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.
Kevin Gibson is a Louisville, Ky.-based free-lance writer who writes about everything from food to music to beer to bourbon to professional football. He loves bacon, loathes cucumbers and once interviewed Yoko Ono (pissed her off a little, too). He is author of "Louisville Beer: Derby City History on Draft" (2014, History Press). He published his first novel, "The Liberation of Crystal Hill" (Bearhead Publishing), in 2011; he also published "Crohn's Disease: A Memoir from the Toilet" in January 2015 and his currently working on two more book projects. He co-hosts a weekly local radio show, and also plays in a couple of bands, the Uncommon Houseflies and the Nick Peay Band. Not surprisingly, he doesn't sleep much. But when he isn't running around town chasing stories or poised at his trusty laptop writing, you can often find him at one of the local breweries and being thankful for the life he lives. That, or he'll be sitting on his couch with his trusty sidekick Darby. Check out his beer blog, 502Brews.com, or his website, KevinGibsonWriter.com, to find out more about his books and why he does what he does. Or feel free to call him names on Twitter: @kgramone.