Beer of the Week: Reuben’s Barrel Aged Breakfast Stout

By Iron Chef Leftovers

untitled2Reuben’s, coming up on their second anniversary, has been hugely successful. They quickly became one of the best breweries in the state, have won numerous awards and medals at beer competitions and make some of the most interesting beers you can get your hands on. One additional, but less well known place where they excel is their small barrel aging program. It has so far produced some of the best barrel aged beers I have ever had (see here) and they continue to surprise with what they can do with an old barrel. A recent release of their Bourbon Barrel Aged Breakfast Stout was no exception. This was their breakfast stout, bulked up to 10% and clocking in with 39 IBU.

The beer pours jet black in color with huge amounts of maple sugar and milk chocolate on the nose with backing notes of roasted malt, whiskey and vanilla on the nose. The beer starts out surprisingly light with just a touch of roasted malt before quickly moving into pleasant notes of sweet caramel and whiskey coupled with milk chocolate and sweet coffee. The finish is long and sweet, with notes of coffee, maple, chocolate, caramel, fruit, grain and pecans all present. This was like drinking a complete breakfast in a glass and was an incredibly complex and deep beer. The beer was well balanced with no individual flavor taking over for more than a few seconds and this beer was in that “can’t tell it is high alcohol” category because of its easiness of drinking.

Reuben’s Brews Barrel Aged Breakfast Stout is bringing breakfast back with an outstanding 5 parts of a well balanced diet out of 5.

Beer of the Week: NW Peaks Early Morning Espresso Stout

By Iron Chef Leftovers

untitle8dFebruary was stout month for NW Peaks and we got a returning favorite in Stuart and a new beer – Early Morning Espresso Stout. This beer is brewed with beans from Ballard Coffee Works, who are one of the places around Seattle that you can find NW Peaks beers, so this was a collaborative effort as well as the first time that NW peaks is brewing a coffee beer. I was excited as it was a combination of a brewery I love and a coffee roaster that produces some of the best quality beans in the city.

From the NW Peaks website:

The Name. The mountain. Early Morning Spire is set in a magical location of the Eldorado, Inspiration, and Mcallister glaciers. It is actually situated slightly off the glaciers in Marble cirque. Early Morning Spire offers great rock climbing in a remote place, so remote that it is best to take 3-4 days to climb (the approach is via Eldorado – nearly summiting – over a col into the marble cirque). While it has great rock routes, Early Morning spire can be done as a scramble, although getting from the glacier to solid rock might be treacherous depending on conditions. The name derives itself from a group that had to bivy near the summit (cold, unprepared), which caused them to summit just after first light.

The Espresso. We made this an espresso stout so what better name than Early Morning Espresso Stout – two of our favorite beverages made into one. We collaborated with one of our great customers – Seattle Coffee Works (Ballard Coffee Works) who puts out one of the finest products in the Seattle area. In the end, we chose to use their Emerald City toddy – delicious by itself – to accentuate the flavor and aroma of the coffee.

The Beer. Early Morning Espresso Stout was brewed to feature the coffee from Seattle coffee works. The base beer has a mild roast character, low body, and slight sweetness to support the espresso. The espresso flavor is at the forefront and brings in minimal acidity and coffee astringency. Instead, the cold toddy really adds to the flavor and aroma of the beer without contributing any harshness or excessive acidity. The result is a 5% ABV smooth, light bodied, light roasty stout with a great espresso flavor and aroma. Watch out, there will be a lot more caffeine in a pint than other versions, making it a great choice to have at first light.


The beer pours jet black with a beautiful tan head and eye-popping notes of roasted malt and ground espresso dominating the nose with just barely perceptible notes of chocolate hiding in the background. The beer starts out slowly, with hints of sugar, milk chocolate and light fruit notes before giving way to building coffee profile – it starts out mellow before becoming a deep, rich espresso. The bold coffee slowly fades into the finish, joined by a barely perceptible bitterness, touches of milk chocolate, caramel and malt coupled with a silky mouth feel. Coffee is definitely the star of this beer but it knows when to give way to the other flavors, producing a deep, rich beer. In talking to the head brewer about this beer, he would have liked to dial the coffee back just a bit to let the beer stand out more, but I think the balance was nice to the point that this beer would be an easy sell to even those who don’t like coffee beers.

