited a half hour.

I gently popped the cap and BAMMMM. Foam everywhere.

No beer, just foam.

Maybe it has to do with the bottling — they maybe just not have it down pat yet.

So, I tried to open six bottles. Six.

Same results. Unbelievable carbonation.

Oh well. I let some settle in order to taste the beer. It took a long time to get any drinkable beer out of this brew.

Irish Red is malty with some hints of caramel and light toasted tones in both the scenting and tasting stages. It was a bit more sour than I would have expected from a red of this genre — almost leaning toward a lambic sour.

I generally don’t want to give a negative review to any beer. Good people work hard at producing this stuff.

But there was a problem here — either in the brewing, or in the bottling, or in the distribution and shelving.

I wouldn’t buy this, folks. Simply can’t recommend it.


I will give their other offerings a try at some point down the road.