Wilmington Ale Trail hosted a blind taste test of 16 different stouts and porters to crown local and international winners
This winter, in the hopes of discovering the most delectable dark beers in town, Wilmington Ale Trail held a blind taste test of local and globally popular stouts and porters. Seven of Wilmington’s beer professionals gathered to try 16 different beers, pitting the brews against each other to discover the best of both the local and international offerings.
The beers were judged based on the Beer Judge Certification Program and American Homebrewers Association scoresheet, on points including aroma, appearance, flavor, mouthfeel, and overall impression. The judges assessed the beers for stylistic accuracy and technical merit. Of the 16 beers, two local brews and two international stouts rose to the top.
4/3 Brewing – Milk Stout – Wilmington, NC
Browar Witnica – Black Boss Porter – Witnica, Poland
Broomtail Craft Brewery – Grande Rappe Imperial Stout – Wilmington, NC
Broomtail Craft Brewery – Rappe Imperial Stout – Wilmington, NC
Check Six Brewing Co. – Dugan’s Chocolate Stout – Southport, NC
Check Six Brewing Co. – Harley Pope Imperial Porter – Southport, NC
Flytrap Brewing – Stout – Wilmington, NC
Front Street Brewery – Tiny Tim’s Christmas Porter – Wilmington NC
Good Hops Brewing – Water Spout Stout – Carolina Beach, NC
Great Lakes Brewing – Ohio City Oatmeal Stout – Cleveland, OH
Ironclad Brewery – Teach’s Chocolate Stout – Wilmington, NC
Lagunitas Brewing Company – Imperial Stout – Petaluma, California
Samuel Smith’s Brewery – Organic Chocolate Stout – Tadcaster, United Kingdom
Westbrook Brewing Co. – Udderly Milk Stout – Mount Pleasant, SC
Wilmington Brewing Co. – Blair’s Breakfast Stout – Wilmington, NC
Wells & Young’s Double Chocolate Stout – Bedford, United Kingdom
Caleb Churchwell – owner of Bombers Bev. Co., 10+ years experience in the craft beer industry including retail and supplier, Certified Beer Server
Aaron Dowling – manager of Lighthouse Beer and Wine; degree in Brewing Technology from World Brewing Academy; six years homebrewing experience; Certified Beer Server
Mario Espinoza – manager at Fermental; former intern at Mother Earth Brewing and judge at the Lower Cape Fear Homebrew Competition; Certified Beer Server
Steve Gibbs – owner at Fermental; 15+ years experience in the beer industry from retail to wholesale; avid IPA consumer and stout collector; Certified Beer Server; draught mechanic
Jim Koebel – Associate Exam Director for the Beer Judge Certification Program and holds the rank of Grand Master beer judge; expert review for The Beer Connoisseur magazine; began enjoying good beer about a decade ago and started homebrewing shortly thereafter
Justin Lewis – attorney with Ward and Smith, P.A.; member of the Real Estate and Alcoholic Beverage Law practice groups; experience includes assisting the craft brewery, winery and distilled spirits industries in understanding and complying with the complex rules, regulations and permit obligations enforced by various federal, state, and local agencies
Mark Anthony Mueller – brewery consultant and assistant brewer with Waterline Brewing; co-owner of the Port City Brew Bus, providing weekly educational brewery tours and style tastings for Wilmington residents and tourists; a student of both beer history and styles and considers himself a craft beer evangelist
#1 LOCAL AND #1 OVERALL – Wilmington Brewing Company Blair’s Breakfast Stout
Weighing in at 7% ABV, Blair’s Breakfast Stout was described by judges as possessing a strong coffee aroma—like cold brew coffee—and a bitter, roasted finish. The appearance offered good head retention of a light brown color, while the liquid was an almost opaque black. According to the judges’ notes, the flavor also offered an undertone of berry and sweet vanilla while the mouthfeel was rich and creamy with good carbonation. Out of 50 available points, Blair’s Breakfast Stout averaged at 38.2.
#2 LOCAL – Broomtail Craft Brewery Rappe Imperial Stout
This north Wilmington brew is 7.4% ABV and was ranked by judges at 30.6 points. Notes described the beer as featuring a “nice nose” of dark fruit, which carried into the flavor profile. Judges also picked up on a lighter mouthfeel and some tobacco and brown sugar in the aroma.
#1 INTERNATIONAL – Lagunitas Brewing Company Imperial Stout
The consensus on this 9.9% ABV beer was a smoky yet sweet aroma with a bit of dark fruit, such as figs and berries. With excellent head retention, Lagunitas Imperial Stout offered plums, molasses, and smoke in the flavor, along with bitter chocolate. The creamy beer featured medium carbonation and a warm mouthfeel. The stout’s average score was 37.2.
#2 INTERNATIONAL – Samuel Smith’s Brewery Organic Chocolate Stout
The Samuel Smith’s organic version rings in at 5% ABV and earned an average of 34.6 points. Many judges harped on the birthday cake-like flavor, though it wasn’t overly sweet, with an aroma of vanilla, maple, and dark brown sugar.