04 Dec Top 5 Best Stouts in Houston
Top 5 Best Stouts in Houston
Houston we have
a problem some damn good stouts! We did this last year with IPAs, and while we hoped to do IPAs again, the stouts were calling our name.
It all began with Chris and I passing time in traffic one day just like the top 5 IPA post. He started with the usual, “Hey man, I had another cool idea for a post.” Many never see the light of day, hundreds maybe. He continued, “Since it’s starting to get cold again, let’s do a big blind tasting like we did last year, but this time let’s do stouts maybe?”
Genius, I thought almost without hesitation like last time. But wait. We doing just regular stouts? RIS? BA? Milk Stouts? + chili, cocoa, vanilla, coffee, etc.? The list goes on and on with these stouts.
Last year, the issue we were most concerned with was getting all the IPAs as fresh as possible. That was no longer an issue. And since just about every brewery in town has between 2 and 5 IPAs we kept it simple; no reds, no ryes, no doubles, etc. Again, that wasn’t as much of a factor this time.
We gathered up a big list of all the stouts in Houston and broke it down into categories. Russian Imperial, Barrel Aged, kitchen sink, etc. We decided to let everything in the tasting that we could get ahold of:
- From a Houston area brewery
- In a bottle, can, or crowler
- That wasn’t barrel aged
When we first started chatting about the idea Nick was a real strong proponent for, quote, “ALLLLLL THE STOUTS,” despite him recently telling us he needed to cut back on his drinking.
We were all for it at first, and then after looking at a list of 20+ beers with ~10% ABV or more, we decided we didn’t want to die, and cut the BA ones out. Also, they’d be much easier to guess out of the bunch, eliminating the blindness somewhat.
Chris had to back out of the tasting last minute, and as a tribute, he offered a growler of BVB Big Spoon, so they were able to sneak in despite the rules we agreed on.
Once we began gathering the beers, we decided to start hunting for a location. We opted for Drink of Ages Pub and asked Jon if he was game to participate. Duh.
Here are all the beers we gathered together for the write up, in no particular order:
- Buffalo Bayou Brewing – Lenin’s Revenge
- Brazos Valley Brewing – Big Spoon
- Sigma Brewing – Black Rain
- No Label – Elda M. Stout
- Texas Beer Refinery – Oyster Stout
- 11 Below – Negative Space
- Running Walker – Stout
- Copperhead Brewing – King of Terrors
- Southern Star – Buried Hatchet
- Fetching Lab – Bound and Determined
- Brash – Milk the Venom
- Brash – Vulgar Display of Power
- Copperhead – Black Venom
- Cycler’s Brewing – Palmarés
- Brash – Abide
Last time we had our wonderful wives to help us prep everything and keep it 100% blind, but this time we didn’t have that luxury. When we arrived at DOA, we had Austin the bartender help us out, and he did a great job keeping them coming while taking care of his own business behind the bar. Cheers, homie.
We gave each of the stouts grades on taste, aroma, appearance, mouthfeel, overall, etc. and we had small tasting glasses with 2oz max, to ensure we weren’t
wasted dead by the time we got to the end of the list. Once we were done with each of our little tasters, we poured them all into a big dump pitcher. We kept joking with one another to see who was going to drink the cuvée from hell, and we actually poured up a single glass of it just to see if anybody would drink it. No takers on the black-beer suicide, but it did smell really good.
As we were finalizing all the details, Chris mentioned he couldn’t make it, so we agreed that we’d have to grab a rando from the bar to partake. It ended up working out perfectly. Since Chris couldn’t make it and Nick bailed, it was Sam, Hannah, Tony, Jon Denman (DOA Owner) and an unnamed patron. He works in the industry and asked that we kept him anonymous, but that worked out perfectly.
(The Top 5 Best Stouts in Houston cuvée from hell)
He had no idea what was even going on until 3/4 of the way through when we explained all the details. He was just tasting beers and taking notes like a champ, truly blindly. When we showed him the list after a while, he was a bit more clear on what was going on, but his unbiased judgment was still super helpful.
