If you’ve ever read this website, you know that reading posts often (okay, always) involves a time commitment of upwards of 25 – 30 minutes. I’m going to try to whittle that down to maybe 6 – 8, this time and advise you to use the rest of those saved minutes to drive down to your nearest beer shop and BUY this beer:

Double Mountain Brewery & Cidery, in beautiful Hood River, Oregon, partnered with Portland’s sublime Ranger Chocolates to make a Christmas gift for NW beer fans: a big, rib-sticking Chocolate Stout.

Stout and chocolate…I mean, what’s not to like? Turns out, plenty. There are a ton o’ chocolate dark ales around and have been for a decades or more. And, honestly, MOST of these tend to one of two extremes of imbalance. They either taste like a Stout (usually a rather wimpy one) with so little chocolate flavor you have to sit and hunt for it or, in the case of the current sad trend of what are called “pastry Stouts”, taste like a cup of chilled cocoa with a bit of beer in it. I can count on one hand the examples of beers labelled “Chocolate Stout” that actually worked as an ale and chocolate.

It bears noting that chocolate flavor is a naturally-occurring result of the dark-roasted malts – called, conveniently, “chocolate malts” – used in making Stouts. Using more of the roasted grains, darker roasts, and even using rye or wheat, instead of the usual barley, can vary the flavors widely but for pure hedonistic chocolate oomph, brewers infuse the beer with real chocolate. Enter Ranger, which has a real and growing rep as one of PDX’s primary chocolatiers, and Double Mountain, which has traditionally known its way around a batch o’ Stout and you get this…which is gonna make you all warm and runny, IF you are of a certain beer persuasion.

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You a beer fan who loves those thick, uber-sweet pastry Stouts, with the marshmallows and tiramisu and Snickers bars in it? Stop reading, now. This is NOT that. Whether it was intentional or not, somehow this ale winds up reminding me fairly powerfully of what is, every year, maybe my Stout of choice for repeated pleasure drinking: Lost Abbey “Serpent”. Yeah, yeah, my Abyss fixation. The Abyss is my favorite liquid ever but I could not nor would I burn through a case of it every holiday season. I like to let it age and it’s BIG, so I enjoy sparingly. WHEN I CAN FIND IT(!), I buy nearly a case of Serpent and drink that when I want a perfectly satisfying Stout…which is often. But by whatever quirk of providence, Double Mountain & Ranger Chocolate Present Chocolate Stout winds up scratching that same itch. My wife loathes sweet beers and she took one sip and said, “Oh, MAN!” And asked me to get more.

Chocolate, of course, dominates but it’s the kind of chocolate that makes this puppy howl. The effect is solidly bittersweet. It is NOT a sweet style of Stout. Nor is it what is commonly referred to as a “Dry Stout” or “Irish Stout” which, at least in the vast majority of American versions, is fairly wimpy. Not here. The proper term is “dry” but the underlying richness and CHOCOLATE presence is off the charts. Lurking behind the CHOCOLATE are roasty nuts, coffee, a flattering dash of char, caramel, black cherries, molasses, and assorted fruit leathers. Just as important, the hops used in this baby mesh perfectly – and I mean absolutely seamlessly – with the bitterness of the chocolate used. It is very difficult to detect where the chocolate bitter and the hops bitter diverge and that, folks, is totally artful. According to DM brewer Malachi Vanderpuye, “We partnered with our friends at Ranger because beer is always better when it’s made with chocolate.” Uh…okay. (I’m not holding my breath for his chocolate Pilsner but whatever.) Not really true as a blanket statement but if that was the impetus for Malachi to turn out this gem, good on him and I hope he does it again, frequently.

This is a fine, SERIOUS seasonal Stout, with BODY (No pun intended) for days, depth, richness, and not a bit of pandering to the craft newbie crowd who insist on dragging their childhood candy habits into their adult beer fandom. It’s somehow only 6.8% ABV and this big? Sign me up.

This may well suit nobody but confirmed, veteran (okay, old) beer freaks but…SO!? We get to enjoy beers, too. And you will, even if your “oldness” is in terms of experience and not necessarily the calendar. 97 Points

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Speak yer piece, Pilgrim.

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