Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Brewery: Southern Tier (NY)
Style: Imperial Milk Stout
ABV: 9.6%
Grade: A-

You're either going to love this beer or pass it off as a too-rich novelty. I don't think there's any way to hate it. Does anyone hate desert? Creme Brulee stout is as rich as it gets, one of the most flavorful, overwhelming beers you'll find anywhere. 

Even if this one is too rich for you, even if you do somehow hate it, don't dismiss it as another gimmicky, cynical "flavor added" beer. There's a simple rule for determining whether a fruit beer or spiced beer or flavored beer is a crappy marketing ploy, or a genuine product of craft beer ingenuity. Is the outside flavor an organic, essential component of the beer's DNA, or is it simply an add-on — a mediocre beer with a separate flavor profile riding on top to appeal to people who don't really like beer in the first place? Beer's complexity and deliciousness is a result of a recipe carefully selected and calibrated, matched with an appropriate yeast to ferment and turn those ingredients into something flavorful, complex and magic. A good beer, regardless of what went into it, should taste organic and well-rounded. Southern Tier excels at this, and Creme Brulee Stout is a fiendishly complex (not to mention strong) beer, with more things happening than most people can seemingly handle. Though it is extremely rich, I find it smooth and surprisingly dry as well, with a boozy vanilla taste not unlike bourbon. If you want a vanilla stout that doesn't embrace the vanilla half-assedly, this is it. This does not fuck around. But more surprising is the dark depths of its complexity: the bourbony booze and the thick tasty caramel and butterscotch notes, equally as present as the vanilla. Even smelling this is beer is an epiphany: this has to be one of the most potent beer-aromas I've ever encountered. Southern Tier excels at brilliant-smelling beers.

Some people can't drink more than a few sips of this. I understand. Again, how much you like this will largely depend on your tolerance for rich imperial stouts. Personally? I could kill two or three bombers of this beast in a night and be a quite happy, quite drunk man.

UPDATE! Thanks to Guest Beer Writer and Friend to Bears Matt "Cashcart," we now have a second opinion. Here's what Matt has to say:

I was a little skeptical about this one, I won't lie. After reading Derek's post I was curious to try it, but also a little leery of how sweet and rich it would actually be. Maybe it's because the majority of sweet beers that I've had have been cloying and syrupy, something I'm really not a fan of. 
And, wow. Holy cats. This beer is intense, really intense. And rich. And delicious. I was surprised at how light it was for how flavorful it was. Sweet notes of caramel, coffee and vanilla are evident immediately, and balanced perfectly. The alcohol is hidden well, in my opinion. It's only really noticeable in a nice heat that complements the flavors and sort of ties everything together, makes you feel cozy. The finish is pretty dry, which also surprised me given how rich this beer is. No lingering syrupy sweetness, just a bitter tinge, similar to black coffee, which remained on the back of my tongue for the better part of half an hour.


  1. This tastes like an expensive bourbon chocolate.

  2. Tried this tonight at Brass Rail. Wow. For how rich and flavorful it is, it's surprisingly light and drinkable. Vanilla and caramel up front, with a nice coffee bite that lingers well over half an hour on the back of your tongue.


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