Sunday, July 1, 2012

Bell's Special Double Cream Stout

Once again, I choose to go against the seasonal grain and feature a beer that is the complete antithesis of warm summer months. Forget those IPAs and saisons. Give me a hearty stout any day of June and I'm a happy man. Make that stout somewhere in Michigan and I'm even happier.
The Beer:
This month I tackle another beer that doesn't see any distribution here in Los Angeles. Luckily, I have friends in low places who hook a brotha up in the black market, on the backstreets, and secretly, dangerously through the magic of UPS. Thanks to my BFFF (the extra F is for "fool"), Elise, I got my hands on a six pack of this great mid-western beer. Bell's is a well known and well regarded brewery, but most unfortunately not distributed anywhere west of Missouri (save Arizona --- but everything is so ass-backwards in that state, chances are they don't even know they have it). Their Special Double Cream Stout is only available in the winter as a seasonal offering. The bottles I received have a bottling date of January 4th, 2012. Which means, while certainly out of season, it was also within its recommended consumption window. Additionally, the time between creation and consumption seemed to do little to the beer's overall taste. While there was not as much aroma as I would have expected, there were little hints of smoke to the smell. As far as taste goes, if I was limited to one word it would have to be "roasted". Thankfully I'm the mayor of blogtown here and other words I'd attribute to Special Double Cream Stout's taste are chocolate, slight coffee, and a little bit of biscuit. Although it was not quite as smooth as a cream stout should be, it was however great on the palate with a pleasant, welcoming aftertaste. After drinking two of these beers while watching my weekly night of fights, it occurred to me that this is very much a near perfect representation of what an American stout is. Sure there are bigger, more intense stouts made by nearly every well respected brewery. Bell's itself makes one with their Black Note Stout. However, many of those stouts are aged in barrels or use coffee, vanilla, or smoke to achieve their uniqueness. Special Double claims to achieve it's depth of flavor from a blend of 10 different malts without any added dairy. The result is a rich and flavorful drink that doesn't let you forget it's alcohol without overwhelming you in any way. It has an intense flavor profile for such a comparatively mild beer. And it comes in six-pack, which means enough for this blog's purpose with extras leftover to save.
The Buzz:
Being that I did have an entire six pack to commit to this review, yet adhering  to my blog limit of 48 oz, I went into this month's drinking experiment planning on going through 4 of them and reaching my maximum amount. After two, however, I began to rethink that strategy. Even though Special Double had a modest 6.1% abv, it drank heavy and thick. Unlike the Milk Stout Nitro from last month, there was no carbonating assistance to speed up the rate of consumption. In fact, due to the nature of this particular beer, it actually slowed down just how quick I could drink. These was a definite thickness to each glass I drank. And despite being free of dairy, I could still taste a bit of tang with each sip. The combination of malty heaviness and creamy thickness slowed my drinking to a crawl. Whereas last month I was able to put down a similarly alcoholic beer three times as fast, this month I was well aware of just how much I had drank and how much more I had to go. Nevertheless, I persevered and pushed through. Taking my time, I continued to drink sip after sip, beer after beer. Before I knew it, I was into my third hour of fights and opening my fourth and final beer. Sensing the creeping symptoms of drunkenness, I was sure to drink a water between numbers three & four. However, it did little to tame the raging beast of beer inside me. My head was happily buzzed, my spirits were pleasantly lifted, and my bladder was achingly full. Special Double Cream Stout did everything a good beer should. And there were still two more left in that six pack for a later date.
The Hangover:
As with any and every morning after a drinking test, I was awoken earlier than my body had wanted by two hungry dogs. Unlike other mornings though, this time I woke up excessively tired. Symptoms of a hangover weren't exactly present at this early hour, but my body and brain were so unbelievably spent that it was hard to get through the morning routines I am normally able to complete on autopilot. Fearing that this intense fatigue meant a more dastardly hangover was to come, I went with my old hangover cocktail of an antacid, a Benedryl, and two Advil before I passed back out. When I woke up a few hours later, the dreaded hangover hadn't fully reared it's head, yet there was still some exhaustion and a slight bit of gastronomical unease. I pushed through the desire to just lay on the couch and went to the park with Murdoch, followed up with a stop at McDonalds for an Egg-McMuffin and then back home to finish some chores before another epic day of drinking with beer-buddy Mark began in my wife's new art studio. If nothing else, I suppose the mere fact that by 1pm the following day I was going through a mini-tasting with Mark of other mid-western and rare brews meant that Special Double Cream Stout didn't debilitate me with a hangover severe enough to merit inclusion on my list of beers to avoid. Which was good to know considering I still had two more left to drink.

The Verdict:
Although there were moments the day after when I began to question the intensity of my hangover, ultimately the fact that I was able to: a) function normally; b) maintain productivity; and c) get thoroughly day-drunk with my buddy, lead me to the conclusion that I am not in any way negatively affected by Bell's Special Double Cream Stout. In fact, much like last month's beer, this is a brew that I wish I did have more access to. It's easy drinking, great tasting, not too heavy but certainly hearty enough to keep you warm on those chilly winter nights. Or, in my case, keep you warmer on these mild summer days. Thanks again to Miss Elise for providing the beers, it's great to have a hook up for instances just like this. And it's even greater to be drinking my extra two as I finish up writing this month's post. Unfortunately for me, now they're all gone and I haven't a clue as to when I'll get to drink some more.
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