Review Date 12/29/2009
I've said this before, but here I go again: I love beer, and I love coffee. So put the two together, and you should get a no-brainer, right? Most of the time, the answer is yes, but in the case of Long Trail Coffee Stout, the answer is a lot more like Yes! Yes! That's because, and I'm not even going to wait to get to the tasting notes to tell you this, this may well be one of the best coffee-beer hybrids I've ever tasted.
Long Trail Coffee Stout is part of the Brewmaster Series of beers from this Bridgewater Corners, Vermont brewer. The beers are only sold in 22-ounce bomber bottles and on draft, and so far also include a double IPA and an imperial porter. The Coffee Stout is only brewed during February and March. I bought a bottle for about five bucks while in Rhode Island last May and I've been storing it since then.
Long Trail's Coffee Stout is an imperial stout in style and easily the biggest such beer in body and flavor I've come across. It boasts an impressive 8.0% alcohol content by volume and 50 IBUs of bitterness. To be sure, there are bigger imperial stouts out there, but they aren't mixed with coffee as this one is. And not just any coffee mind you, but a fair trade, organic special dark roast made specifically for Long Trail by the Vermont Coffee Company.
Long Trail Coffee Stout pours to a jet black color with a medium sized creamy tan head formation and a powerfully aromatic nose of licorice and espresso. The bottle advises one to pour the beer slowly into a glass, and goes even further with a small image of the beer being decanted from the bottle via a slanted pour. I oblige by transferring a goodly portion of my bomber bottle into a dimpled Guinness Stout mug.
Taking a sip, I'm immediately impressed with the body: thick, oily, viscous, everything a good imperial stout should be, at least texturally. The flavors are equally impressive: intense, spicy licorice; smooth bittersweet chocolate; and finally roasty, dark espresso. A hint of dark fruit (raisin) pokes through as well. The coffee is particularly pronounced here as one might expect, more so than in any other coffee stout I've tried in the past. But even at that, it's well balanced with the imperial stout flavors.
The beer finishes bitter, but more roasty bitter like a fresh cup of black coffee than hoppy bitter. There's a touch of alcohol burn as well. All in all, I think this is without a doubt one of the best coffee brews I've ever tasted. I commented on Redhook Double Black Stout that I thought the coffee might be more pronounced in that beer because it lacked the robust character of an imperial stout. Long Trail's Coffee Stout manages to deliver the best of both worlds, and is, I think, superior to that brew.
On a final note, I thought while sipping this one how wonderfully it might pair with chocolate. I was not disappointed upon putting the proof to the pudding. Seizing a square of Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet Baker's Chocolate leftover from my wife's holiday baking, I paired it with a sip of Long Trail Coffee Stout to great effect, She had employed the chocolate to craft a scratch-made Black Forest Cake for Christmas Eve, and now that I think of it, this beer would likely pair magically with that delightful confection as well.
And remember, try a new beer today, and drink outside the box.
*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.