Sunday, February 14, 2016


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Tanned skin and a new favorite beer: A Hawaiian Getaway

No one who knows me or reads this blog will be surprised to learn that a vacation with no inherent beer-related focus became just another part of my ongoing beer education. It finds me wherever I go!
I had a 3-day port stop in Honolulu in the midst of a nearly 3 month long trip away from home and Reed was game to join me. Though it was a short time, we definitely held to the Miller family motto - "maximize the awesome!" We probably would have been happy sitting on a park bench in Omaha catching up after being apart for 2 months, but having the reunion set in such an idealic spot was a nice bonus. First stop for me was, predictably, the bar nearest the dock. Reed's plane landed a few hours later, and that is where he found me, mai tai in hand. The rest of the day was made up of settling into our temporary home and playground, Waikiki. A real bed (no railings necessary!), windows that open, and un-timed meals are a real luxury after life on a research boat, and I reveled in all three while also enjoying the humid tropical breeze and a steady supply of wine.
I imagine this turtle making airplane noises as he swims.
The next morning we struck out for Hanauma Bay, taking The Bus and planning to spend the better part of the day. I, for one, can snorkel for hours on end without getting tired, cold or bored. Even people not as ocean-obsessed can enjoy a full day at Hanauma Bay; there is a glorious beach that gets busy but is never packed (visitor numbers are limited), a visitor's center, a snack bar with decent meals, a shady picnic area dotted with roaming chickens, egrets and mongooses, and nearby hiking.
We saw all the main attractions - turtles, fish, eels, crabs, urchins and sea cucumbers while swimming in the protected bay. We caught the last bus out after a full day that also included naps on the sand and garlic fries on the grass.
Happiness is...

Next stop: Kona Brewing Company restaurant in Koko Marina, right along the road back to Honolulu, for beer and pupus (appetizers). It was an excellent way to relax after a busy day of - well, relaxing. Swimming always makes me really hungry, and the excellent food at Kona really satisfied. We sat out on the deck overlooking a small marina and enjoyed the sunset and good company. Reed and I each ordered tasting flights of Kona beer; I focused my attention on the dark  end of the spectrum – stouts, porters and browns. Oh, and what a brown! Kona Koko Brown is my new favorite brown ale, and maybe even beer in general. It tastes like toffee - need I say more? Hopefully I can find it in San Diego, apparently they only bottle it for part of the year. They do all the actual brewing on the Big Island – one more incentive to get back there. I went in high school, and it was my favorite of the islands I visited; snorkeling there was the impetus to start diving, the vast stretches of underwater scenery tempting me further and further from shore, and the volcanic landscape also left a lasting impression.
The rest of the evening was spent with some of my fellow shipmates, drinking rum and POG (passion orange guava juice, a research vessel staple) on the beach and stargazing with the help of an iPhone app. A pretty much perfect day.  
Our plans for the next (and last) day involved renting a car in Waikiki and spending the day along the north shore. On our 5-block walk to pick up the car, we passed at least a dozen ABC stores, which are convenience stores akin to 7-11. Having come from Japan, a land that loves its convenience stores and has one on every block, this didn't seem too out of place - but it is a strange phenomenon. They all sell slightly different things, which we found out while trying to buy some of the Kona Koko Brown and other supplies for our day trip. I think it took stops at 5 different ABC stores before we had everything we needed for the day. We set out with a few of my coworkers who were also ready to get out of Waikiki, and made our way across the island, Reed at the helm (there's nothing like 2 months of not driving to quell my confidence, especially considering in Japan they drive on the left). We stopped along the way to visit turtles hauled up on the beach and scope out Waimea Bay, which had poor visibility for snorkeling but that didn't stop some people from jumping off a large rock into the water while the rest of us did some sun worshiping. Our next destination was the cluster of food trucks near Kahuku for a late lunch, one I'd been dreaming about for weeks. Sitting in the shade eating 3 flavors of shrimp (garlic, ginger and lemon pepper) and drinking my new favorite beer was as close to a perfect picnic as I can imagine. 
...good food, good beer and good company.
We continued the drive along the windward coast, took the Pali Highway through the mountains into Honolulu and finished the day with a hike to Ala Moana Falls. Though buggy and muddy, hiking the trail through a beautiful jungle was worth doing. I was so sweaty by the time we reached the end that I contemplated a dip in the pool below the falls, despite all the warning signs not to do so. A few people were clearly more hot than cautious and there was even a happy doggie swimming around, howling at the rocks, which made me smile. On our way back into Waikiki we stopped at Leonard's for malasadas and then returned the car and took the beach route back to our hotel, getting in one last swim. Quickly abandoning any plans to go out, Reed and I ordered pizza and watched SportsCenter in our hotel room. A bit boring perhaps, considering the endless options right outside our door, but it’s amazing how comforting something so familiar can be after 60+ days without it.
All in all, it was a fantastic trip! I'm so pleased with all we managed to see and do in just three days. It was a welcome pause after so many days at work, and refreshed me for the 24 more days at sea before my next day off. The warm breeze and total relaxation come back to me quite easily when I close my eyes for a moment of peace. I'm back on the ship now, six days from San Diego. I can't wait to be home (I've been gone since March 10) and am looking forward to spending a long summer at home.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Almost-local Brewery Spotlight - The Bruery

