roasted malt


Draaaculllaaaa! Following the rule-book of mass tourism, the shopping area of the Cluj airport dedicates an entire area to the local celebrity, the Transylvanian legendary dark prince. No duty free product category seems to be forgotten, Dracula here and Dracula there and space is the only limit - as Cluj is still a tiny airport… Is this a true celebration of bad taste? Um, airport souvenirs aren’t exactly known for class are they. I didn’t actually try any of the liquors so I can’t vouch for their quality but well, I’m sure I would grab something on my way out if relatives wouldn’t regularly bath me in their homemade schnapps. And surprisingly enough there’s also no Dracula beer, is it… so this is going to be about a tasty roast of crisp malts, refreshingly fizzy with just an afterthought of sweetness, a new brew called Gaura Neagra (black hole) from the local masters “Bere à la Cluj”.

S'more Money S'more Problems is a American Double / Imperial Stout style #beer brewed by @pipeworksbrewing in Chicago, IL. 90 out of 100 on @beeradvocate. It has an 10% ABV.
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Copious amounts of chocolate malt, roasted barley, golden naked oats and crushed graham crackers finished with cacao nibs, vanilla bean and natural marshmallow flavor that reminds you of your days in Cub Scouts sitting around the campfire with your buddies getting wasted. ° ° ° 🍺
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So I was reading some descriptions on ales (because they’re massively entertaining) and I read this one and promptly said: “Vincent!”

 ‘It’s a dark, brooding booze of Heathcliff-ian proportions – it pours with a fine, upstanding head of froth but underneath the surface, the dark swarthy liquid swirls with piney hops and dank malt flavours. There are roasted malts and a touch of vanilla on the nose, with a delicious, melancholic bitter bite on the finish. For best results, drink on the rocks – rain-lashed granite rocks.’


From a dull grey tower by the Aare river, our local dragon is throwing angry flames towards the cloudy winter sky. I can actually sympathize… that’s about all the excitement you can get until some snow finally starts to fall. But it’s Switzerland and snow is bound to come, any time soon! Until that happens, I’ll just sit right here in the not so cold evening breeze, wait for my folks to finish their shopping (like, forever) and remember this delicious oatmeal stout beer - a thick, ink dark coffee malts roast with just a hint of piney hops, coming from across the pond from the skilled 18th Street brewmasters.

Hoppin’ Frog Brewing’s Mean Manalishi Double IPA on tap at Jet Rock Bar & Grill @ PHL. A 3 of 4. Smells of herbal, floral, and some citrus qualities and quite a bit of malt sweetness. A firm bitterness in the body alongside quite a bit of caramel and roast malt, and finishes dry and relatively resinous. Definitely on the maltier side of things for big IPAs.


Oskar Blues “Ten Fidy”

95 A

Ten Fidy (named after its 10.5%) is a seasonal Imperial Stout only released in September. It’s probably my favorite offering from Oskar Blues. Aromas are heavy with berry notes (blackberry), sweet brown sugar, dark chocolate, cocoa powder, and espresso.

The palate begins with a quick establishment of malty sweetness flavored like brown sugar and molasses. Bittersweet chocolate chips overshadow dark fruity accents such as cherry and plum. Malts continue to build over what appears to be shy bitterness, but in reality, a full-blown 98 IBU’s are discreetly concealed. Flavors of over-roasted coffee, fudge, and chocolate cake soon develop from the rear. Minor hints of grapefruit zest mark the climax, followed by a touch of anise, earth tones, and charred barley fading out. Mouthfeel is nearly full-bodied with a super smooth/viscous texture that comes across wet at first, then somewhat dry nearing the end. Carbonation is sort of flat and dull, but it works.

I suppose this is what I would call a dessert beer, because of the high-hitting sweetness, and suggestions of chocolate cake. The hefty alcohol actually ends up quite well-integrated, so instead of being suppressed, they’ve found a way to make the best of its influence. I believe this is why it’s been described as a ‘Russian’ imperial stout. I realize some may prefer a more hefty balance from the hops, but I really do love a good malt-forward double. This is great, go get it. I recommend it!

Known Malts: Two-row, chocolate malt, roasted barley, flaked oats


98 IBU

Longmont, Colorado (or Brevard, NC)


Three Floyds “Backmasking”

90 A-

Backmasking is an Oatmeal Stout which Three Floyds lists as a pub-only release. The term backmasking refers to the use of reverse recording over a track, a technique once popularized by the Beatles. Pleasant aromas resemble vanilla over roasted malts with a strong focus on chocolate, as if outlined by burnt toast. It smells a little like brownies with a touch of walnut, topped by details of Kahlua, whipped cream, and a touch of smoke.

