It’s Friday! Normally this would be ample cause for celebration, but today also happens to be International Stout Day as well. And for good reason. Winter can be seen off in the distance, rearing its dark, snow-covered head. What better way to prepare for that beast than by getting our stout on, and warming up in advance. Today’s liver calisthenics are brought to you by Southern Tier’s Crème Brulée Stout, a new one for me. From what I’ve heard, it’s supposed to be a massive mouth domination of stoutly darkness and a big, sweet vanilla profile. From the various other Southern Tier beers I’ve had, I’m sure it’s going to be bursting with flavor. And that means good times.
Starting out, the first aromas that reach your nose are hugely potent vapors of vanilla and caramel. It’s a super smooth and syrupy aroma that pours down your nose and clings to every available surface. Strong notes of butterscotch slide in next, turning this beer’s aroma into pure dessert. Under everything there could also be a hint of smoky malts, but it’s very faint, as the sweet vanilla and growing brown sugars utterly dominate any other scent. If you love the traditional stout aroma, you may hate this. But, if you’re like me and love huge scent profiles no matter the beer, you’ll be in heaven.
The initial instance of flavor arrives as deeply roasted malts, bringing a heavy, toasted bread vibe as a back bone. However, even as the malts are still settling in and getting comfortable, syrupy sweet notes of rich vanilla, brown and white sugar, and butterscotch wash over your tongue. It is a milk stout, so the lactose sugars bring about a creamier sweetness that lends itself perfectly to the overall “dessert” feel that this beer has going on. As the flavors continue, the profile ranges from the namesake crème brulée to vanilla ice cream with caramel drizzled over the top. Delicious, right? At the back end of each taste is a mild hop bitterness. Fear not, no hints of pine or tropical fruits will barge in and walk all over your dark dessert. The hops merely present as a lingering tang at the back of the mouth, allowing the sweetness to stand out even more by contrasting the big, sugary flavors. Running under everything is a potent but masked alcoholic kick, bringing some warmth to the mix while making sure you remember this is still a stout, no matter how sweet it tastes. The aftertaste is an eternally lasting combination of caramel, vanilla and butterscotch, poured over toasted bread crust.
Poured into a snifter, the aroma is more of the same: vanilla, caramel, brown and white sugars, and butterscotch. Each breath is a smooth, creamy affair. Additionally, there are fleeting hints of toasted coconut, adding an extra does of desserty sweetness. Underneath everything is a mild mingling of malts and hops, providing an earthy, roasted base that features an edge of freshness. These notes don’t interfere with the overall “dessert” vibe, but they do remind you that you’re drinking a beer, not liquid pie. Visually, it pours a syrupy black with a cocoa colored head that stays fluffy for quite a while.
The post-pour taste reveals the beer’s true stoutish heart. Every flavor and aroma that was present earlier is here now, like family gathering for Thanksgiving dinner. Roasted malts and some hoppy bitterness make up the giant table upon which everything else is placed. Vanilla, caramel, creamy custard, brown sugar and coconut are all here, and they’re ready to rock, turning their flavor amps up to 11. Additionally, light hints of cinnamon and nutmeg flash in every now and then, complimenting every flavor that happens to be on your tongue at the time. Finally, the massive 9.5% ABV rumbles in like your uncle after a few beers. But, what’s awesome about that (the beer, not your uncle) is that everything about this brew works perfectly with each other. The malts and hops create that great roasty dark stout base, while the dessert sweetness lays right on top – sweet, potent, and full of enough power to make the stout gods happy. Finally, the super warming alcohol wave ensures that you won’t freeze once the fire dies out. Which is definitely a good thing.
I adored this beer, but before I go farther, I can see some stout heads loathing it because its massive sweetness. And that’s ok. There’s enough beer out there for everyone to have a favorite. Having said that, this stout achieves remains true to its stout roots, while presenting a different take on what it means to be dark and flavorful. Big, dark flavors with an overlying sugar sweetness, not an herbal sweetness. I love the usual stout profile, but this is just so seasonal and full of comfortable warmth, and I believe half the flavor of beer comes from when, where, and with whom you’re drinking. Big malts and hop bitterness start the beer off like any other stout, but the massive flavors of vanilla, white and brown sugars, butterscotch and caramel take over and dominate until the last wonderful drop. And underlying alcohol kick ensures continuous warmth and happiness without overstepping its boundaries. Because it’s a milk stout, it flows smooth and creamy, with a heavy sweetness that clings to everything. The aftertaste is a combination of roasted malts and vanilla cream that is best described as decadent. The price is on the steep side, but it’s a seasonal beer that tastes like dessert in a bottle. Just close your eyes and put it in your cart.
My suggestions for drinking this are strictly in the evening, preferably while eating a tasty dessert of ice cream, cake, or whatever else you can find that doesn’t involve fruits. Anything along those lines will make this beer shine. If the idea of a sweet stout sends you into a firey rage, you’ll hate this. But if you love big flavors, and happen to have a sweet tooth, you wont be able to say no. Southern Tier’s Crème Brulée Milk Stout earns a rich and creamy A.
Lasting Strength: 10/10
Overall: 9.4/10 A