Style: Specialty stout
Aroma: Slightly boozy, with rich caramel sweetness and a pleasant fresh grain character. Subtle dark fruits are highlighted on the tail end of the aroma. Instantly, the beer is outwardly complex.
Appearance: Dark, with a nice light brown head. The head pours thick at first, and dwindles down to a few wispy patterns across the top of the beer. My snifter had a spotty lacing down the side of the glass.
Taste: Fairly roast forward with some good cocoa and rich dessert-like sweetness. The beer is vaguely reminiscent of chocolate cake, in a way that is pleasant and not overbearing. All these flavors become more vibrant as the beer warms up, and the roast character seems to build on itself through the duration of the pour.
Mouthfeel: Slightly sticky, but certainily not unpleasant. The carbonation level is moderately still, which works nicely to support the richness and provide a perceived sweetness on top to of the sweetness that is physically there.
Aftertaste: There is a lingering sweetness and roast character that feels a little bit like the finish on a nice, foamy latte.
Overall: The Special Double Cream Stout is quite a refreshing beer, not in the sense of taste, but rather in its concept. You can think of it like a session imperial stout — at a glance, it’s big, rich, roasty and can easily be mistaken for a hearty stout. However, at 6.1% ABV, you can move on with your evening, just as if you had drank something a littler easier on the liver.
This makes for a pretty fantastic fall seasonal — it delivers all the nice “warming” characteristics of a big stout, but you’ll still be able to drive home at the end of the evening.
Although this beer isn’t quite a “session” beer, I still may just go ahead and group it in because it certainly uses a lot of ideas that brewers draw on when designing a session ale. The trick is to create the illusion of a beer with a much fuller body than what is physically present, with the primary goal being a dramatically lowered ABV. If all we wanted was more beer and less drunk, we could all grab a tall-boy of our favorite domestic trash-lager at 3.8% ABV, but there’s a reason we don’t.
Many beer drinkers of today want the same thing, no matter the beer style — fuller flavor and deeper complexity. The session ale allows us to have more of those beers without making an ass of ourselves (as early in the evening). I believe I can speak for many of us when I say that this is a rather important quality in the beers that we choose!