Ah, college football season. As if alumni needed an excuse to revisit the places typically associated with some of the best (or at least, most fun) years of our lives. For the VBR crew, we’ve staked our tents (literally in this week’s case) at Camp Wahoo, a mere stone’s throw from Scott Stadium. We’re under no delusion that UVa is a team of world beaters, but we have our hopes and our beers to keep us afloat through what have been some trying seasons of late. With #9 Notre Dame in town, and our ‘Hoos looking completely overmatched on the round against another top-15 opponent in UCLA a week prior, we were certainly under no delusions we could pull the upset. Then again, embattled coach Mike London has pulled off one improbable home upset nearly every year of his tenure, so you never know…
(thinks on it)
…nah, not happening. But for the second year running, VBR will be hosting a Tailgate Throwdown for each tailgate we attend at Camp Wahoo, sampling beers for the crowd with at least loose ties to the opponent or time of year. In this case, you didn’t have to be a cicerone to know that we had Dry Irish Stouts on our minds with the Fighting Irish in town!
It turns out that Dry Irish Stouts are a bit hard to come by in the summer. There are actually quite a few produced in Virginia (we’ve covered Starr Hill’s Dark Starr and the recently well-received ODIS from O’Connor), but our timing was basically crap. With the fate of Dark Starr in the hands of the Beer Gods (and the last bottles for-potentially-ever disappearing off shelves in the last few weeks), and ODIS and Three Notch’d’s O’Naughtons being out of season, we went from what looked like a good in-state batch to nada in the blink of an eye. Apropos to the season, we audibled to a general Stout theme and looked for a few newbies to test against one of our reigning champs from last year.
Beer List: Samuel Smith’s Chocolate Stout (England), North Coast Old No. 38 (CA), The Answer/Cigar City (Richmond, VA), and Blue Mountain Dark Hollow (Afton, VA)
In a new twist for VBR, we teamed up with friend Ramona Rice (aka the Sports Gal Pal, @SportsGalPal) to broadcast the Throwdown on Periscope. In the future we’ll look to put up some videos, but for now you can read the results below!
# of Tasters: 7
Beer 1: Samuel Smith Chocolate Stout
Profile: Chocolate Stout
Tasting Notes: “milky” “smooth” “lots of lactose” “just like the description says”
Overall: This beer kicked off the tailgate season by provoking a philosophical discussion on whether beer had closest to (or at) the source is significantly different (and better) than bottles consumed potentially thousands of miles away. The question is unequivocally yes, but there are some styles which seem to do well when exported, and creamy stouts like this are among them. Personally, I liked that the chocolate nose didn’t lead to an overly sweet body. Good enough for winter, but versatile enough to almost be refreshing on a summer day.
Crowd Score: 8.0
My Score: 8.0
Beer 2: North Coast Old No. 38 Stout
Profile: Dry Irish Stout
Tasting Notes: “nutty” “whisky”
Overall: The only beer matching our intended theme, we were expecting an earthy beer given North Coast’s (and California’s in general) brewing reputation. In that sense, this beer didn’t disappoint. The whisky notes were intriguing, but the flavors weren’t quite as robust as is typical of the style. Solid on any other occasion.
Crowd Score: 7.0
My Score: 7.0
Beer 3: The Answer Goodnight Mekong
Profile: Imperial Coffee Stout
Tasting Notes: “a little boozy” “a beer version of Kahlua” “my Monday mornings”
Overall: The Answer has been on quite a roll recently. This was my first sample of any of their brews, so while Goodnight Mekong may have come in with a slight lead in certain corners, beer drew the biggest mixed reaction. There were certainly a few fans, but scores ranged from near perfect to “ehhh.”
Crowd Score: 7.5
My Score: 7.0
Beer 4: Blue Mountain Dark Hollow
Profile: Bourbon Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout
Tasting Notes: “smooth” “bourbon without the booze” “…yup”
Overall: Our champion from last year’s Aged in Oak Throwdown, this is a big, bold, downright powerful beer. As dark as Hershey’s syrup and just as silky in flavor. The big difference between Dark Hollow and Goodnight Mekong is that the lowest crowd scores were a bit higher.
Crowd Score: 8.5
My Score: 9.0
Although a smorgasbord of dishes were brought out by our fellow revelers in Camp Wahoo for the annual Chickenpalooza, we did not do our usual food tasting with the beers as other tailgate events were ongoing. That may have affected the overall winner, but given the lead Dark Hollow built up, perhaps not. In general, this was a strong lineup with several bottles “disappearing” as we were wrapping up. And while UVa pulled the upset over a ranked team the last time Dark Hollow took the crown, alas, this time our hearts were ripped out with 12 seconds remaining…
…as if 50,000 Wahoos suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced…
Overall Winner: Blue Mountain Dark Hollow