Welcome back to another edition of Craft Beer Crosscut. Peaks and Pints’ carefully calibrated algorithms constantly collect data to produce the best daily craft beer flights. Today, we don’t need no stickin’ algorithms. It’s National S’mores Day. Today’s beer flight writes itself, as they say. How much do you love the marshmallow, chocolate, graham combo? Bet if we throw in beer, it’ll make it more dear. Indeed, s’mores are a simple backyard pleasure (unless you live in the core of the sun like our summer with burn bans galore) so we’re pleased to have another excuse to get our marshmallow toast on today. Traditional s’mores with golden marshmallows over campfires are lovely. But to celebrate an unofficial holiday on a Thursday in Tacoma, we’ll take Craft Beer Crosscut 8.10.17: A Flight of National Smores Day with Firestone Walker.
5.5% ABV, 27 IBU
Nitro beer was originally popularized as a way to mimic the classic British cask ale experience, which is known for delivering a thick creamy head and an ultra-smooth mouthfeel with less carbonation. When a nitro beer is poured, it is pushed through a dedicated “sparkler” nozzle on the tap that sheers the liquid and knocks the nitrogen out of solution. Firestone Walker Brewing Co.’s Velvet Merlin oatmeal stout transforms into a mindblowing mouthful when it becomes Nitro Merlin Milk Stout. The new ingredient is lactose, a.k.a. milk sugar. When Velvet Merlin is brewed with milk sugar to create Nitro Merlin Milk Stout, the effect is similar to adding cream to your dark roasted coffee. With a traditional dry stout like Velvet Merlin, you’re using these roasted barleys that add astringency, with a fairly high hopping rate that adds bitterness. But when you add milk sugar into the mix, you counterbalance those more astringent qualities. It’s a lot like adding cream to your dark roasted coffee, but it’s an oatmeal stout with ribbons of French silk chocolate and mocha latte richness.
5% ABV, 28 IBU
OK, this isn’t a Firestone Walker beer. But, hey, Firestone Walker co-founder David Walker is British and Samuel Smith’s Organic Chocolate Stout is perfect for National S’mores Day. Samuel Smith’s has always brewed the old-fashioned way and the British operation still pulls water from its original well dug in 1758. Its Organic Chocolate Stout pours dark brown with a thin, khaki head. Breathe in the sweet milk chocolate, roasted malts, chocolate malt balls and a touch of vanilla. It’s velvety and delicious, with creamy chocolate milk, chocolate syrup and cocoa powder dancing on the tongue. Caramel, whipped cream, marshmallows and vanilla try to cut in.
8.5% ABV, 33 IBU
Its coffee, roasty, dark chocolate character defines Firestone Walker’s Velvet Merlin. Aged for about a year in retired bourbon barrels, including those from Heaven Hill and Four Roses distilleries, and it’s transformed into Velvet Merkin. After the aromatic opera of charred oak, buttery vanilla and roasty, chocolatey goodness, it would be hard for any flavor to live up to. Merkin makes an attempt, with sweet toffee and vanilla bean followed by definite alcohol notes and oodles of vinous new oak. A simple wave of chocolate rolls in mid-palate; notes of sweet toffee settle in the back; soft oats join after the swallow. Very smooth oatmeal malt makes this so decadent to sip.
13.2% ABV, 44 IBU
Bravo was the first beer matured in retired spirits barrels by Firestone Walker’s Brewmaster Matt Brynildson in 2004, during the experimental stages of what would become the California brewery’s inaugural Anniversary Ale. Balancing rich toasty and chocolate malt flavors with a gentle balance of Tettnanger hops, Bravo is brewed to showcase barrel flavors with massive bourbon barrel notes that morph as the beer warms in the glass. A lean, simple brown brewed to showcase barrel flavors — caramel, cocoa, bourbon, wood, vanilla and toffee — with some light earthy notes. One of the driest beers in the Vintage Reserve series, it’s also a crucial component in the annual blending of Firestone Walker’s Anniversary Ale and helps balance out some of the sticky sweet components.
13.5% ABV, 42 IBU
One of Firestone Walker Brewing Co.’s annual Proprietor’s Vintage Series releases, Sucaba is a 13.4 percent ABV English barleywine brewed with Munton’s pale, crisp Maris Otter pale, Munich, dark and light crystal and chocolate malts along with spalter select hops before being aged in bourbon barrels. Big, boozy bourbon and American oak aromas combine with soft chocolate malty undertones. Aroma offers chocolate, roast malt, vanilla and caramel tones. Flavor follow the nose with rich, almost fudgey toffee, caramel, brown sugar, toasted notes, slight chocolate, lots of vanilla from the oak, plus dried and candied figs. A touch of booze and drying from the oak counteract the sweetness in the finish, but it’s still a rich, sweet beer with a full mouthfeel and soft carbonation.