The palate opens smooth as toffee sweetness flows into chocolate grains. Oatmeal, toast, and dark roasted coffee fill the middle register, heading toward a dark body of cacao. Hops gently twist the back-end in a dull bitterness, enclosed by a thin outline of orange. The finish fades into a cola reminiscence. Mouthfeel begins quite smooth, wet like a milkshake or heavy cream. The finish develops a dry, mineral quality with faint acidity. Drinkability is nice and easy.

Having loved all the hoppy beers from Three Floyds, I was curious to see how they handle malts. I’m satisfied where I find an agreeable balance of bitter and sweet elements. I appreciate the rich chocolate flavor. It doesn’t quite taste charred, but theres a high degree of malt roast happening here. This may be a little uncharacteristic of the traditional oatmeal stout. The vanilla detected on the nose isn’t so much apparent on the palate. This is different enough to stand out from the rest of the pack. Overall, it’s a pretty solid beer, so I recommend it.


32 IBU

Munster, Indiana


What can you do on a cloudy October day in Chania, when the sea is the same grayish blue as the covered sky and the chill of the nearing winter starts to creep in? If you’re an ant like those small dark folks, you’ll go on gathering straws for your fungus culture (I just assume here ok?). But if you’re a tourist and don’t mind walking tens of kilometers a day, you’ll spend your day walking around the old Venetian town - all the time while keeping an eye on the sea, because that’s the reason you are here after all. Yep, even as the evening approaches the sea is still menacingly dark and the skies are still covered and bland… this dark Beaufort 7 of the house Nissos is then the one who should lighten up my day. Roasted malts with hints of figs and uh maybe even coffee, if anybody tells you Greece has only bad beers just ignore them - they truly have no clue.


Odell Lugene, 8.5% abv chocolate milk stout

Yup that’s a cow eating chocolate. Of course, everyone knows this is how you get chocolate milk, and so Colorado’s Odell lovingly decorated their seasonal chocolate milk stout (brewed with milk sugar and milk chocolate) with this udderly charming image. Its moniker is equally fitting, y'see, Lugene is the name of the farmer who feeds the breweries spent grain to his cows. If you’re not a just a little bit in love with Odell by this point you’re dead inside. 

So yeah the beer. It pours, well, the colour of a stout. The aroma is big on the cocoa with sweetened warm milk, vanilla, and lurking, dark roast malts.

A sip. Chocolate milk? Actually yeah, but there’s obviously more to it than that. Imagine dunking a slab of rich milk chocolate into a mug of velvety, vanilla infused malted milk. The sweet, smooth, cocoa and lactose is joined by comforting layers of dark roast malts, the body is full, the carb soft, the mouthfeel dreamy. Then there’s that booze, or rather the lack of it. I don’t think I’ve ever drank a beer so strong that succeeded in making it’s alcohol so undetectable.  

Once again Odell have done good. This delicious and decadent brew is my new favourite milk stout. And chocolate stout for that matter. If you’re a fan of these kind of beers give this a try, it’s not as sickly sweet as others and packs all the roasty goodness needed to keep fans of more traditional stouts happy. I’ll be picking up a few more, even at the rather steep price it goes for in on this side of the pond. Cheers!


Bell’s “Kalamazoo Stout”

88 B+

Kalamazoo Stout is an American Stout brewed with licorice. This belongs on Bell’s year-round lineup, and is sold in six-packs. Aromas carry evident notes of coffee, smoked barley, oats, and cocoa powder.

The palate begins smooth and chocolatey before malts develop a roasted edge of coffee. A mouth full of grains adds satisfactory details. Dull bitterness couples to the malt roast to magnify the sense of depth. Hops impart a mildly tart highlight to the back-end, tasting somewhat like dark fruit with a delicate touch of licorice. Charred malt notes continue to linger past the aftertaste. Mouthfeel is very creamy, then shifts toward a coarser feel with a dry conclusion. The flavor decay is rather abrupt, certain to leave one eager for subsequent sips. The body weight is a tad thin for this style, but certainly allows for easy drinking.

