The usual beer run on Friday would be a short one. I had already decided on which beer to imbibe for the Saturday night review, and I already had it in my possession at home. The beer run would be a quick visitation to the beloved Morris Beer Store for an afterwork ration of Ommegang Abbey Ale.
At the MBS, there was no one at the register. I heard what sounded like a machine in the wine aisle. The noise stopped and almost instantly, darling Alessa came around the craft beer aisle and said hello. She was the source of the noise using a handheld price tag affixing device pricing out bottles of wine before shelving. I didn’t think that a human was capable of working so fast. I’ve noticed before that Al is whirling dervish in the way she deals with customers and tasks each time I visit.
Scanning the shelf as I went, I was looking for new arrivals. Midway, pausing for the fourpack of Ommegang, I continued, making mental notes along the way. In the back, I was surprised to see a restocking of Orval on the specialty rack. Last week I bought four of the only six bottles there. Nice to see that someone was paying attention.
At the register, I paid the tab and admired the beautiful smiling face while wishing I was so much younger. A deep sigh, and I was out the door.
Last week, we were honored with visitors from St. Louis, my sister and brother-in-law. A couple of months prior, I had sent her an email requesting a purchase of beer based on a recommendation by one of our regular SPT readers. When they arrived and the greetings were done, I was presented a bag with two sixpacks of Schlafly beer. I expressed my gratitude and stashed the bounty in my bedroom. The visit was fun, punctuated with loud laughter much of the time.
Tonight, my friends, we drink stouts like it was still the dead of winter. To quote a few lines from the reader’s email:
I see you’ve been avoiding stouts, waiting for Stout Season to open. Myself, I don’t get it; I’ll drink stouts any damn time I feel the urge. After all, it’s not like oysters in August!
Tonight’s beer is Schlafly Extra Stout Irish Style Stout. I pondered a bit while looking at the label. Extra stout, eh? What could be so unique about a stout to make it and Extra stout? But wait. It did not say it was an Imperial stout. This beer had a mere 8% alcohol rating. This would be interesting.
And what’s so special about it being Irish Style? My only guess was based on my last batch of homebrew, an Irish red which turned out to be a real smooth and tasty brew. I figured this beer would be a very dark and roasty beverage that was smooth going down.
According to BeerAdvocate, this style of beer is classified as a Foreign/Export stout. I had no clue what to make of this. The BJCP guidelines gave me some insight into this style.
Schlafly’s website gives some good details on what went into the recipe of this beer.
The neck label on the bottle stated the facts without embellishment:
Schlafly Irish-Style Extra Stout is full-bodied and full-flavored. This rich, dark ale has a malty sweetness balanced with plenty of hops to create the perfect dry stout.
Thus spake Zaraschlafly.
When beer time finally rolled around, the sixer I had stashed the night before was nicely chilled. The weather outside was crap and I opted for an inside job for the beer drinking and typing job. No firewood to chop, no dirty knees.
With the souvenir Schlafly shaker in hand, I grabbed the first bottle and poured, wondering where will this recommended journey take me.
Cold beer in a warm glass coupled with a Randy Mosher pour (see video below) yielded a 2/3 beer, 1/3 brown chocolatey foam. Holding the glass right up against the light showed nothing but blackness. A glassful of black hole waiting to suck me into it as it just may be. The aroma was slight but revealed some rich dark toasty smells. Let us begin.
The first sip had a nicely thick, viscous mouthfeel. There was a lot of grain in this recipe. The middle of the sip was different. There were some flavors in there that I did not expect in this beer. I’d have to wait for my taste buds to warm up to get a better idea of what I was tasting.
Right from the git-go however, that alcohol heat could be felt in the stomach. Surprising for a 8% beer but it was there, nonetheless. This was not your drink-all-day Guinness style stout. This was a big beer in taste and punch. It even felt heavy in the glass.
By the middle of the first glassful, more of the taste became apparent. There was an overall bitterness and dryness to each sip, not from the hops, but rather from the roasted malts. This gave a certain unique taste profile to this beer, the likes of which I haven’t experienced in other stouts. The roasty-toasty flavors were in abundance but there were no overtones of chocolate or coffee in the sippings.
After my taste buds finally got going, some comparisons could be made. This beer could be considered Guinness on steroids. Like Guinness, the middle flavors are middle of the road dark, roasty flavors. All stout grains with no additional adjuncts added was what I was thinking. But unlike Guinness, this beer has the mouthfeel of lightweight motor oil with some burnt toast and maybe a little bourbon thrown in. Quite different.
As the beer warmed up, it became deeper in taste. Not that any hidden flavors came out, but rather the taste became more stouty. More robust, more intense, eliciting deeper thought in the actual tasting of the beer. What was that one thing that made this beer so different while remaining the same? I was drinking it and I didn’t know.
This beer was 100% enjoyable. I may be able to slog back an entire sixpack of this beer, but it would be slow. Not so much based on the ABV, but rather based on the heftiness of the liquid itself. However, things may change once the ethyl alcohol changes my outlook on life. The one aspect of this beer that really stood out was just how deep and dark the tastes were while still maintaining a “standardness” of being a stout. Tastes which are simple yet mind-blowing at the same time. Schlafly has done a gargantuan Guinness (an extra stout) without getting artsy-fartsy about adjunct flavors. This is a beautiful thing.
Schlafly’s Extra Stout will be one of those stouts that will be impressed in my memory bits for years. Just like their Pumpkin Ale which I consider the best so far, this Extra Stout will be held in high regard. I feel once again enlightened about the taste of this style and have a renewed appreciation for the talents of the brewers involved. Buy this beer if you ever find it. You may be amazed as I was at how simple and complex the taste of a beer can be.
Deepest, darkest, roasted thanks to Fretwalker for recommending this outstanding beer.
Taste: A+ > Will cause your voice to deepen by two octaves. Grrrrrr-eat!
Smoothness: A > Triple-black asphalt without the smell.
Drinkability: A- > You won’t believe it until it hits you.
Bang for the buck: N/A. A gift. ($10.99, I think. Quite worth it.)
Brewer: St. Louis Brewery/Schlafly Taproom, St. Louis, Missouri
Wife’s all-encompassing opinion: God, that’s dark. (sniff) I smell the bitterness. (sip) It’s dry. It’s dry. Uchh. (sip) It’s got nothing but bitter… and dry… that lingers. Blaach! (This is exactly why I keep her around. And she still does my laundry.)
On the bottling line at Schlafley
Boo loves him some Schlafly
Schlafly’s new SWIRLIE bottle
The Randy Mosher pour (Mine take a lot less time but yield a bit more foam.)
[stextbox id=”info”]Authentic Beer Steins are often hand painted and decorated to show German cultural heritage.[/stextbox]