Introduction to The Session
The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts the Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry.
The theme is “Snowed In,” and I want it to be open-ended. It’s the first week of February—we are solidly in the grip of the winter, which means hunkering down from the cold and, depending on where you live, waiting for warmer days to thaw out the ice and snow. But perhaps it’s one of those winters, where the snow starts falling… and falling… and falling some more, and the next thing you know, schools are closed, there’s four or more feet of snow on the ground—and you are effectively snowed in and not going anywhere.
Jon Abernathy, this month’s host, offered a variety of topics to stir the creative process. The one that was close to my heart was “What style(s) of beer do you prefer for this cold weather?” And with that in mind, and a record snow fall in the making, I took on the task of writing and drinking—in no particular order. So with this in mind, I began to dig in… And then dig out!
An interesting concept that we are sometimes familiar with here in Maryland Eastern Shore. But interestingly enough we just experienced a record-setting snowfall. So this months topic is right on.
So if I had to pick one beer to be snowed in with – which I was snowed in but didn't have to choose just one beer – it would be Russian Imperial Stout. I've always love the style for many reasons but being snowed in really cause me to focus on those highlights.
Some of my all-time favorite beers are found in this style include North Coast Old Rasputin, Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Chocolate Stout, Stone’s Russian Imperial Stout, Samuel Smith’s Imperial Stout and Dogfish Head Brewery World Wide Stout.
Others that I'm looking forward to drinking some day are the classics, Dark Lord Imperial Stout from 3 Floyds Brewing and Parabola from Firestone Walker Brewing.
The one that had recently that just blew me away was the Bell’s Expedition Stout. Bell’s is a brewery that recently started shipping to Maryland. Whenever I was fortunate enough to travel to the upper Midwest I would come in contact with some of their beer, particularly the Two Hearted Ale, but not many of their other beers. It was during this most recent snowstorm that I opened a bottle of the Expedition Stout that I had been planning on aging. Well, I was going to drink a couple and age the others.
There are times when you have a beer and you simply enjoy it. And there are other beers that from the first sip enters your mouth you know it is one you will remember and being having again and again, recommending to others, and yes, even writing about.
First, this is a mature beer. It is deep in color and in taste, with many layers of bitter chocolate, espresso, licorice and a warming boozy effect at 10.5% ABV. It scores 94 pts and the Bros give it 98 pts on Beer Advocate.
Expedition Stout offers immensely complex flavors crafted specifically with vintage aging in mind, as its profile will continue to mature and develop over the years. A huge malt body is matched to a heady blend of chocolate, dark fruits, and other aromas. Intensely bitter in its early months, the flavors will slowly meld and grow in depth as the beer ages.
A Long Winter’s Nap
So the snow has come and gone. A couple days of shoveling works up a thirst that must be quenched. Bell’s description for the Expedition Stout is that the shelf Life is “Unlimited” with Winter availability. I recently read, and highly recommend, Patrick Dawson’s excellent book on aging beer entitled Vintage Beer. As expected, this one fits the profile for aging perfectly. I still have five more of my Bell’s in the beer fridge. Therefore, I really must have another before putting them away in my cellar for their long winter’s nap.