Not to beat a dead horse, but these Top 10 lists are the shit. We used to make jokes that we write for a blog that no one but our family, friends, and AA sponsors read, but people all over the blogosphere are eating these new posts up. The good Brother Barley finally got to post a Top 10 of his favorite beer style, Imperial Stouts, so now is the time to post the follow-up with the rest of the Stouts in America. You’ll see that not everything in this new world of craft beer has to be Imperial, Double, Extreme, or amped up to the nth degree to be tasty little beverages.
The ground rules for those (still) just tuning in:
- We’re only looking at American beers. While other countries make some killer Stouts (I heard people like Guinness), our focus for these Top Ten lists is strictly Stateside.
- Only one beer per brewery. Just for the sake of variety.
- If I haven’t tried it, it can’t go on the list. I thought about adding Deschutes Obsidian Stout since I’m assuming that will one day be my favorite Stout, but until my tasting time comes it’s off limits.
I’ll admit, Stouts aren’t my favorite style. I certainly drink them from time to time and can always appreciate the subtleties of the style, but it’s usually not the first thing on my mind when I’m looking to enjoy a few pints (Unless of course it’s on cask, then sign me up). I’m a Hophead (In case you hadn’t guessed from my drooling IPA list) so when I gravitate toward a Stout it’s usually of the Imperial variety. While most Stouts employ a heavy use of hops, they also employ a heavy use of roasted malts and that tends to mask my favorite aspects of most brews. For this list I’m focussing strictly on America’s Stouts, not necessarily the unique American Stout style. Whether the brewer made use of rolled oats to give it body and depth, coffee for a burnt, roasted character, or even lactose sugar to add a touch of sweetness and creaminess, these are all Stouts that fit the bill. Basically, if it’s not an Imperial Stout and it was brewed in this country, it’s fair game.
Last note. This list is insanely subjective, even more so than the Top 10 Pale Ale list. A quick peek at Rate Beer or Beer Advocate will show you that it’s tough to get a high rating while producing your everyday Stout. There are a lot of great Stouts on the market, but there’s a lot of Stouts that hold extremely similar characteristics that don’t place them apart from their competition. With that in mind, I just picked the Stouts that I liked best and leaned way more toward the drinkability side than anything else. If I could sit down and toss back a few pints in all but the hottest weather, that’s a good Stout to me.
9. Dogfish Head Chicory Stout – Generally if I pick up a Dogfish label and read Chicory, St. John’s Wort, Mexican Coffee, and Licorice Root, I’m putting that baby back with all the rest of the crazies. In this instance though the true Stout flavors shine through and get enhanced from a wonderful use of semi-exotic ingredients.
8. Harpoon Island Creek Oyster Stout – I posted a tasting note on this brew a while back and to date it’s still the best I’ve ever had from Harpoon. This is probably a reach, but the oysters seem to give the beer an exceptional mouthfeel and lasting creaminess that I’ve rarely come across in a beer.
7. Highland Black Mocha Stout – Sweet and malty up front, dry finish, what more do you want in a Stout? I’m told that Asheville, NC is the next big thing in brewing. Judging from what I’ve had from Highland, I can see why.
6. Left Hand Milk Stout – Sweet/Milk Stouts vary from region to region and brewer to brewer. Many people enjoy the sugary taste of the Sweet Stout side of the category, but I prefer the creaminess of the Milk Stout myself. Left Hand produces a Stout that both packs a punch and offers a rich brew, but in the end you’re left with a creamy, chocolaty finish.
4. Anderson Valley Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout – I think this is one of the most underrated beers you’ll ever come across from one of the most underrated breweries in the country. Oatmeal Stouts are all about mouthfeel and the Barney is as thick as molasses. It’s rich for sure, but a heavy hand of West Coast hops helps balance things out and gives it a nice bitter finish.
3. Rogue Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout – Once again, the red-headed step child of the Aleheads sneaks onto a Top 10 list. I thought they sucked? If you ever question the brewing prowess of Rogue, look no further than their Oatmeal Stout. Earthy, crunchy, mellow – It’s everything you’d expect if you ground up Portlanders and brewed their remains. You only need one word to describe this Stout – Smooooooth…
2. Tröegs Java Head Stout – Call it a Coffee Stout, call it an Oatmeal Stout, I don’t really care. All I know is this 7.5% ABV, 60 IBU Stout is one of the best beers I’ve had. It’s got everything I want in a stout. Coffee flavors are present but not overwhelming. Bittersweet chocolate, cocoa, molasses – All the dark flavors that I love in the style. I’ve had plenty of Stouts that pack that flavor profile into every sip, but what really does it for me with the Java Head is the hoppy finish. If there was any sweetness left on your tongue, it’s quickly washed away by a liberal use of piny hops. Delicious.
1. Bell’s Kalamazoo Stout – Is the Kalamazoo the best Stout in America? I have no idea. If you like things that are awesome though, I think you’ll agree that Bell’s puts out one of the most complete Stouts you’ll ever find. The reason I put Bell’s in the top spot over all others is because this is the best example of the American Stout style. Period. The end. Complex yet not over the top. Full bodied yet not too thick. Tempered alcohol, slight roasted hints throughout, coffee nose, dark chocolate finish. Need I say more?
There you go folks – Feel free to tear this list apart as you see fit. The comment section is open…