Winter's 10 Best Stouts of 2013-2014 by Cocktail Enthusiast

After a winter in which much of America was oppressed by the Polar Vortex, it seems we may finally be escaping its clutches. But if there’s one positive to all the cold weather, it’s beer. See, just like cold temperatures cue our palates to crave rich, hearty foods to warm us up, we drinkers find ourselves craving beers with richer flavors and textures. Which means winter is a fine time to dive into the cathartic depths of stouts and porters.

Stouts and porters are simply beers brewed with dark malts to produce a darker beer. What’s the difference? Stouts are brewed with roasted malts and are intended to have a thicker and darker appearance and color, while porters are brewed with naturally black malts to achieve a thinner and lighter style. Of course, these are just general guidelines, which brewers often disregard. Like any great artisans, a brewer’s intention is what truly defines a beer style.

That’s enough school though; let’s get to the actual beer. Here are some of the highlights of the winter season from my personal cellar:

Goose Island Bourbon County
Photos: Laura Shaheen

GOOSE ISLAND BOURBON COUNTY BRAND STOUT

Aged in oak bourbon barrels before bottling, the Bourbon County Stout (black label) packs a bold flavor with intense notes of chocolate and vanilla. The oaky bourbon character is perfectly imparted into the beer, giving it a smooth finish. But sip slowly: this beer sits at a cool 14% ABV.

The other variant pictured (the red label) is the Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout brewed with Intelligentsia coffee from Austin, TX. All too often, coffee overwhelms other flavors in a coffee stout, but this one has achieved a solid balance of flavors. More than 2,000 pounds of coffee was roasted for this year’s batch, but it still commands notes of vanilla, almonds and chocolate without succumbing to coffee overkill.

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