Since I so often locate licorice notes in Stouts, it is a very natural addition to the brew. Don’t be off-put by the licorice, because it’s so faint, you probably wouldn’t even guess it were there in a blind taste test. In terms of style, the sweetness is light, so the roast tastes deeper than it might otherwise. I really dig the balance, bold flavor, and drinkability. It doesn’t shout at you, so I think it’s a good study on the foundations of the style. It won’t outright impress you, but it’s a solid Stout that’s worth checking out if you’re into this style.



Kalamazoo, Michigan


Avery “Twenty One”

90 A-

Twenty One is a limited-release “imperial brown IPA” brewed to commemorate Avery’s 21st Anniversary (bottled May 2014). Aromas give off malty notes of toasted nuts and burnt sugar. The dark roast gives impressions of coffee and milk chocolate. Hops add a weak, earthy-evergreen quality, as well as highlights of citrus zest.

Much like the nose, the palate makes its introduction with a brown sugar sweetness – that classic Brown Ale flavor, giving rise to flavors of sugar cookie and toffee sweetness. As the malt roast expands, bittersweet chocolate push deeper into cocoa powder with grainy details that resemble toasted bread crust and roasted walnuts. Flavors of coffee collide with hoppy notes of ripe fruit and citrus peel. The finish is rounded out by a touch of earthy-spice, then grassy flavors take control, followed later by an evergreen aftertaste. The mouthfeel is generally smooth with a medium-full, somewhat coarse body that delivers understated carbonation, then grows slightly dry as hops take hold. I can’t necessarily taste the alcohol, but I can certainly feel its weight.

Overall, I find the hops to be a little heavy-handed, so bitterness takes the lead over sweet malts, resulting in a lack of equal balance. It has some of the malt character of brown ale, combined with some of the more roasted qualities of a porter, plus the hop load of an Imperial IPA. I wouldn’t quite call it an Imperial Black IPA, so I think Avery is correct in proclaiming it an “Imperial India-style Brown Ale.” Although this didn’t quite live up to my expectations, I still think it’s a tasty, interesting fusion that captures the distinct nature of the brewery. If you’re a fan of their work, and you see a bottle lingering around, it’s worth checking out. I recommend it.

Malts: Two-row barley, Chocolate malt, Caramel 120, Honey Malt

Hops: Amarillo, Simcoe, Chinook, Columbus

$7.33 / 22 oz.



Boulder, Colorado


Firestone “Double DBA”

96 A+

Double DBA is a limited-release English Barleywine aged in spent bourbon oak barrels. Firestone have deemed this to be an “imperial special bitter,” a non-existent style. The base of beer consists of a doubled up batch of Double Barrel Ale. This was actually just recently retired to make way for a new, as yet undisclosed beer. This review will be based on a 2013 vintage.

Aromas are driven by thick malts that carry sweet impressions of caramel nougat, maple syrup, and brown sugar. Fruity notes resemble fig preserves and cherry. The barrel gives a huge presence of bourbon, vanilla, and a touch of coconut. Alcohol notes come across like amaretto and port wine. Hops add a weak imprint of earth and herb.

The palate is very much like the nose, beginning with caramel and molasses. Fruits fill in the middle-register with notes of figs, dates, and raisins. Bourbon soon becomes the focal point, exposing flavors of vanilla and coconut. English hops add a subtle earthy quality that blends very nicely with woody tannins, followed by a complementary hint of spice. Finishing flavors are reminiscent of root beer (or whiskey and coke). The malt roast develops into subtle suggestions of chocolate. Some fusel notes envelop the aftertaste, but the bourbon flavor is incredibly effective at disguising the alcohol. Mouthfeel remains smooth over a medium-full body that grows sticky just before drying slightly at the end. Carbonation is weak, which when combined with the solvent properties of the alcohol, create an almost thin viscosity. Considering the high ABV, this is dangerously drinkable.

This is a beer for malt lovers, because sweetness dominates the palate. Bourbon has loads of influence, but not enough to dominate by any means. The English hops are quite complementary to the flavor of the malts, so everything ends up tasting very agreeable and whole. Complexity is nice and subtle. Considering Firestone still have their famous bourbon-aged English Barleywine, Sucaba, I’m sure they saw the obvious overlap. July 2014 marked the final release date, so I suggest you hoard any remaining bottles you’re lucky enough to find sitting around. I highly recommend it!

Malts: Premium Two-Row, Maris Otter Pale, Munich, Crystal, Chocolate

Hops: Magnum, Styrian Golding, East Kent Golding


29 IBU

Paso Robles, California


Deschutes “Cinder Cone”

90 A-

Cinder Cone is an Amber (Red) Ale, which is available throughout the year in 22 oz. bombers. Aromas are characteristic of the style with evident caramel sweetness, along with hints of roasted grain husk. Hop notes give an immediate impression of sour orange zest. Floral, herbal undertones come in the form of grass and evergreen.

The palate is initiated by a supportive backbone of caramel and bread, which remain steady for the entire duration. In terms of style, the barley roast grows to be quite robust. Amarillo hops take the lead in a citrus character, which is dominated by orange and tangerine. Mild fruity overtones then wash over. Tettnang hops fall to the back in a unique combination of flowers, grass, and spice. A bitterness of 55 IBU’s settles comfortably on the aftertaste, where sour highlights continue to radiate. The mouthfeel brings a creamy texture over standard body weight, leaving behind moderate astringency with a crisp, clean departure.

Amber Ales were my first favorite beer style, because the hops typically aren’t overbearing on the bitterness, yet still provide some of the more pleasant flavors. An agreeable ratio of sweet, bitter, and sour tastes in accordance to proper style guidelines. It’s got enough West-Coast flare to suit modern taste, so in order to like it, you must have at least some tolerance to hops. Deschutes aren’t known for drawing outside the lines, so it resides within obvious parameters, and generally won’t impress you with much novel flavor. I find it a bit strange this is exclusively sold in bombers, but I guess this makes sense, because Deschutes have an extensive lineup. Cinder Cone is a well-balanced, easy to drink brew that was designed for those of you who like the malts just as much as the hops. I recommend it.

Malts: Roasted barley, Caramel

Hops: Amarillo, Tettnang



55 IBU

Bend, Oregon


Lagunitas “Cappuccino Stout”

86 B+

Cappuccino Stout is a Coffee Stout brewed with locally-roasted beans. This is only released in 22 oz. bombers, and can be found on shelves during the months of January through March. Aromas give soft coffee notes over cocoa powder, along with additional details of orange, walnuts, and charred wood.

The beginning of the palate tastes as if sweet caramel were poured over bitter dark chocolate. Grainy complexities emerge as hints of oatmeal. Coffee begins to swell up as the malt roast gets super dark in a flavor akin to burnt toast. Genuine flavors of roasted coffee converge with the malt roast, followed by a complementary bitterness contributed by the hops. What starts as a sour twang escalates into a resinous, hoppy finish that closes with flavors of chocolate covered orange peel with a touch of spice. The mouthfeel is surprisingly thin, keeping a creamy consistency that grows slightly chewy before bottoming out into a semi-dry finish.

Hop flavors accumulate from sip to sip, whereas the coffee has less of an impact as time goes on. Sweetness runs parallel to bitterness, so the resulting balance is agreeable. According to my taste, it’s the sour element that really throws things off, and this is primarily what sets this apart from tradition. Considering Lagunitas, I should have anticipated such heavy-handed hopping. It tastes much more bitter than 30 IBU’s would have you believe. Still, everything goes down with relative ease, and the alcohol is particularly well-concealed. It’s not the best Coffee Stout, but it’s a good beer. I recommend it if you like hops in your coffee.


29.5 IBU

Petaluma, California


Pipeworks “Ninja vs. Unicorn”

93 A-

Ninja vs. Unicorn is a Double IPA. Its name is meant to symbolize the two opposing approaches in brewing this style, where the West Coast method is pictured as a unicorn, and the East Coast is like a ninja. Aromas reveal sweet notes of butterscotch, biscuits and honey. Dank hops give suggestions of grass, candied grapefruit, and lemon. I’m also getting a hint of band-aid, or at least a faint medicinal quality imparted by the alcohol.

The palate begins in a honey-like sweetness with hops that taste a bit like unripened pineapple. Citrus highlights hit with ruby red grapefruit juice. A bitter undercurrent of herbal, grassy notes accumulate on the lower register, developing a mild spice. Sugary, buttery malts settle on the back-end in tasteful proportion to the accelerating oily bitterness, leaving faint grain complexities behind. Notes of orange and grapefruit zest continue to resonate. The mouthfeel is creamy smooth, then dries out near the end, departing with noticeable astringency. Heat sets in for the aftertaste.

Overall, I quite like the succession of sweet, sour, bitter elements. Hops certainly give a good thrashing, but leaves only a thin coating of oil behind. The bitterness is actually fairly accommodating to the sweetness, and the sour aspect lies somewhere in between. Ninja vs Unicorn is definitely high quality, but its taste is quite standard in most respects. I don’t find a truly unique flavor combination happening here, but it tastes exactly as it should, and nothing really appears out of place. It actually smells better than it tastes! Regardless, Pipeworks really know how to work those hops. I recommend it to all you heads out there.

