Sunday, December 6, 2009

Beer Review, Week of Dec. 6: Chicory Stout

The decision to pick up a six-pack of Dogfish's Chicory Stout was a relatively impulsive one. I wanted to review a darker beer this week, and I have been hearing great things lately about Dogfish. I spotted this seasonal release on-sale while unsuccessfully searching for Life & Limb (the highly-touted collaboration from Dogfish and Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.), and decided to give it a try.

Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales is a brewery based in Milton, Delaware, but maintains a coast-to-coast distribution and enjoys a nationwide reputation. They brew eight beers year round, and are probably most well-known for their IPA's, which come in both the 60min and 90min "flavors." Dogfish also puts out four seasonal offerings; their winter release being the Chicory Stout.

Most people are familiar with Guinness as the paradigmatic stout, and it certainly would be considered the classic, most accessible 'dark beer.' The thing people love about Guinness is the sweetness, and of course, the foamy/creamy head (it is a veritable beer milkshake). Yet, stouts have the potential to be so much more interesting and flavorful. Many brewers incorporate dark earthy flavors(chocolate, coffee, chocolate and coffee) into stouts, thereby increasing the complexity, and often the alcoholic content, of the brew.

Chicory Stout is an example of a stout that ups the ante. It includes flavorful ingredients such as organic Mexican coffee, St. John's Wort, licorice root, and naturally, chicory. [yeah, what exactly is chicory?... apparently, it is a root cultivated throughout Europe for use as a coffee substitute, and according to Wikipedia, "[s]ome beer brewers used roasted chicory to add flavor to their stouts."]

The beer pours dark and smooth, releasing its carbonation and aroma quickly. Although the bottled touts a "bone white head," the beer pours more of an earthy-brown head, that dissipates rather quickly.

Dark brown in color, this stout also has a deep-reddish hue, that is only perceptible holding the glass up to a light source. Given the carbonation of the beer, its overall appearance is comparable to a root-beer (now that I think about it...Chicory Stout is a root-beer, a beer made with root). The smell was surprisingly mild. I was expecting a full-on olfactory blast of coffee scent, something that turns me off of other coffee-beers, but this stout smells slightly alcoholic with just barely discernible earthy/coffee undertones.

When it comes to flavor, Chicory Stout fires on all cylinders. It is rich and creamy, quite drinkable, yet has several competing flavors that push through the beer to finish crisp and clean. The brew is not overpowering on any level, and the slight alcoholic scent did not come through during tasting. I definitely enjoyed this beer, and as my glass quickly emptied, I found myself reaching for another.

5.2 % ABV
21 IBUs
Glassware: Pint Glass

Overall, Chicory Stout is a surprisingly polished and complete seasonal beer. I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys Guinness, and might be looking to try something with a bit more sophisticated flavor then a generic dark beer. Further, as this was my first time sampling a Dogfish product, I have to say I was impressed with their product, and am eager to taste some of their other brews.


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