One of the more recent trends in brewing has been to use a wider variety of ingredients, especially compared to beers produced early in the craft beer revolution. These include the many fruit beers now commonplace in craft breweries, as well as maple syrup; various spices such as nutmeg, cardamom and yarrow; and even some truly off-the-wall ingredients like bacon. Bacon makes everything better, right? Regardless, the beer I selected for this week is Samuel Smith’s Organic Chocolate Stout, brewed with real cocoa.
Samuel Smith’s Old Brewery was opened by Samuel Smith after he inherited the brewery from his uncle, William Smith, in 1886. The brewery itself dates back to 1758, having been home to several different companies since that time. It is considered the oldest brewery in Yorkshire and the only remaining independent brewery in the city of Tadcaster, England. The brewery still draws its water from its original well and has continuously used a strain of yeast since prior to 1900. Samuel Smith’s has played a key role in the revival of the oatmeal stout style, reintroducing it in 1980 after virtually all production ceased prior to World War I.
The beer poured a beautiful blood-red color, so dark that you could barely see light through it. The head formed as three fingers of very fine light-brown foam with a creamy, almost pillowy texture to it. Head retention was quite good, and lacing was surprisingly decent as well; this actually reminded me of a very dark Belgian beer in appearance. The aroma was a very strong chocolate raspberry, which surprised me. What immediately popped into my head was a raspberry truffle. The aroma was quite sweet, much more so than I’m used to in beer, and it was very focused on that chocolate character.
The mouthfeel was quite creamy, largely due to the low carbonation of this beer, but it was definitely helped along by the moderately thick body. This is definitely one beer that will fill you up. The taste was quite sweet up front and focused again on a big chocolate character, but the raspberry note underlaid everything. There was some roastiness later on, and the back was actually slightly bitter; I’m still not entirely sure whether this was the malt or some hops. The finish was a slightly odd bittersweet taste that lasted for quite a long time.
Chocolate stouts, especially sweet versions like this one, are just crying out to be a desert beer. They will obviously pair well with anything that milk chocolate does (hmmm … beer float with vanilla ice cream?), and I think it will pair very well with both sharp and creamy cheeses but not as much with bleu cheese. To me, the perfect desert would be a slice of apple pie with aged cheddar and a pint of this beer. Honestly, I probably wouldn’t pair this beer with the main course because it’s so sweet, but I’m also not really a sweet stout guy, so I’m obviously biased.
I really enjoyed this beer, and it’s definitely worth trying. A lot of new drinkers and people who have been turned off to beer by Bud-Miller-Coors or by IPAs will actually like this beer because it’s sweeter (I still maintain that soda has ruined the collective American palette). Grab a bottle, and try it with Christmas dinner!
Bottle Size: 550 mL