Even though The Bruery is only 4 years old, this felt like a long overdue visit.  Reed and I, along with some friends, made the drive up to Orange County to check out both the tasting room and Provisions, a fancy bottle shop and cafe run by the same people. The two locations could hardly be more different, and I loved them both.
Our first stop was Provisions in "old town" Orange, a street packed with cutesy shops and boutiques. The storefront reminded me a lot of the bottle shop / restaurant combinations we loved in Australia and I had never really seen closer to home (though 3rd Corner is a delightful wine-only exception). Reed's first impression was that the place was "pretentious" which I noted but dismissed. Calling anyone pretentious is rich coming from someone who works at Stone and totally buys into their "you're not worthy" mantra. My first impression was that I loved everything about it except the 90 minute drive from my house.  
A familiar sight - Reed wearing a beer shirt sampling a flight.
On offer are flights and pours of Bruery beers of course, but also a small but excellent selection of wine and cheese plates. One of my frequent complaints about places with extensive alcohol menus is their lack of helpful descriptions. This place is a welcome exception, with the beer menu organized by flavors, much like many wine menus. I found this very helpful in deciding what to order, and it turned out to be necessary here as the people behind the counter seemed uninterested or unable to help us make decisions about what to try. This poor service also carried over to the attached market, where we did some bottle shopping before leaving. The beers are organized by type (again like with wine), which I'd never seen before. I wonder which came first, the customer-empowering organization of the menu and bottle shop - or the poor customer service.

Enough negativity - we really did all enjoy ourselves immensely. Some notes on the beers themselves:
Otiose: a sour brown ale fermented with guava, this reminded me a lot of one of my favorite beers, the Duchesse.
Sans Pagaie: a sour blonde ale barrel aged with cherries, I found this beer to taste like a complete cherry pie with just the right amount of sweet and tart fruit along with a yeasty "crust" flavor even - delicious!
Smoking Wood: an imperial smoked porter aged in whiskey barrels, it is very smoky! The online description lists cherrywood, beachwood and rye malts as ingredients, so now I want to try some other beers with these as I so enjoy the smoky beer trend.
Fruet: brewed for their 4th anniversary celebration, this is really more of an after dinner drink. At 15.5% ABV, it would not feel out of place to don a smoking jacket and drink this from a snifter.

For lunch we walked up the street to Bruxie, a busy place that serves sandwiches on crisp waffles instead of bread, along with sweet waffle sandwiches for dessert. So good! This fantastic find will definitely be a part of every visit to the Bruery from now on.

Strawberry creme brulee for dessert.
Fried chicken for lunch.

A 10 minute drive away is the actually brewery and tasting room, located in an industrial section of Placentia. We arrived right as they opened for the afternoon and within 20 minutes every seat was taken and there was a line out the door.

Brewery and tasting room.
Different beers are on tap here, all more wacky combinations of ingredients like a smoked porter with Vermont maple syrup or a pumpkin milk stout. For what it's worth, the Burly Gourd is the first time Reed has approved of a pumpkin beer, I think it was the stout base (most are just pale ales); this beer tasted like spicy pumpkin pie with whipped cream on it, just like I make for the holidays.
Reed tried every single thing on the board at the brewery and we all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves amidst the usual crowd of bros, hipsters and hockey enthusiasts. A food truck parked outside, enticing us to stay as long as we pleased. After a full day, we drove (well, I drove while some dozed) south down the 5 and Reed summed up his feelings on what the Bruery has to offer - it is the Ben and Jerry's of craft beer, he said. They have decadent combinations of ingredients and clearly aren't afraid to try out new flavors. They are specialty almost to the point of gimmicky. But sometimes you just want a really good vanilla.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Not-so-local Hangout: Lion's Pride

Note: This is a long overdue post! This visit took place in October.