It was 100% blind tasting so the best Stouts in Houston began rising to the top fairly easily after tasting just a few. The results were a bit surprising in some ways, though. Unlike the IPAs which sort of began getting samey after a few, each and every beer was distinctly different from the others.
One of the most fun parts about doing these is watching everyone try and guess which one is which. We’ve only ever been able to determine one or two from the batch, and every other guess is wrong. Southern Star Buried Hatchet was the only one that everyone was able to pick out of the bunch, and it’s probably because it’s been around long enough for everyone to have had it a handful of times, unlike some of the others.
Top 5 Best Stouts in Houston, #5 – Southern Star Buried Hatchet
Southern Star Buried Hatchet stout is a classic example of a stout. It’s a bit thinner in mouthfeel than you might expect of a 9%ABV stout, but that doesn’t detract from it. It pours the deepest, darkest brown and features smoky, roasty, coffee notes with some sweet toffee up front. Read more about Southern Star Buried Hatchet here.
Top 5 Best Stouts in Houston, #4 – Brash Vulgar Display of Power
Brash has a cult following not because of their cult-like brand, but because they make killer stouts. Vulgar Display of Power is just one example of them leading the charge on all things black in Houston. Notes of vanilla, marshmallows, and a charmingly-burnt flavor put this one at number 4 on the list. Review coming soon.
Top 5 Best Stouts in Houston, #3 – Copperhead King of Terrors
Copperhead King of Terrors is a behemoth, and it’s no surprise that it made the top 5. The smooth, thick, creaminess of this beer makes it so much more palatable than the 15%ABV might have you believe. The coffee, vanilla, and chocolate notes all come together like a symphony fit only for a king, placing it handsomely at number 3. Review coming soon.
Top 5 Best Stouts in Houston, #2 – Brash Abide
Brash Abide is another big beer that doesn’t come on too strong too fast. It has hints of roasted coffee, dark chocolate, and a well-balanced bitterness that presents surprisingly sweet. The chewy mouthfeel and frothy head are spot on, and help usher this beer along to the number 2 spot. Read more about Brash Abide here.
Top 5 Best Stouts in Houston, Honorable Mentions
Individually, every one of these it probably a 3 star beer or better, (and we’re working on reviewing each of them individually to confirm/deny it). Drinking them one after another – really evaluating each of them against each other – it helped a few climb to the top while a few others fall to the bottom. Copperhead Black Venom, Fetching Lab Bound and Determined, and Buffalo Bayou Lenin’s Revenge were all within 2-3 points of one another at 6th, 7th and 8th place respectively. Knowing that everybody’s got their own take on things, I wonder if we had a few other blind tasters, if one of these would’ve made their way into the top 5.
Top 5 Best Stouts in Houston, Biggest Surprise – Running Walker Stout
Running Walker takes the biggest surprise yet again. They also surprised us in the top 5 IPA post. It’s amazing how these beers rate individually versus how they stand out in the crowd of similarity. Running Walker Stout scored 9th place, but a look at the top five reminds you that they’re right behind some great company.
Top 5 Best Stouts in Houston, #1 – Brash Milk the Venom
While it was a bit of a surprise how distinct each beer was, it wasn’t really much of a surprise that Brash took 3 of the top 5 spots, including the best stout in Houston. The toasted coconut, chipotle and cinnamon all come together for a symphony of black, metal-inspired goodness. Not a single one of those flavors or aromas dominate. Instead, they’re all balanced together with some coffee and vanilla, accompanied by a slight alcohol burn from the 9%ABV. Read more about Brash Milk the Venom here.
All in all, we had a blast doing this, and we’re going to do it again one day. Next time we do it, we’ve got a bit more possibilities at our fingertips now that HopDrop delivers craft beer!
When we did the IPA post last year, there were a few nerds crying that Brash didn’t make the list at all, much less the top 5. We reminded them to read the fine print on how we selected the contenders. Nonetheless, this one’s sure to please the angry mob.
Let’s hear it. You think we’re full of it or we’re spot on? What style of beer should we try and rank next? Let us know in the comments section below. And as always, Beers to you, Houston.