NW Peaks Early Morning Espresso Stout hits the snooze button with 5 alarm clocks out of 5.

Beer of the Week: Elysian Dark o’ the Moon 2012

By Iron Chef Leftovers

I was not overly impressed with the 2013 version of Dark o’ the Moon, but fortunately for me, I have a small stash of the previous versions of the beer, so I decide to crack one of the 2012 bottles open to see if I just forgot what the beer tasted like and my tastes have changed or the cinnamon was too overpowering in the 2013 version of the beer.

From the Elysian Website:

STYLE Pumpkin Stout

BODY Medium to Full

TASTING NOTES Pours dark as night with creamy tan head. A little smokiness on the nose with malty bittersweet chocolate and a little coffee with subtle earthy pumpkin and spices for an overall nice and creamy mouth.

MALTS Great Western pale, Crisp 77° Crystal, Munich, Cara-Vienne, roasted, chocolate and Special B

HOPS Bittered with Magnum and finished with Saaz and crushed cinnamon

SPECIAL Pumpkin in the mash, kettle and fermenter

ABV: 6.5%

IBU: 20

dmThe beer poured jet black as expected with cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and allspice present on the nose joined by mild hints of roasted malt and pumpkin. The beer stars off with pleasant chocolate notes on the palate before moving into lightly roasted pumpkin and pumpkin seeds. The beer then transitions into the spice realm with distinct notes of nutmeg and cloves balancing out the pumpkin flavors before being joined by a mild dose of cinnamon mixed in. The finish is long and slightly sweet with dominant notes of cinnamon and roasted malt/pumpkin, providing a deep chocolate finish with just a touch of heat from the cinnamon.

The 2012 version of Dark reminded me why I loved this beer so much.

Elysian 2012 Dark o’ the Moon comes to the edge of the cliff and lets out a deep howl with 5 Canis lupus out of 5.

Beer of the Week: Boatswain Chocolate Stout

By Iron Chef Leftovers

It may seem a bit strange, but Trader Joe’s actually has a decent beer selection with a combination of some of the larger local breweries like Fremont and Ninkasi (sometimes at slightly cheaper prices than anywhere else) and bigger nationally available craft beers. In looking at the shelves, I saw Boatswain Chocolate Stout at $1.99 for a 22 oz. bottle. I figured, for that price, it was worth giving it a shot, but I didn’t have high expectations for the beer. Boatswain is brewed by Rhinelander Brewing, a company that mostly contract brews for craft breweries. The description of the beer from the TJ’s website:

Cocoa beans were the Aztec’s gold standard – they were used as currency and were the key ingredient in the king’s coveted chocolate drink. No longer used as coins, they are still used to create venerated brews. Case in point: Boatswain Chocolate Stout. As it states right on the front of the label, this bold bomber is “brewed with cocoa powder.” It presents aromas and flavors of dark chocolate and coffee with assertive, tangy hops and caramel maltiness. While it sounds like you might need a fork to enjoy this, it’s actually super drinkable. And it’s a respectable 5.4% alcohol by volume. Brewed for us in limited quantities to assure the quality, this beer delivers craft, without the crazy price – each 22 ounce bottle is just $1.99*.

96977-chocolate-stoutThe beer pours jet black with a light tan head and notes of hops and light roasted malt dominate the nose with mild notes of chocolate and coffee supporting. There are strong notes of malt on the front of the palate before fading quickly into a very mild chocolate flavor, which also makes a very brief appearance, before finishing in a slightly bitter, coffee-like finish that decides to stick around for a while. The bitterness is interesting (it felt like it may have been from hops), and leaves a slight resin burn on the back of the throat, which does throw the beer slightly out of balance. Not a bad beer, but could use a slightly more pronounced chocolate component to balance out the stronger coffee notes.

This isn’t the best chocolate beer that you are ever going to drink, but it isn’t terrible and, considering the price, it might be a good beer to try to introduce someone to the world of darker beers.

Boatswain Chocolate Stout rows into the picture with a creaky 3 skiffs out of 5.