Spoiler alert - Reed and I both loved this place. It made me declare myself a fellow beer snob (for a night at least) and he still says it's his favorite bar, even though it's 3,000 miles away from where we live. And we're not the only ones, it has a 100 point rating on Beer Advocate. Pretty much the only thing we could complain about was the weather, which decided to deliver the first storm of the season shortly after we arrived and didn't let up until well after we were tucked away in bed, dreaming of creme brulee - but I'll get to that. 
We spent the whole day out-running the storm by driving north (which seems illogical, I know - but for the most part it worked). We'd left Massachusetts before noon and the friend we were staying with there said it started snowing 2 hours later and didn't stop until 22 inches had fallen and their power was out. Yikes! We drove through much of New Hampshire, enjoying peak fall foliage and watching the sky get darker and darker. Lion's Pride is a non-descript building on a non-descript road lined with the types of businesses you'd expect along a highway. In fact I wouldn't be surprised to hear that Lion's Pride used to be a Denny's or, more likely, a Dunkin' Donuts. 
Inside it was warm and cozy and we settled in at the bar to wait for the rest of the group. It took us 15 minutes to decide what to order first.
35 beers on tap and the menu tended more towards the poetic rather than focusing on the style of beer. A lot of places with extensive beer lists seem to do this and it bothers me, I'd much prefer a sentence or two about each offering. Stone is an obvious local example - there's simply too much on the menu to expect your server to be able to give you a description and tasting notes so I'm often left Google-ing so I don't end up with a $10 beer I don't like. But at Lion's Pride it hardly mattered because the guy behind the bar, Ryan, was a knowledgeable and friendly resource at our disposal. He knew everything, and he wanted to share it with us so that our experience was a fantastic adventure - the very definition of exemplary customer service.

And this is just what's on tap...
As more people joined our group I actually got less social as I focused on what to order next. I made a list in my notebook and wanted to make sure I got through it all. It began to snow outside. A lot. We went out to take pictures, it's such a novelty for us SoCal people. And I began to worry about the inevitable drive to my friend's house. In most beer bar situations I'm happy to be the designated driver, but this place was different...I was only part way through my list! Unfortunately, I was the only one authorized to drive the rental car so there was no haggling to be done. So as a compromise (if you can call it that, Reed was in a win-win situation) we stayed for 6 hours so I could get through that list and be sober to drive across the fjords of Maine in a blizzard. 
Here's a rundown of the highlights: 
Schlenkerla Krausen: Campfire in a glass! This was actually one of Reed's selections and I found it very strange that beer could smell and taste so smoky. I'd like to try it again now and compare it with Ballast Point's Smoked Lager. I've never paired a smoky beer like this with some BBQ, but I assume it would be fantastic. Perhaps at our next beer pairing dinner...
Nuova Mattina: What a saison! Brewed in Italy with ginger and chamomile (amongst other ingredients) this beer is downright delicious. It tastes like a combination of beer and tea and, now that I know more, I would like to try it again - at room temperature.
Pannepot Wild: A 10% ABV powerhouse that smacks of cognac and sherry, this Belgian quad is almost more of an after dinner drink than a beer. I am a fan of brettanomyces yeast (the "wild" in the name) in general and, if money were no object, I would buy 5 bottles of this beer and open one each year to see what's changed. Perhaps it's the biologist in me (or the wine lover), but I like the thought of something being alive in my beer, eating away at the sugars and changing the flavors.
B. Nektar Vanilla Cinnamon Mead: I know, I know - mead beer but this was the perfect nightcap. #36 on the tap list of 35 offerings (see menu above), it was liquid creme brulee. I am still thinking about this mead (they don't distribute to California). Sitting in such a cozy environment, high on my new-found appreciation of what beer could do, while watching snow fall out the window and sipping a glass of this to end the evening - well, it was just perfect. 

Sadly, it sounds as though our amazing server Ryan no longer works at Lion's Pride and there's rumors that it's gone downhill a bit. At least Reed and I will always have that one visit, a night to remember if ever there was one.

