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Monday, February 10, 2014

Lake Effect Brewing Co's Espresso Gone Stout

  • Style: Coffee Milk Stout
  • ABV: 6%
  • Ease to locate: Lake Effect Brewing is carried in most Chicagoland craft beer stores now and is getting easier to find on tap as well.  Here's a link to their Beer Menu page.  If you follow them on FaceBook (link) or on Twitter (link) they usually keep fans informed of deliveries almost daily.
  • Color: Rich, rich, RICH! solid dark brown with no hint of black.  The color alone make you want to drink it all down immediately. 
  • Head: 1 finger tan head with tight carbonation that settles after a minute.  Delicate lacing coating the glass.
  • Aroma: A big nose with lost of milk chocolate, fresh perfectly brewed espresso, sweet milk sugar and a bit of wood
  • Mouthfeel: Full and just creamy enough to lightly coat the tongue.  Lots of carbonation to cut the creaminess.
  • Finish: On the long side of medium. Mostly coffee notes on the finish, but just the hint of earthiness on the tail
  • Food friendly: Maybe. Coffee milk stouts can be tricky.  If you like milk chocolate and love espresso, then yes, I could see making this work with a coffee forward mole sauce and, of course, with some tangy barbeque sauce (what kind of beer doesn't work with some sort of barbeque?  I don't want any part of that beer, thank you.)  Serve it with a nutty cheese like Gouda or Swiss.
Apple User Link: I think I found the next collaborator for Lake Effect Brewing

                                                               Dark Knight Java Porter.  Just think about it.  Call me, Lake Effect.  We can make this happen.

Choosing a beer in a crowded craft aisle at your local bottle shop can be a daunting task.  More enjoyable  than say picking out a health plan on line or deciding on which Kardashian sibling is most annoying (it's always the one actually speaking at any moment), but still daunting none the less.  It's never a quick in and out trip for me when I visit my local shops.  I do have a routine though:
          1) say hi to whoever is working that day because it's only polite (plus, it's ALWAYS a good idea to be nice to the people I like to refer to as The Guardians of Beer)
          2) Check the front cases for the new stuff
          3) Wander the aisles, picking up bombers, looking for old favorites, discovering brand new breweries
          4) Check the front cases again because it's possible I missed something special
          5) Ask the Guardian of Beer what's new because I'm certain that I missed something special
          6) Repeat

You can see how an hour can simply fly buy before I finally bring my purchases to the checkout.  Except last week when I actually went to my local haunt with a specific beer purchase in mind.  Lake Effect Brewing Company is a relatively new brewery that opened last year on the Northwest side of Chicago in the Portage Park area of the city.  They started bottling in early 2013 and slowly made their way onto the beer menus of other smallish places in Chicago. Now beyond the usual things one may look for in a beer (taste, taste and, oh yeah, TASTE!) I really love that Lake Effect Brewing seems to have a real passion for collaborating with local businesses.  The brewers not only drink at my local haunt, they also make an effort to reach out to Chicago businesses for interesting partnerships.  For instance, they're in the process of brewing a beer in collaboration with another local gem, Superdawg Drive In (and seriously, if you ever find yourself on the NW side of the city, you need to check this place out at least once.  I always half expect Fonzie to give me a thumbs up every time I pass by.)   In the near future, the world will know what exactly what kind of beer is the perfect pairing to imbibe in while chowing down on a hot dog while sitting in the comfort of your own car.  And I love that.  For their take on a coffee milk stout, the good people of Lake Effects teamed up with Regulus Coffee, a coffee company also located in the Portage Park area of Chicago.  Regulus may have closed their brick and mortar coffee house at the end of 2013, but they live on through the awesome power of the internet.  And the awesome result of this beer.  

My Espresso Gone Stout poured a dark, solid brown liquid.  Sometimes you find a murky, dank blackness to the coloring of a stout, but this one produced a rich looking beer that gave off the perfect impression of a coffee infused brew.   A one finger light tan colored head formed  with very close quartered bubbles.  Spotty, delicate lacing clung to the glass as the head dissipated (sort of quickly ) to a very thin rim around the glass.  Personally I tend to prefer a thick head with lots of sticky lacing that takes it's time to settle, but experience has taught me not to judge a beer by it's foam alone (Which, by the way, would make an excellent movie title.  Picture a fresh face cherub craft brewer left behind as all of his friends leave for a beer fest.  He's forced to defend the brewery against evil AB-INBEV cronies intent on breaking in and stealing the secret to their break out coffee stout recipe.  FOAM ALONE, coming soon to a back alley brewery near you.)  The nose on this stout is a honker.  I detected a horde of roasted espresso bitterness, lots of milk chocolate malts, some sweet milk sugar and a little bit of wood.  The aroma is a nicely balanced scent of milk stout and a coffee stout.  The taste is a bit heavier on the espresso note with some deeply roasted espresso bean character taking the forefront.  It's followed by the milk chocolate and lactose sweetness.  Their is absolutely no mistaking this drink for anything other than a coffee milk stout.  A very shallow note of woody earthiness could be found under all of the bitter sweetness.  It's a tasty, coffee forward milk stout. The mouthfeel was just creamy enough to lightly coat the tongue but not so much that it made eating food with the beer difficult.  An abundant source of carbonation helped to dry out the body as well, keeping the stout from tipping over to a heavy feeling.  The finish was medium to long with a tasty bitter espresso note on the very end.

Lake Effect Brewing's Espresso Gone Stout is an enjoyable drinking and just rich enough beer that you can easily drink it on it's own and feel like you've had a snack.  But the dryness of the finish means that it can pair well with food if you are feelinga bit peckish.  The freshness of the coffee note when mixed with the milk chocolate character makes me want to drink it with a Mexican inspired meal.  Try it with some Grilled Shrimp in a Coffee Mole Sauce and a side bowl of Pinto Bean Soup.  The spice of the dish would be mellowed by the semisweet chocolate notes in the sauce as well as the coffee milk stout.  In fact, I'm sort of wishing that my favorite local Mexican restaurant, who make the absolute best mole sauce I've ever had the good fortune of tasting,  served this beer along side their mole chicken enchiladas.  And I'm really wishing that I had a plate of them right now (reminder, don't write the blog when hungry or thirsty.)  Lake Effect Brewing is showing up at more and more local bars and restaurants around my place.  I would absolutely love (like rainbow unicorn puppy sort of love) to see this beer (or some of their other offerings) on more places outside of the 606 zip code as well.  As for now, I'll just have to be content to to know that somewhere close by, busy little brewery bees are working their beards to the bone to make the Northwest side of the city proud. And slightly buzzed.