Beer of the Week: Terrapin Moo Hoo Chocolate Milk Stout

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Chocolate and beer is a great combination if done correctly, otherwise you end up with a sweet mess that is neither good chocolate or good beer. I think that the best chocolate beers are the ones that use either really high percentage dark chocolate or cocoa nibs, since you get all of the complex flavors of the chocolate (and the beer) without adding much in the way of sugar. Terrapin, a brewery out of Athens, GA, does this, adding nibs and shells from a wonderful small chocolate maker out of Nashville, TN, Olive & Sinclair (these guys are really great, I highly recommend trying their stuff), to produce their one of their seasonal offerings – Moo Hoo Chocolate Milk Stout. The beer is not available in the Seattle market, but intrepid internet searchers can find it and have it shipped.

The stats from Terrapin’s Website:

ABV: 6.0%

IBU: 30

OG: 16.1

Malts: 2-Row Pale, Flaked Oat, Crystal 85,Chocolate, DH Carafa III, Roasted Barley

Hops: Nugget, Willamette

Other: Olive & Sinclair Cocoa Nibs, Cocoa Shells, Lactose


Moo-Hoo-Square-webThe beer pours jet black with a light brown head. Cocoa nibs, malt, roast, chocolate and light vanilla all appear on the nose. The beer drinks lighter than you might expect, starting off with a light malty sweetness before moving into deeper flavors of roast and cocoa nibs with an ever so slight bitter bite (think really high percentage dark chocolate). The beer then moves to a more classic chocolate profile with long dark chocolate bar and vanilla notes before finishing with a creamy, chocolate-like finish in both taste and texture – it reminded me of the mouth feel of melting chocolate. The finish is long, lingering and pleasant and more of the fruity notes of the chocolate begin to show on the finish as the beer warms. Not as chocolate forward as many chocolate beers but well balanced and layered with the complexity of a well-made chocolate bar, allowing you to appreciate both the chocolate and beer notes.

Terrapin Brewing’s Moo Hoo Chocolate Milk Stout comes in from the pasture with a perfect 5 bovines out of 5.

Beer of the Week: Elysian Dark O’ the Moon

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Every year I look forward to the early fall release of my favorite pumpkin beer – Elysian’s Dark O’ the Moon. I love the stout combined with the roasted pumpkin and just a hint of spice to balance and bring the beer to the next level. The best part of this beer is it is available both on tap and in bottles (about $7 for a 22 oz. one), so it is readily accessible. This review is for the beer I had on tap.

From the Elysian website:

Pours dark as night with creamy tan head. A little smokiness on the nose with malty bittersweet chocolate and a little coffee with subtle earthy pumpkin and spices for an overall nice and creamy mouth.

Great Western pale, Crisp 77° Crystal, Munich, Cara-Vienne, roasted, chocolate and Special B

Bittered with Magnum and finished with Saaz and crushed cinnamon

Pumpkin in the mash, kettle and fermenter

ABV: 6.5%

IBU: 20

dmThe beer pours jet black in color with copious amounts of roasted pumpkin, roasted malt and chocolate on the nose with background notes of allspice and cinnamon. Pumpkin dominates the palate early on before yielding to roast malt and grain with bits of pumpkin pie spice and finally finishing out with a rather intense and moderately long chocolate and cinnamon finish – intense dark chocolate and cocoa nibs (not at all sweet) and a strong burn of cinnamon, with just a hint of bitterness coupled with more pumpkin notes. The chocolate plays hide and seek on the tongue long after the sip, but is eventually overwhelmed by building cinnamon, especially as the beer warms, to the point where the cinnamon becomes the dominant flavor on the finish by the end of the pint. The 2013 version is definitely more cinnamon forward but the chocolate and pumpkin notes are still present and discernable, but the increase in the cinnamon intensity seems to throw the beer out of balance. Still delicious, but not as great as it has been in the past. I am wondering if the cinnamon needed a bit more time to mellow out and integrate into the rest of the beer.

Elysian Dark O’ the Moon draws blood with 3 Warren Zevons out of 5.


Beer of the Week: Skookum Brewery Imperial Breakfast Stout

By Iron Chef Leftovers

skdSkookum is a funny sounding word, but I really solid (albeit small) brewery up in Arlington, WA. For the longest time, if you wanted their beers, you needed to make the trek up I-5 and wind your way through Arlington to get to their brewery, which kept inconsistent hours. Things have changed and their beers occasionally make the trip down to Seattle and show up on tap at various places. Seeing the Imperial Breakfast Stout on tap at Chuck’s, I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to try it.