My new favorite picture of us.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


I made the perhaps overly ambitious resolution for 2012 to visit all San Diego breweries, and I'm slowly whittling away at the list. Though amazing, my 2+ month ocean crossing from South Africa to Australia means that I am behind pace. Together with some friends at work, I have been hitting up the breweries in the Miramar / Mira Mesa area recently, some of which I had never been to before. Here's a quick round-up of my visits so far.

Green Flash
A sentimental favorite, as the place to first employ Reed in the beer industry, Green Flash never disappoints. An after work visit found us at a picnic table in their twinkly-light-filled patio area that evokes that familiar pleasantness of your own backyard. Plus there's one of San Diego's many amazing food trucks parked there more often than not, so it's hard not to get comfortable and stay awhile. And I haven't even mentioned beer yet. Though offerings vary, they always have 10+ options to choose from. Green Flash's barleywine is still my favorite, the older the better, and they usually have that on tap along with a selection of their distinct hoppy Belgian concoctions. Rayon Vert, a Belgian pale ale, and Linchpin, a white IPA, were new to me on this particular visit. Both are of course a bit hoppy for my taste, but quite interesting and definitely worth a taste for those of you who can handle, or even like, the bitter mixed in with that distinct Belgian yeast flavor. The Rayon Vert is a remake of the not-so-popular (though I like it and think it ages well) Treasure Chest, so I'll be interested to try it again each time I visit. Next time I stop in I definitely want to take their brewery tour. 

Heart lacing.

Ballast Point
A new one for me, and I must say that I was blown away by their selection. To be honest, all I knew before going was that their beers were named after fish, that my beer snob friends will just not shut up about Sculpin IPA, and I'd heard rumors that they were paid $1 million for the rights to the word yellowtail by the Australian winemaker (who, upon further research, seem the litigious type). So imagine my surprise when confronted with their tasting menu of 20 beers, including a truly inspired curry stout and a delicious smoked lager that dragged up memories of campfires past. I wrote down in my notebook that the lager was so flavor-infused that I imagined the brewer squirting liquid smoke into the vats of beer, it seems impossible that malt can do so much. A friend and I went back a few weeks later to procure a growler of the curry stout and had it for dinner with naan - truly a well balanced meal. Ballast Point's tasting room feels like a bar, it's crowded and loud and hard to get the attention of the servers. The production side is all hidden from view, though they give frequent tours. The large and varied selection, viewable online, along with a reasonable $5 for three 4oz tasters, will definitely tempt me back in for future visits. They also run a home brew store in Linda Vista that I have yet to visit, though I hear they do a lot of tasting events there as well.

They've gone through a bit of a makeover since I was there last, which I believe was only in January. The tasting room has been painted and is quite fancy, more of a restaurant feel to it than the warehouse vibe of Green Flash or Hess. The tinier than expected brewhouse is on display and I wonder at their ability to churn out (and bottle!) so many types of beer, all of unbelievable quality and distinction. Before my first visit I imagined them to be more the size of Karl Strauss, just without the restaurant to distract them from making amazing beer (more on this theme in a future post). Our group included at least one IPA fanatic who happily sipped away at his 12 ounce pour while the rest of us ran all over the tasting menu via the $1 four ounce options. Though their Nut Brown is my favorite brown ale of all time (so far), I walked away with a growler of the Grand Cru, a deliciously rich and sweet Belgian-style ale.

Rough Draft tasting room / brewhouse.

Rough Draft
This new-to-the-scene brewery has my favorite San Diego tasting room (so far), it only took one visit to fall in love with the cozy space. A long bar, beautiful tables with succulent centerpieces, and a living room-like space with couches and a cool warehouse-inspired coffee table (beer table?) are all just roped off from the brewhouse and fermenter tanks. I prefer this kind of setup, where tours aren't really necessary, rather than a separation of production and consumption. I like the idea that when I'm kicking back enjoying a beer (or five), the brewing staff can all be doing the same thing, none of this around-the-clock business. On the evening I visited, the owner was in fact doing just that. He is clearly an IPA-lover, like many people I know. Three of the nine beers on tap were IPAs, with the rest of the list consisting of a blonde, amber, red, pale ale and a rye. Obviously missing (to me at least) was a dark beer of any kind, no brown or stout or porter, though I was assured that their first is in the tanks already. The plan, I take it, is to have some fun with the recipes and see where things end up based on popularity in the tasting room. This is novel to me, though I suppose every brewery probably goes through this process at the beginning, I've just never felt like I was a part of it. I've noticed a theme to the tasting rooms that I enjoy always need a return visit. There's always something they're talking about that's almost ready, the lineup is always different and with Rough Draft it goes the one step further where you feel like your opinion and feedback will help drive their decisions and expansion.

