I've never been much into chocolate stouts. Granted, the only one I regularly see on the shelves is Young's Double Chocolate Stout. It sounds good in theory, but in practice it's pretty much just a bitter, dark stout with little in the way of chocolate--at least not any more than any other stout. That's why comparing Young's to Samuel Smith's Organic Chocolate Stout is so damn unfair. Smith's is a ringer if ever there was one. It's good. Hoo boy, is it good.
This beer pours almost black, opaque and impenetrable. A nice, dense, toffee-colored head forms and lingers. There's a good bit of lacing here as well. One sniff and you know Smith's isn't playing around with the chocolate aspect--the chocolate aroma overpowers pretty much everything else. I've seen comments online that liken the scent to milk chocolate, but who are they kidding? There's a rough edge to this that suggests dark chocolate all the way. So you go in to the first sip, expecting maybe a nice chocolaty aftertaste following the malt or maybe hops, but no, it's BAM! Dark chocolate in your face! I'm serious, this thing is like drinking liquid dark chocolate. There is a nice, bitter undertone that balances the overall sweetness--this is a sweet beer indeed. Now, when I say it tastes like dark chocolate, I don't mean the hard core, 80-90 percent stuff. This is a sweet stout, after all. It's more along the order of 60-70 percent. But still, that's a far cry from the sugary, blandness of milk chocolate. The mouthfeel is very good for this type, medium-bodied, not too thin and not syrupy as you might expect from my description. Carbonation is deeply held and not released easily, so this beer, while not even remotely fizzy, stays active a long time. Served cold, it tastes overwhelmingly of chocolate. As it warms, notes of oak, vanilla and leather kinda sorta make an appearance, but really, the dark chocolate just muscles up even more like the Incredible Hulk and beats them into submission. I keep half-expecting to crunch on a gritty chocolate nib any moment now. This is a dark beer that professed haters of dark beer fall in love with. I know, I've done the field work.
Unlike some other dark, sweet, strong-flavored beers, Samuel Smith's Organic Chocolate Stout boasts an alcohol content of only 5 percent, so there's not much of a danger of it sneaking up on you like some Belgian ales I favor. But it is a bold, powerful beer. This isn't something to sit around drinking during the big game. This is a showcase beer, reserved for dessert or an evening nightcap or to impress your friends. It's not an every day beverage, but when the mood hits, you'll know exactly what hits the spot.
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