The beer pours jet black in color with a coffee colored head and shows off with lots of dark roasted malt and coffee – definitely reminded me of my morning cup of coffee. The beer starts out slightly sweet before moving on to its heavier flavors of toffee and dark chocolate with a hint of cocoa nibs before finishing with a light bitterness couple with black coffee and roasted grains. The bitterness is just enough to give it a little bite without being off-putting and really made it remind me of a good cup of black coffee (as far as I can tell, there is no actual coffee in the beer). Well balanced with deep and bold flavors, the Imperial Breakfast Stout is a great beer to have with your toast and morning paper instead of your regular cup of joe.

Skookum Brewery’s Imperial Breakfast Stout draws in with a strong 3 double espresso shots out of 5.

Beer of the Week: Populuxe Coffee Stout

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Coffee and beer are a great combination of flavors, especially when you take an astoundingly good coffee, say from Seattle’s Slate Coffee Roasters and combine it with a stellar beer, say the stout from Populuxe Brewing.  When done right, coffee and beer have an incredible depth of flavor that can either enhance each other or provide wonderful contrasts, depending on how it is done. Populuxe did a special batch of their stout blended with coffee from Slate Coffee Roasters to celebrate the winter solstice.

The beer pours jet black in color with a light brown head and shows strong notes of coffee, chocolate, roasted malt and hints of caramel and toffee on the nose. The initial sip of the beer yields a really strong coffee; not roasted coffee grounds but rather sweet espresso with cappuccino type notes as the beer warms up. The flavors deepen as the beer progresses with significant coffee notes, strong roast coffee, chocolate, caramel, roasted malt, finishing slightly bitter with that lingering espresso, almost burnt (mild and pleasant) aftertaste mixed in with dark chocolate and toffee. The alcohol is subtle and the coffee flavors dominate the beer in a very pleasant way, building upon each other each. This one of the better coffee beers I’ve had, the flavors blend better and mellow as the beer warms. You can really taste the style as the beer warms on top of all the coffee flavors, yielding great balance. Not a huge amount of bitterness feels like drinking a really good cup of coffee rather than shot of espresso.

Populuxe Coffee Stout orders 5 non-fat skinny soy mocha lattes with whip out of 5.

Beer of the Year:’s Best of 2013

By Iron Chef Leftovers

I really intended to post this on December 31st, but I forgot to switch the date on the post, so it is a couple of days late.

Overall 2013 was a banner year for beer in Seattle, particularly Ballard with a significant number of new breweries opening and the existing breweries kicking it up a notch with the quality of their beers. It was a particularly banner year for beer reviews on this site also, with me posting just north of 100 beer reviews on the site (that is a ton of beer and that doesn’t even take into account the beer notes I have but have not posted yet). This has made determining my best beer of 2013 much more difficult than last year. Here are the rules for determining the winner:

  • The beer had to score 5 out of 5 on the Iron Chef Scale
  • I had to post a review of the beer sometime in 2013
  • Vintage beers are not eligible to win
  • If I named the beer, it wasn’t eligible to win (so, no, my beloved Ate2Four Porter is not the beer of the year)
  • Previous winners are not eligible win again, no matter how delicious they are (It means Reuben’s Pfeffer’s Pumpkin can’t win again)
  • The winner is picked by an esteemed panel of me, myself and I

This really was a challenge – I had about 15 beers that I scored 5 points so I took down my list from there to 4 contenders for the best. It was actually going to be 5, then I realized that the one that would have been in the 5th spot has not yet had a review posted, so, it is an early contender for 2014 (and no, I won’t tell you what it is). The final 4 came down to hoppy vs. roasted, so let me show you how this played out:

Matchup 1: Battle Hops

Our contenders are Reuben’s Imperial Rye IPA and Populuxe Full Spectrum (previously Founders) Imperial IPA.