Malts: 2-row, Munich, special roast, white wheat, acidulated malt

Hops: CTZ, Centennial, Falconner’s Flight, Zythos, Cascade, Chinook, Falconner’s 7Cs, Simcoe



Chicago, Illinois


Firestone “Stickee Monkee”

99 A+

Stickee Monkee is a limited-release Quadrupel brewed with an addition of Turbinado brown sugar and Belgian candi sugar, then aged for up to fourteen months in fine bourbon oak barrels. Its name is a nod to Belgian monks, but also references the Sticky Monkey flower that grows along the California coast. This was originally created in 2010 to fill in the sweet gap in the brewery’s barrel-aged Anniversary Ale blending program, but was just recently bottled for first time in May 2014. Firestone prefers the term “Central Coast Quad.”

On the nose, sweet aromas abound with brown sugar, butterscotch, and toffee. A big barrel presence gives hints of coconut, vanilla, tobacco, and leather. Malts smell like banana bread and graham crackers. Fruity notes of fig merge with orange zest and cinnamon.

The palate begins in sweet layer of toffee as a creme brulee flavor comes to mind. Malts accumulate into a sticky pool of molasses that stops just shy of cloying. Fruity hints emerge in a character like dried figs, raisins, dates, and plums. The bourbon barrel brings out vanilla, coconut, leather, and musty tobacco. Pushing even deeper, a subtle malt roast develops suggestions of gingerbread muffins with a touch of chocolate. Finishing flavors are salty like peanut brittle, enclosed by a poignant twist of spice with an outline of licorice, rising toward a bitter edge of orange peel. Alcohol eventually surfaces, yet while being disguised in bourbon, offers little distraction. The final flavor reminds me of German chocolate cake. Hop contribution is practically non-existent, appearing only as a faint touch of pine oil on the finish. Mouthfeel is chewy, smooth, and creamy with a full, well-rounded body that closes in heat. Alcohol proves to be incredibly deceptive, so drinkability is unhindered by its influence.

This will go down as my highest-rated domestic Quad. In some ways, it almost tastes more like a bourbon-aged Barleywine. Where most will simply fail to stand up to the greatness of traditional Belgians, this has given me a newfound respect for the American interpretation of a well-established classic. The oak adds a nice degree of complexity that tastes very complementary to the stylistic qualities of the quad. Barrel-aging a Belgian is unheard of, so this is a rather progressive approach as far as I understand. I do think it needs more Belgian yeast in order to to really taste traditional. This should perform wonders in a cellar. Okay, so it might lack the more intricate complexity of a genuine Belgian Quad, but I’m impressed. Stickee Monkee is a delicious brew that gives me one more reason to love Firestone. I highly recommend it!


45 IBU

Paso Robles, California


Breckenridge “Oatmeal Stout”

83 B+

This Oatmeal Stout is available year-round. I’d like to thank Keith, my friend from Boulder, for his donation of this bottle. Aromas give a muffled display of roasted, bready malts – unfolding as sweet notes of caramel, oatmeal cookies, chocolate cereal grains, and a splash of coffee.

The palate starts in a rush of chocolate malt, followed by grainy details with a taste of toasted oats. A steady underbelly of moderate sweetness maintains steady support from below. Flavors of coffee swell up from the middle. Falling to the rear, bitterness expresses mild herbal tonality with a gentle touch of spice. Hops end on a high note, initiating a sour ascent toward the rear where citric flavors leave a final impression of orange peel. The aftertaste leaves behind lingering notes of chocolate. The mouthfeel is so creamy, it makes me suspect lactic sugars were used. Its moderate body resonates with short sustain, then makes a semi-dry departure.

I think it’s a rather tame, mellow interpretation of the style. Since it goes down nice and easy, it would be easy to put down a few. The Chinook hops give an uncharacteristic flavor to the traditional Oatmeal Stout. It isn’t at all bad – just not noteworthy. Let me put it this way… if this were the best stout option in a bar, I would be glad to have it. Its light nature makes it more attuned to a beginner’s palate, so I don’t really recommend it to the craft veterans. My constructive criticism: needs more malts, and a little less hops.

Malts: Two Row Pale, Caramel, Roasted Barley, Chocolate, Oat Flakes, Black

Hops: Chinook, Perle


36 IBU

Breckenridge, Colorado