Beer Review: Great Lakes Blackout Stout

 photo by Kevin Gibson

photo by Kevin Gibson

The lights go out once every winter – at least at Great Lakes Brewing Co., they do.

Blackout Stout, a Russian imperial porter, reflects the greatest blackout in history, an event that occurred in 2003 in northeastern and midwestern America, as well as some of Canada. The power outage left some 55,000 people in the dark, and this beer pays homage.

The Cleveland-based brewery unleashes the beer at the end of every year, and it certainly lives up to its name and theme – visually. The beer is black as night, probably a grim reminder to all those caught in the blackout. But the bad memories stop there with this well-made warmer.

Its moderate, tan head gives way to a chocolaty nose and some roastiness guaranteed to intrigue your olfactory. Take a sip, and you’ll wonder if you’re drinking dark chocolate, with thin, tan lacing lining your glass as you make your way through. The thick beer begins with a mild, basic character, with no tricks or frills, and the malt-forward, delicious stout warms the belly.

After a few sips, you start to notice the Simcoe hop character in the beer – it’s 50 IBUs – which was unexpected but not unwelcome to my palate. Between that and the relative booziness of the beer, which measures at 9 percent alcohol by volume, you’ll walk away feeling warm and relaxed. It might take you a while to chug your way through, as well.

And while the bite on the end of this one is notable, it doesn’t counter-balance the creamy, semi-sweet presentation of the brew brought about by the black malts and roasted barley. I could sip on one of these all day long.

That you can pair it with wild game or a chocolate truffle gives you some insight. For my part, I was happy to simply sit and enjoy it alone, reminding myself that it’s a good day anytime you can turn the lights on at will.

Great Lakes Blackout Stout is available on draft and in four-pack bottles.