A Winter Stout Showdown – Aussies v World

10 Stouts – 5 Australian & 5 International, faced off in a battle for black beer supremacy at Carwyn Cellars last week. A small group of beer enthusiasts gathered to taste-off this epic lineup of big dark beers. The early money was on the Internationals to take out the victory. Could the Aussies pull off the upset?Round 1  – 4 Pines Stout v Sierra Nevada Stout

The 4 Pines Stouth is a dry Irish-style stout, smooth and roasty, clocking in at a sessionable 5%. I do like this beer but I’m just not sure why I’d buy this instead of the Cooper’s Foreign Extra Stout.

The Sierra Nevada Stout packs more flavour, courtesy of a healthy dose of hops, but I prefer my stouts to be ‘stout-y’ with lots of chocolate, coffee and roasty flavours and I feel like the hops overwhelm those flavours here.

Verdict: I voted 4 Pines but the points went to Sierra Nevada. The internationals are off to a good start.

Round 2 – Bootleg Oatmeal Stout v Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout

I do like Bootleg’s Black IPA, it’s a solid beer that’s hoppy but balanced, but their Oatmeal Stout… not so much. I really didn’t enjoy the overpowering licorice aromas. The beer was described by some as a bit ‘medicinal’ and was lacking in body.

Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout is an absolute classic and one of my favourite winter beers. This one tasted more oat-y than I remember past tastings, but still had that lovely velvety mouthfeel and a rich smooth taste.

Verdict: It was unanimous, Samuel Smith in a landslide, and the Aussies are in early trouble.

Round 3 – Murrays Oak Aged Heart of Darkness v Moa Imperial Stout

In this round we moved into barrel-aged Imperial Stouts. For those wondering, what’s the point of all this barrel-ageing business, I would recommend drinking the Heart of Darkness and Oak Aged Heart of Darkness side by side, as they are really different beers.

For me, the oak barrel-aged edition of Heart of Darkness has a lot more complexity and while there was a lot going on, with flavours from the Belgian Yeast, Roasted Malts, and Oak Barrel all apparent, the beer still hangs together really nicely. A brilliant nose on this one too, I felt I could sniff this one all day and be happy (although I would be even happier drinking it of course).

The Moa Imperial Stout is aged in pinot noir barrels and is a bit brasher than the Murrays with some lively tart fruit flavours, which make it an unusual dark beer. A fascinating beer with a great aroma that would probably benefit from some cellaring to allow the flavours to integrate more. I feel this would be a good beer to convert wine drinkers to the wonders of beer and also worth noting is that it’s good value for money too.

Verdict: This was close but Murrays just got the edge and put the Aussies on the board.

Round 4 – Murrays Wild Thing v 8 Wired iStout

A couple of classic Imperial Stouts that are the top beers on RateBeer for Australia and New Zealand respectively.

Wild Thing has all those classic stout-ish elements that I love, clocking in at a bold but oh so drinkable 10%. This was also voted champion beer of the day. A beer that Australia can be proud of.

iStout isn’t my favourite 8 Wired beer but I can appreciate why others love it. It’s smooth & sweet, with raisins on the nose and a port-ish warmth on the finish. It’s like a rich dessert, albeit one that will give you a hangover if you overindulge.

Verdict: Another super tough decision that split the room but Murrays again won out, and suddenly the Aussies have a sniff.

Round 5 – Mikkeller Black Hole Peat Whisky Barrel Aged Edition v Moon Dog Black Lung II

For the final round, things got a little crazy with whisky barrel-aged imperial stouts. The Mikkeller was unfortunately a bit past its best before and therefore lacking carbonation. From the first sniff, this was an absolute monster, lots of peated smoke, and the taste came with plenty of salt and brine too. Some were put off by the harsh flavours but I like Islay Whiskys myself. I just think this was lacking a bit of balance and drowned out the beery elements.

Moon Dog’s second release of their Whisky Barrel Aged Smokey Stout seems much different to the first version. This one is more subtle and doesn’t have such a huge nose, or perhaps my sense of smell has been overwhelmed by this point). I really liked the direction they’ve taken with this beer though. A bit of subtlety can work well with an extreme beer style, and I really loved the smokiness on the finish.

Verdict: Moon Dog triumphs and the Aussies complete a stunning comeback to win the Great Winter Stout Showdown.

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