Up next.....
It will take multiple trips to get to all the San Marcos / Escondido area breweries, but I'm sure I can find willing participants. A repeat visit to Hess is always necessary, I'm headed there today with my trusty chocolate cream cheese cupcakes that pair so nicely with their stout.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Beer pairing dinner extravaganza

A few weeks ago Reed and I had some good friends over for a beer pairing dinner. It was pretty epic - Reed matched 8 different beers to a 3-course meal. Here's the menu (links go to Beer Advocate).
1. Chipotle cranberry cheddar with Stone IPA
2. Scharfe Maxx (think Swiss & Gruyere) with Alaskan Smoked Porter
3. Prima Donna (gouda) with Alesmith Nautical Nut Brown
Main Course:
Grilled pork tenderloin with Green Flash and St. Feuillien Biere de L'Amitie
Grilled shrimp in jerk sauce with Green Flash and Founder's Linchpin White IPA
Grilled squash, bell peppers and portobello mushrooms with Duvel
Raspberry fresh fruit pie with Green Flash Treasure Chest 
Black bottomed cupcakes with Hess Ex Umbris

Turns out we have 11 unique tasting-size (~4oz) glasses, so each person had their own for the night, as long as they could remember which was there's. 

During the cheese course Reed also put out some sliced pineapple for trying along with the IPA, as he'd heard that the combination changes the flavor of the beer. In case you're skeptical, I offer you this tidbit - I actually went back for seconds on the IPA, an up to that point unheard of phenomenon! The bitterness of the hops that dissuades me from liking a lot of beer was basically gone, leaving the smooth flavors to calm the bite of the chipotle in the cheddar. It was a very tasty combination. 
I had also made bread using Stone smoked porter, which caved in a bit on top but had a delicious flavor, which is what counts.

I liked the Scharfe Maxx cheese well enough when I tried it in the shop, neither Reed nor I particularly like stinky cheeses but this one walked that fine line. Or it did until it was paired with the Alaskan smoked porter! After a sip of the delicious beer, the cheese tasted too stinky by far. Everyone in the group noticed the change, though most of our guests like stinky cheese and so had a positive response. I, however, could no longer eat the cheese - and the beer actually didn't taste as good to me anymore either, it was a complicated mix of flavors that overwhelming reminded me of feet. It was a very strange phenomenon, and an example of the surprising fact that drinking beer while eating cheese caused me to like both less. In this case, two rights made a wrong - at least for me.
The last cheese and beer pairing was my favorite, a gouda with my favorite brown ale. Predictably, the beer brought out a deeper smoked and nutty flavor to the already delicious, though subtle, cheese. It was interesting, all standing around a table in my backyard, to discuss how each of us felt about the pairings and how we could all have such different reactions to the same combinations.
Next up we moved inside, Reed had grilled up an excellent selection of meats and veggies and this, more than the other courses, called for mixing up the pairings. The pork and shrimp had been marinating all day in garlic, balsamic vinegar and various herbs while I had made an orange juice and cinnamon concoction for the veggies.
Now this is about where I stopped taking notes, between my hostessing and drinking duties it was just not going to happen. I do remember really enjoying all of these beers, and also every aspect of the dinner. Reed held court at one end of the table doling out the beers in order while everyone enjoyed their meals. I think he chose very drinkable beers since he grilled dinner. It seems to be true for wines as well that the suggested pairings for grilled seafood and white meats are the ones you can also just enjoy a glass of by itself. I do remember wishing for 3 tasting glasses at this point so I could have tried all the beers on their own before eating.

After an extended period of time where we all shared our reactions, and then had time to digest (and go back for more beer), it was time for dessert! I made both desserts from favorite recipes from my mom's kitchen. Up first, a fresh raspberry and cream pie in a graham cracker crust. I don't make this pie for just anyone, you have to be somebody special in my life to get it.
Back when Reed worked at Green Flash they made and bottled this Belgian pale ale and he bought a case, opening one from time to time to see how it's aged. It doesn't seem too popular on Beer Advocate, with some people describing it as having a band-aid like taste (gross!), and even the people at the tasting room seem to have given up on it. Reed had requested that I make the fresh fruit pie specifically with raspberries, and for good reason it turns out. It was a fantastic pairing, and very popular with our guests as well. The beer itself gets more sour with age and has a fine flavor already in my opinion. But when paired with a perfect balance (if I do say so myself) of tart and sweet in the pie, it was downright delicious! The flavors blended together, making the beer taste fruitier and creamier than it had just moments before. And that was only the first round of dessert!
Next up was chocolate and cream cheese cupcakes with Hess' stout. I like their stout well enough as is, it's very rich and has bold chocolate and coffee notes. The general consensus was that it was the perfect complement to the cupcakes (which are also excellent unaccompanied). Even at the end of such an indulgent evening, more than one person went back for seconds on this combination. I have also decided that next time I visit Hess (which will hopefully be next week) I will bring a batch of these cupcakes with me to share with the other patrons. I should call ahead and make sure they'll have the stout on tap...maybe even with nitro!

