Today I had a glass of the Breakfast Stout I brewed on January 22nd, 2011. It isn’t really a “first tasting,” because I have already drank several of these. But today was the first time I bothered to take reviewer’s notes.
Appearance: Darker’n a black steer’s tookus on a moonless prairie night. This beer is pitch black. Held up to the light, it still looks black; no red comes through at the edges. A thin, less-than-one-finger head forms with a somewhat vigorous pour. The head is a good looking tan color made up of small, tight bubbles. The head looks like crema atop a freshly-pulled shot of espresso. Little head retention. Good lacing for the retention level, though.
Smell: Sweet and smokey. Chocolate comes through well. Coffee is strong but does not dominate. Hints of bacon and anise.
Taste: Much dryer than it smells. Smells sweet, tastes dry. A bit acidic. The chocolate is there in the finish, but it doesn’t come through as strongly as it does in the smell. The coffee dominates the taste, but it is not overwhelming. I think I’m getting some fusel alcohols, but they’re not over the top. The alcohol is not burning or hot; you wouldn’t guess this was an 8+% beer. As the beer warms up, the fusel flavors dissipate and the coffee flavor becomes more distinguished – meaning the coffee starts to taste like a cup of good Sumatra and not just “general coffee flavor.”
Mouthfeel: A full bodied, creamy mouthfeel. More carbonation than the lack of head would lead you to expect.
Drinkability: This beer is good. It pairs fantastically with chocolate cake or brownies. After I drink one, I’d gladly have another… if I don’t have to go to work the next day. Two of these and you’re pretty happy. This beer, however, is not perfect. The fusel alcohols, while not overwhelming, are a bit of a spoiler. The beer doesn’t exactly taste solventy, but I feel that I can notice the fusels and the beer would be better without them.
I am happy with the recipe I used for this beer. The next time I brew it, I might up the cacoa nibs by 20% or maybe let the beer sit on them for an additional week to kick the chocolate flavor up a bit. I might also lower the amount of coffee used, but not by much – maybe 15 or 20%. The lack of head and head retention is typical for an oatmeal stout. The high fat content of oatmeal causes bubbles to not want to form, and not last when they do form. The science behind it is the same as why a baker must ensure that not one spec of yolk makes it into the egg whites she’ll be whipping to make a meringue.
The only problem this beer really has, in my opinion, is that it was fermented with a lack of temperature control. The temps neared 80°F during the fermentation, and the fermentation completed in under two days. It went too hot and too fast. I will brew this again in the fall to have it ready for the holiday season, and now that I have the fermentation chamber, I imagine it will be tip-top next time ’round.