xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Naptown Pint: I defeated Hercules with an imperial stout

Winter storm Hercules brought snow to Annapolis and provided a perfect occasion for an imperial stout.
Winter storm Hercules brought snow to Annapolis and provided a perfect occasion for an imperial stout. (By Liz Murphy, Correspondent, Capital Gazette)

I know last week I was all "resolved" and "determined" to be more adventurous with my beer choices, but that was before winter storm Hercules descended upon the east coast like a ravenous, present-hungry 7-year-old on Christmas morning.

You see, I'm a weakling. I try to fool myself and others into thinking that I am a strong-willed individual, but under the slightest amount of pressure - for example, a historic, monster snowstorm or a light breeze - I buckle and slink back into the familiarity and security of my own comfort zone.

In the case of Hercules, after commuting home on the Beltway in near-blizzard conditions with some of Maryland's most cautious and thoughtful drivers on Thursday night, I only wanted to do one thing: I wanted to crawl inside a big snifter filled with a mouth-assaulting imperial stout and make a small home there. Forever.

This seemed like a reasonable plan.

There's something incredibly soothing about a well-crafted imperial stout. Don't get me wrong: I think regular stouts are just tops. But imperial stouts are to stouts what Arnold Schwarzenegger is to Danny DeVito in "Twins." In short, imperial stouts are big, strong and could most definitely save John Conner.

The diverse cross-section of modern-day imperial stouts is derived from the traditional Russian imperial stout style, which was brewed in 18th-century England to a higher level of gravity and exported to Russia and the Baltic in order to garner royal favor from Catherine the Great and her court.

In line with this centuries-old tradition, today's imperial stouts are bolder than their stout brethren, boasting ABVs at 9 percent or more - sometimes even up to 12 percent - with explosive, creative flavor profiles to match.

And my most favorite ingredient being added to imperial stouts today is coffee.

My husband, Patrick, loves coffee the way I love beer. That said, he does not want coffee anywhere near his beer. (He's more of a saison, farmhouse and Belgian strong pale kind of guy.) I, however, completely disagree with him, as I am wont to do.

To me, coffee and espresso are the perfect fit for an imperial stout - balancing the style's aggressive flavors of roasted malt, chocolate and, well, alcohol.

That's why reaching for the bottle of Espresso Oak-Aged Yeti Imperial Stout from Colorado's Great Divide Brewing Company on Hercules Eve was a no-brainer for me.

This beer, when poured, looks like espresso topped with caramel-colored cream. It smells like fresh coffee, cocoa and a hint of woodsy oak. It tastes like rich, roasted espresso at first - but as it evolves, you're met with the sweetness of malt and chocolate. The finish is dry and bitter, which cleanses the palate somewhat, but leaves you wanting more.

As I sat by our open balcony door, while the snow fell quietly and our dog, Horatio the Great Defender, growled at the suspicious-looking clouds looming overhead, it warmed in my tummy. I sat there for some time, enjoying the chill of the air, prolonging what was a perfect moment with the perfect beer.

It may seem like the folly of a lesser woman to stumble within the first week of January on her Brew Year's Resolution, but I stand by it. So don't judge me. Or if you insist on doing so, keep your judging to a dull roar.

Yes, I will continue to actively expand my horizons as resolved, but I'd like to think that it's okay to venture back to those beers that just get us without explanation. Because when you come across a beer like that, it kind of feels like going home.

Beer homework: Out of Delaware, Dominion Brewing Company's Morning Glory Espresso Stout is another great one to try. This one boasts more prominent notes of chocolate, along with the espresso. And while it retains the style's inherently robust character, it's a bit more accessible to those who might find the Great Divide offering a bit overwhelming.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement