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Beer of the Week: Old No. 38 Stout

BY DI STAFF | SEPTEMBER 06, 2012 6:30 AM

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Name: Old No. 38 Stout
Product Of: North Coast Brewing Co., Fort Bragg, Calif.
Serving Style: Chilled bottle
Size: 12 fluid ounces

Old No. 38 Stout is a straightforward beer with a straightforward taste. As far as stouts go, Old No. 38 is on the higher end of alcohol by volume (5.6 percent) but comparable on price. Although No. 38 pours thick like a stout, its taste is surprisingly similar to most light beers. I had expected more of a bite, but No. 38 is underwhelming on all of the senses. Don’t be fooled by the train barreling toward you on the classy green and gold label — this stout is gentle yet refreshing.

Smell: The odor of No. 38 is relatively passive. Expect “toasted’’ aromas of barley and malt to gingerly enter your nostrils. A deep inhale or two and some thin traces of coffee, chocolate, or vanilla might be discernible. 3.5/5

Appearance: The body of the beer is dark black. The color remains consistent throughout the entire glass. A half finger of creamy tan head will lace the glass initially but dissipate quickly. The consistency appears much thicker in the glass than it pours from the bottle. 4.5/5

Taste: I was really taken by how gentle the taste was on the palate. It’s easily one of the gentlest stouts I’ve ever tasted but in a pleasant way. There are soft hints of many more flavors than the aroma suggests, including cleanly roasted malt, chocolate, coffee, bitter fruit, hops, mocha, and vanilla. Every sip left me with a slightly different idea of what might be in the subtle mix of flavors. The variety was intriguing to slowly savor, and the dry-mouth feel packs just the right amount of bitterness. 4/5

Overall: Old No. 38 Stout may not hit the senses very strongly, but it does have a delicate balance of flavor and that begs to be savored. Drinkers familiar with stouts will likely enjoy a well-prepared stout that doesn’t need to be overpowering to deliver on taste, while casual drinkers might prefer to pair the stout with barbeque-type food until a taste for the subtle flavors of stouts are developed.
Personally, I’m not a fan of stouts, but it’s a well-brewed example for the category overall. 12/15

 by Dan Verhille


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