Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

Creme Brulee Stout

Southern Tier Brewing Company
Lakewood, NY

Style: Imperial Stout
ABV: 10.0%

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Outstanding within its style.)

I don’t mean to beat a dead horse (I’m not sure what that means, but I hear it a lot so I thought I’d use it), but I’m treading into familiar territory with my latest review: Southern Tier’s Imperial line of monstrous, creative brews. While Lakewood, NY isn’t exactly Midwest, I couldn’t care less about geography in this case. I’ve been hugely impressed with virtually everything from Southern Tier and I’m not about to stop drinking them because they fall outside of our typical focus area. Plus, if I’m not mistaken, the geography rule was never voted on democratically by us Dorks; the iron fist of Webmaster Glick reigned supreme in that ruling.

A couple of months ago, I came across Southern Tier’s Crème Brûlée Stout at a local craft beer retailer. As one who rarely indulges in dessert, I thought it sounded intriguing but nearly passed on it since it didn’t strike me as something I’d really enjoy. “On second thought, perhaps it’s a ballsy stout with a nice, sugary hint of vanilla or caramel, which could be tasty,” Nigel said to himself as passers-by looked on awkwardly, no doubt wondering why the crazy man was talking to himself. I picked one up and a week later cracked it open, only to experience something I’d never experienced before in a beer: this isn’t a dessert-like beer, it’s just plain dessert. That’s right; Crème Brûlée Stout really does taste like a liquefied form of the famously tasty French after-dinner treat. The only way you can tell this is a beer is by the wobbly legs and enhanced sense of self esteem that follows the completion of an entire bomber of a 10 percent ABV monster.

I’m going to make a couple of quick points before I get into the meat of the review. First of all, there should be a warning: this is not a brew for the faint of heart, and definitely not a brew for someone who lacks a sweet tooth. It’s overwhelmingly sweet and syrupy, so if you don’t love you some malt and tongue-curling sugars, you should probably avoid it. Secondly, this is clearly a niche brew. Thus, the die-hard traditionalist that likes beer that tastes like beer should also avoid it. Crème Brûlée really doesn’t taste like beer, as it’s been mutated to the extreme. It’s the vanilla version of New Glarus’ recent Unplugged release Apple Ale, a “beer” in name only that tasted like apple juice. If you have an open mind and like to explore the creativity of the craft beer industry, give it a shot; if not, then don’t even bother. It’s a strange brew to say the least.

That’s not to say it’s not good; on the contrary, I really enjoyed it and it is a great after-dinner beer, particularly on a chilly winter evening. Initial aromas blow you away right off the bat with boatloads of vanilla and a touch of fresh roasted coffee beans; in many ways it has the aroma of a coffee bistro where they serve those triple chai latte espresso no-foam skim milk dealies (as a man, Nigel likes his coffee like he likes his women: black and full-bodied only). Other sugary notes are present as well, including caramel and toffee, as well as a hint of alcohol. It’s an aroma that will likely please most people, despite its lack of beer qualities; think bakery rather than brewery. The appearance in the glass is deceiving, as it looks like your standard dark stout. The pour revealed a slight tan head that quickly dissipated, leaving a nominal lace at the side of the glass throughout. It’s black as night, and if the aroma wasn’t so overpowering with sugary sweetness, you’d really think this was just another imperial stout.

It’s not another imperial stout. It’s not another stout. It’s not another beer. It’s just fucked up to the extreme, but extremely good if you’re in the right mood. Vanilla beans up the ying-yang blow you away at the outset, followed by tongue-curling, tooth-rotting sugary flavors of caramel and molasses. A slight roasted profile emerges in the background, but never comes out fully. I can’t really explain it other than saying it coats the tongue, rots the teeth, and isn’t for everybody … it’s a diabetic dream come true. Vanilla, coffee, sugar … oh yeah … and some alcohol. Lots of alcohol, to be exact. Instead of having Nigel struggle to describe something that is indescribable, here’s a suggestion: as long as you aren’t a sensitive beer drinker, just try the damn thing. It’s a love-it or hate-it type of beer, but you’ll never know how you feel about it until you try. Full bodied, heavy on the palate, and packing a huge punch with an aftertaste to match, Crème Brûlée Stout is unique to say the least. I’m guessing it’s fattening too, so Nigel will surely be heading to the gym before work tomorrow.

Yes, liquid dessert can be tasty. While I enjoyed Crème Brûlée Stout, it’s a bit much and will be an occasional treat at the most. As I said earlier, it’s surely not for everyone and will likely be a beer that sparks much debate, as a “love me or hate me” brew. I’d recommend trying it, but be sure to bring an open mind and an empty stomach, as it’ll fill you up and make you think at the same time.


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on December 16, 2008.
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