All in all, it was a wonderful evening full of mostly good surprises. I highly suggest you find yourself a group of friends who enjoy trying new things and talking about the experience, and host your own beer pairing dinner! Reed and I will definitely be hosting another round later this summer. Word to the wise - avoid going back for seconds on beer and food and you'll enjoy the experience more (and it makes the next day much more pleasant).

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Beer in a wine glass

We have too much beer in our house. It's a good problem to have, I know, but it does still bother me from time to time. Luckily there is an easy and fun solution, and Reed has been adding beer pairings to pretty much everything recently in order to ease my twitchy aversion to anything resembling hoarding. Last night he grilled teriyaki turkey burgers and pineapple and paired it with yet another Stone collaboration beer: El Camino (un)Real Black Ale, which was originally made in 2010, aged since then in "virgin American oak barrels". The other breweries involved are Firestone Walker in Paso Robles and 21st Amendment in San Francisco, both of which are along the El Camino Real, the old road connecting the California missions, which is a reference you probably only know if you grew up here.
Anyway, Reed pouring me beer is nothing new, especially since most of our "excess" is in 22oz bottles and he only rarely opens one of those on his own. What made last night different was what he poured the beer into. When I saw the wine glass full of beer, a few thoughts entered my mind: "Did he hit his head at work today?" "Perhaps this is actually an alien wearing a Reed suit" and other similar quandaries, all of which seemed plausible considering the pictures I'd seen earlier in the day of the new Stone brewhouse being delivered (check them out and tell me that doesn't look like an alien encounter). Reed assured me, however, that he had poured the beer into wine glasses on purpose, so that we could fully appreciate the aroma while drinking it. We have been having a discussion off and on about whether he can really taste and smell all the myriad things he rattles off when trying a new beer, with me generally arguing that he's full of it while he maintains that "no really, can't you taste those California figs and dry cedar?" But I digress. This was intended to be a quick post with a few pictures and tasting notes. So let's get to that.    

What's not to like?
This is a delicious beer! I never had any of the original run, before the barrel aging, so I don't have that to compare it to. But the fact that this was aged in virgin barrels surprised me, because it definitely has that bourbon bite to it, that thick sweetness you can indeed smell on your way to the glass for the first taste. I have always assumed that came from the years of holding bourbon, not that the flavor is already in the oak. Which leads me to a few questions. Is that bourbon flavor really just oak flavor? What would bourbon taste like if it was made in steel? Further study is needed, I'm nothing if not a scientist.

Part 2 of the evening: dessert! A friend had given us a bottle of Rogue's Chocolate Stout recently when we had him over for our beer-pairing dinner (more on that in a not-so-distant future post). Needless to say, he now has a standing invitation and this is my new favorite stout. Unlike the others I've had which get their chocolate flavor from malt, this one also has "natural chocolate flavoring" on the ingredient list (along with "Free Range Coastal Waters," which both amused me and caused me to roll my eyes). This beer is very smooth and I would love to try it on draught with nitro, as I've yet to meet a stout that's not made even better that way. Or perhaps on cask? The flavors did evolve as it warmed up, so that would be a neat experiment as well. My very favorite characteristic about Rogue's chocolate stout is that there's none of that pesky coffee flavor lurking about. I hate the smell/taste/very idea of coffee. Not in a judgmental way, as I can clearly see that I am outnumbered and pretty much everyone in my profession and my reality at large is addicted to the stuff. But the smell nauseates me. It is not allowed in my car at any time, and Reed gets no kisses if it's on his breath. Though difficult, I had accepted the fact that chocolate stouts invariably have coffee notes to them and so I would never truly love one. Reed's continuing beer education has taught me never to say never.  
Beagle snout photobomb!