"Beer: So much more than just a breakfast drink." Homer Simpson
I can't believe it has been three months since my last Beer Blog. I intended on writing them much more regularly, but then I guess life just got in the way of penmanship. But, don't worry. While I haven't been writing about beer, I definitely have been drinking it (and I've got the expanding waist to prove it). Hopefully with this new Beer Blog I will get these written a bit more frequently.
Every summer we go on an amazing family beach vacation to Delaware. The first morning of the trip I wake up and pour myself a nice cold beer. My wife and I always have the same exchange about why I am drinking a beer at 6:30 or 7 in the morning - she sees the beer and says "because you can!" and I say "yup".
So, to celebrate the memory of another great summer beach vacation that now seems a world away, I'm writing this Beer Blog about "Beer for Breakfast."
Over the past week I scoured local liquor stores for beer with a breakfast theme and was pleasantly surprised by the selection. While this kind of hardcore field research can take some effort, I pursued it with a determined sense of vigor, knowing that double-blind (not really), early morning taste trials were only days away. The excitement waiting for my Sunday morning beer breakfast was almost out of control. At about 8:30 I grabbed the newspaper from the driveway and set the table for breakfast. Quite frankly, I had a beautiful breakfast planned. While I certainly like a Denny's Grandslam or a Waffle House Toddlehouse Big Breakfast or the Number 1 at the Main Street Diner, I think the breakfast I had planned was at least on par with those tasty morning combinations.
My Sunday morning Big Beer Breakfast included Troegs Java Head Stout, Samuel Smiths Oatmeal Stout, Founders Breakfast Stout, Left Hand Milk Stout and Wells Banana Bread beer. Oatmeal, coffee, milk and banana bread. Simply perfect, well sort of...
I started breakfast as I always do with a nice mug of coffee - Troegs Java Head Stout. I drink my coffee black and I am a fan of mellow coffees like 7-11 or Dunkin Donuts or WaWa. I don't like the bitter burnt taste of Starbucks coffee. To me, Java Head was like Starbucks, a bitter brew. My wife joined me for breakfast too and she thought it was like coffee left too long in the pot that takes on a burnt flavor. While it had noticeable flavors of coffee and hints of chocolate, it was way too strong for my taste. It gets good reviews at Beer Advocate and excellent reviews at RateBeer, so as I've always said, drink whatever beer you like, what the hell do I know. It is brewed with espresso beans and Kenyan coffee beans in Hershey, Pa. I suspect if you like stouts and coffee made with a French Coffee Press, you will find this beer tasty. Maybe not for breakfast, but you never know.
After the bitter Troegs Java Head, I decided a second cup of coffee was in order so I cracked open the Founders Breakfast Stout too. This beer is brewed in Michigan and received a 100 score at Ratebeer and a World Class rating at Beer Advocate. According to the brewery this beer is "The coffee lover’s consummate beer. Brewed with an abundance of flaked oats, bitter and imported chocolates, and Sumatra and Kona coffee, this stout has an intense fresh-roasted java nose..." I guess I just don't like the style, because I found this beer bitter too. And with an alcohol content at 8.3%, it was too big and too bitter for my tastes. I tried to think of a time of day that these two beers might be worth another shot but decided they really aren't for me, and certainly not for breakfast. But if you like stouts and bitter coffee, give them a whirl and see what you think.
After the bitter coffee stouts, I decided something sweet was in order and popped off the cap of the Wells Banana Bread beer. I was a little hesitant about this one because it seemed a bit strange and also because banana tasting products often give me indigestion (TMI?), but I was at least somewhat pleasantly surprised. The beer was tasty in a strange way with a nice banana flavor. It reminded my of Banana Laffy Taffy! It certainly isn't something I would run out and get a six-pack of, but I'm glad I tried it. I also read through the reviews of this beer on RateBeer and Beer Advocate and many mentioned how the beer had a flavor of banana bread, not just bananas. I honestly have no idea what that means. The banana was definitely there in the taste and in the aroma, and it was kind of nice, but banana bread? Maybe I need to try this one along with some real banana bread as a side kick and compare the two, but with the likelihood of an indigestion-inducing taste test, I probably won't. So, if anyone does, please let me know. This beer is brewed in Bedford, England, and one good thing is that they use only Fair Trade Bananas.
I don't drink a lot of milk but after the Banana Bread beer, decided a nice tall glass of Left Hand Milk Stout was needed. This is actually a beer style I've wanted to try for some time and I'm glad this blog pushed me to it. According to Beeriety Milk stouts are described as:
"To those unfamiliar with the style, milk stout may sound pretty gross. Pouring milk into a glass of IPA seems like a terrible, terrible idea. Fortunately that’s not what milk stout is at all. It’s actually a tasty and delicious form of stout that is a great way to introduce someone to the world of heavier beers. Let’s take a look at what this style has to offer.
"Although the style is known as ‘milk stout’ the name is a bit of a misnomer. There really is no milk in the beer, but rather lactose sugar. This is the type of sugar found in milk and one of the main things that gives it its creamy goodness."
The Left Hand brewery website notes that "Milk sugar in your stout is like cream in your coffee." The beer is brewed in Colorado and the beer was rated a very high 96 at RateBeer and Good at Beer Advocate. I really liked this beer. It was very dark and definitely a stout, but it was smooth, a bit on the sweet side and for want of a better word, creamy. I thought I could smell a hint of something like milk, but my wife didn't, so maybe the name was just playing games with my nose? I wouldn't want to drink more than one, and probably not for breakfast, but it might be nice for raking leaves on a cool crisp fall day.
Since this breakfast was a little on the liquid side and certainly no Jersey Diner breakfast special, I wasn't quite full yet. So, I opted for a nice Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout. Oatmeal is always filling.
This beer is as good as it gets for a stout. RateBeer calls it World Class and BeerAdvocate has a score of 99\100. The Commercial Description from RateBeer is "Originally a drink for lactating mothers, oatmeal stout was described as nutritional on early labels. Oats are in the same family as barley, and a small addition yields great flavor. Popular in the late 1800’s, the last oatmeal stout was brewed before the First World War until Samuel Smith reintroduced this style in 1980. Almost opaque, with an unusually silky texture and complex, medium-dry velvet palate. Bittersweet finish."
I've been drinking this beer for many years and if you haven't ever tried it and like stouts - Run, do not walk to your local liquor store and grab a bottle. In fact if you haven't tried a stout, or aren't sure you like them, make this your test. The beer has rich coffee and chocolate flavors but they aren't overpowering or strongly bitter like in other stouts. It is simply delicious and really deserving of the accolades that are always heaped on it.
I probably won't have beer for breakfast again until next summer at the beach, but then again you never know....