Dark Horse Brewing - Holiday Stout Series

Stout Season - that wonderful time of year when you step outside and you can't feel your face (for those of us here in the North, anyway). When you're chilled to the bone and it's dark out at 5:00pm, what better way to instill a little warmth in your soul than a dark, strong beer full of robust flavor and character? How about five? Michigan's own Dark Horse Brewing delivers with their Holiday Stout Series. As somewhat of a DIY "beer of the month club", a different stout is released on the first of each month, October through February, to lead the way through the Winter doldrums to the promise of warmer days. With the final brew of the series on shelves now, I took a moment to sit back, line 'em up, and knock 'em down...

One Oatmeal Stout

Style: Oatmeal Stout
ABV: 7.0%
Serving type: Bottle
Availability: Annual Specialty (October release)

Appearance: Pours black, surprisingly effervescent. Tall tan head remains throughout
Aroma: Wet grain and old barn wood, bitter chocolate
Taste: Coffee, chocolate malted milk-balls, burnt sugar
Mouthfeel: Creamy, frothy
Overall: A good start to the series, if a bit thin for an oatmeal stout.

Too Cream Stout

Style: Milk/Sweet Stout
ABV: 7.5%
Serving type: Bottle
Availability: Annual Specialty (November release)

Appearance: Black in color, tan head dissipates quickly
Aroma: Sweet toffee and caramel sauce
Taste: Mellow roasted flavor, toffee notes carry through leading to bitter chocolate and coffee on the finish
Mouthfeel: Smooth, velvety
Overall: I would have liked a little more sweetness, especially with such delicious aromas.

Tres Blueberry Stout

Style: Fruit Beer (Stout)
ABV: 7.5%
Serving type: Bottle
Availability: Annual Specialty (December release)

Appreance: Black in the glass, tan head lingers
Aroma: Fresh blueberries, chocolate
Taste: Dark chocolate, roasted bitterness gives way to fresh blueberries
Mouthfeel: A bit on the thin side
Overall: I'm generally not a fan of fruit beers, though this is quite palatteable. Blueberry flavors are subtle and well balanced.

Fore Smoked Stout

Style: Smoked Beer (Stout)
ABV: 7.0%
Serving type: Bottle
Availability: Annual Specialty (January release)

Appearance: Somehow blacker than black, no head retention
Aroma: Campfire and coffee
Taste: Smokey from start to finish. Tastes of charred wood mingle with roasted malt and slight chocolate and coffee
Mouthfeel: More substantial, this one has some body
Overall: I'm a sucker for smoked beers, and this one is tops. Excellent smoke flavor, but not overwhelmingly so.

Plead the 5th Imperial Stout

Style: Russian Imperial Stout
ABV: 11.0%
Serving type: Bottle
Availability: Annual Specialty (February release)

Appearance: Pitch black, leaves a dark amber glaze on the glass when swirled, no head
Aroma: Dark fruit, raisins and figs, booziness is apparent
Taste: Dark chocolate, dried cherries, and rich coffee
Mouthfeel: Boozy and warm, yet exceptionally drinkable. Velvety texture.
Overall: I kept my descriptions basic, but there's a lot going on here. I spent quite a while picking out new aromas and flavors with each sip as it warmed to room temperature.

All five stouts are respectable brews, but I feel that the standouts in the series are definitely Fore Smoked Stout and Plead the 5th Imperial Stout. The balance of smokey character in Fore is outstanding, and Plead the 5th is so complex and rich it leaves you begging for more. So when Old Man Winter comes a knockin' at your door, beat him back with a few bottles of tasty goodness from the folks at Dark Horse.

Or maybe just stock up, sit back, and hope for a snow day.


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The Concept

Brew Day is a brewers collective with a different obsession every month. Each month the homebrewers involved will tackle a different style of beer by brewing a batch and getting their malt-stained hands on as many pints of the same style as possible. Each brewer will bring their own warped concept to their batch helping to create as many variations as there are brewers involved.

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