Before we get started, a primer:
First, I’m well aware that there is no dearth of annual best beer lists or beer advent calendars, but the beauty of the topic is that it all comes down to tastes and opinions, which are like snowflakes (see how I tied it in there?), no two alike, yada yada. I hope that some of these may pique your interest in a brew you’ve never had or remind you of one you need to revisit.
Second, I had to resist calling this a beer advent calendar, even though that’s technically what it is. I’m still a preacher’s grandson and youth minister’s son, and there seems to be a bit more sacrilege involved in invoking Advent vs. Christmas. So we’ll say we’re discussing Christmas as in the shopping and gift-giving event, vs. the Holy Day, in case anyone asks. And what better shopping and gift-giving is there than that involving beer?!
So, each day (more or less) from today through Christmas Day, I’ll reveal a new favorite beer of mine, along with some tasting notes and food pairings, and any other info I might find relevant. I hope you all enjoy! And without further ado:
#25 – Young’s Double Chocolate Stout
Wells & Young’s Ltd. – Bedford, UK (England)
This sweet stout pours black with a medium to medium-full body, and a couple inches of light tan foam. On the nose you’ll get milk chocolate, vanilla, and the faintest touch of coffee. The flavors are similar, sweet milk chocolate with vanilla notes. It is smooth all the way, silky even, and never feels heavy. At only 5.2% ABV, you have permission to drink more than one.
Like most milk stouts, this will pair well with chocolate desserts that are not incredibly sweet or rich. So think chocolate chip cookies as opposed to triple-layer chocolate cake. I also like it with desserts featuring caramelized and brown sugar components, such as crème brûlée or pecan pie. It won’t overwhelm any of these; the risk is a too-rich dessert overwhelming the more reserved beer.
Pour into a tulip, snifter or other glassware specifically designed for stouts, though this one won’t suffer as much as others might from being poured into a standard pint glass.
You’ll find this beer in both cans (12 oz.) and bottles (16.9 oz / 500 ml). The cans have the “widget” popularized by Guinness, which releases a nitrogen-CO2 mix into the beer when it’s opened, giving it a creamier “Nitro tap” feel, as opposed to the typically CO2-carbonated, bubbly feel of most beers. I prefer a little more carbonation in mine, so I have to recommend the bottled version, but this is really according to your own preference, and there’s nothing wrong with trying both! Young’s Double Chocolate Stout is a year-round beer, and is available in just about any beer/liquor store that’s large enough to keep it in stock. Call a few places near you and you’re sure to find some on the shelf.
Other Wells & Young’s beers worth checking out include Wells Banana Bread Beer (yes, it tastes exactly like you’d imagine) and Wells Sticky Toffee Pudding Ale (again, yes, exactly like it sounds), along with its more traditional Young’s Special London Ale, an ESB.
The main reason this is my first beer of the countdown is that I consider it to have been my “gateway beer”. I have previously discussed Bourbon County Stout in a similar manner, but this is the one where the light bulb truly went on. Not long after trying Double Chocolate Stout at Sheffield’s in Chicago, I was buying bombers galore, trying everything I could get my hands on. In the end, I can come back to this beer and it trumps nearly everything that came after it.
JAB – 12/1/15