A good old Ballard brewery smack down and a competition between 2 breweries I love and what I think are the 2 best beers these breweries make. This was a hard choice. Full Spectrum is one of the best Imperials out on the market and I think it holds its own against beers like Pliny (yes, it is that good). The problem is, I think this about the Imperial Rye IPA (the cask version particularly):

I tasted this side by side with the regular version of the Imperial Rye, a beer I dearly love, and honestly, the cask version blew the doors off the regular version. After tasting the cask version, the regular, a fantastic beer in its own right, didn’t have the same level of intensity as its sibling. I am going to go on the record here as saying the cask version of the Imperial Rye IPA is one of the 10 best beers I have ever had and quite possibly in the top 5. Yes, it was that good. Next time it makes an appearance, you should be waiting in line for this beer when it gets tapped.

As good as Full Spectrum was, the Imperial Rye edges it out just slightly and moves onto the finals in a close match between 2 heavyweights.

Matchup 2: Battle Roast

Our contenders are Reuben’s Bourbon Imperial Russian Stout and Midnight Sun Moscow Russian Imperial Stout.

This could also have been called battle barrel as both beers spent some time in oak.

Again, a tough choice. Both were massive beers and both were spectacular. Both of these beers had tremendous balance and flavor, and it really came down to a number of small differences. I can sum it up about the winner in a post I made about the beer in its initial review:

If you like Russian Imperial Stouts, you need to try this beer. Really, it is that good, and possibly the best I have ever had.

That beer was the Midnight Sun Moscow, edging Reuben’s (and preventing an all-Reuben’s Final) by the tip of a Cossak’s bayonet.

That sets up the final between Anchorage and Seattle, with 2 heavy hitter ready to slug it out in the ring. They went 15 rounds, toe to toe, bringing us in with a split decision. I will turn it over to our ring announcer for the results:

The winner, by split decision, and 2013 Beer of the Year…Reuben’s Imperial Rye IPA!

A Reuben’s beer takes the title for the second straight year! Another well earned (and hard fought) victory for Reuben’s and congratulations to Adam and Mike for making such fantastic beer. Can Reuben’s do it again in 2014? Only time will tell. I can say that they have some pretty stiff competition to go up against if they want to 3-peat.

Beer of the Week: Midnight Sun Brewing Moscow Russian Imperial Stout

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Since I reviewed Reuben’ Imperial Russian Stout, I figured that I should continue the trend with the Midnight Sun Moscow Imperial Russian stout brewed with rye. This is one that was not exactly easy to come by and was only available in 5 states – AK, OR, WA, CA and, for some reason, NY. Not only that, it was spendy, coming in at $13.50 for a 22 oz. bottle. I, of course, had to buy 2 of them. From the Midnight Sun website:

ABV: 11.0%
IBU: 45

First brewed as part of our 2011 World Tour series, MOSCOW Rye Russian Imperial Stout is a hefty, opaque black liquid that pours slowly and soulfully into your snifter. A high percentage of spicy rye and roasted dark malts create a dense, chewy yet elegant winter wonderland of flavors. And from AK we say: Let it Snow…in Moscow.

Moscow-art-252x300The beer pours a beautifully jet black with a coffee brown head. Strong notes of coffee and chocolate dominate the nose with hints of rye interspersed and a very light fruitiness also shows itself, but it could easily be missed among all of the bigger scents. Thick and inky with a tremendous buildup The beer starts off with a very light milk and sugar profile before transitioning into roasted malt and chocolate, next moving into the realm of black coffee before finally ending with notes of rye and sugar in a very long fade with hints of chocolate lingering on the palate. This beer is complex and well balanced and the strong flavors hide the 11% ABV well. To add to the complexity, as the beer warms, the finish is joined with notes of fruit and rye, adding yet another layer to this beer.

It is a rare occasion that I will spend nearly $14 on a beer and even rarer that I would recommend to anyone to do the same, but this is one of those times that I am making a recommendation. If you see this beer, buy it. My second bottle is destined for my beer cellar and I really wish I had picked up more than the 2 I did. Even Mrs. Iron Chef, who really doesn’t like dark beer, wasn’t completely horrified at tasting this beer. If you like Russian Imperial Stouts, you need to try this beer. Really, it is that good, and possibly the best I have ever had.

Midnight Sun Moscow Russian Imperial Stout with rye sweeps your thoughts away with an amazing 5 Perestroika’s out of 5.