In search of stout

Local-beer taste test reveals a surprisingly tasty treat

A few weeks ago, I was over at the Oasis Bar & Grill, getting ready to take on some friends/rivals in a match of 9-ball, and the bartender announced that they’d just finished their last keg of Celebration Ale and replaced it with Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.’s newest, the Beer Camp Tropical IPA. Did I want to taste it? Sure, why not?

I’ve never been shy about admitting that I’m partial to Bud Light, because it’s so darn drinkable while being relatively low in alcohol content. But when it comes to sitting down and really enjoying a beer, I do love a good IPA. My first whiff of the Tropical IPA, however, threw me for a loop. They weren’t kidding when they came up with that name! It smells positively tropical. So fruity, in fact, that I almost didn’t want to taste it—it smelled like it would taste horrible.

The good news? It’s actually pretty tasty, although there’s just too much to it for me to want to drink it on the regular. The bottle advertises “intense hop varietals,” and they made this beer a bit too intense for me.

Since I was trying new beers, I thought, winter feels like the perfect time to sit around a fire and sip on a stout. So I headed over to Mangrove Bottle Shop and bought three of them. And drank them (at least part of each of them). And was pleasantly surprised.

I wanted to stay local, so I started with Sierra Nevada’s Stout. By the end of my tasting, I realized this was the perfect one to begin with. It’s smooth and subtle—nothing at all like the burst of flavor that the Tropical IPA offered. It even smells smooth. Not bad at all.

The second of my taste-testings was the Volcano Mudslide stout from Feather Falls Casino Brewing Co. It was also my second favorite. While it didn’t have the same smooth smell, the flavor was a bit fuller than the Sierra Nevada, and it was sweeter as well. I actually tasted a bit of the coffee and chocolate indicated on the label. Yum.

Sitting pretty close in the case to the Feather River stout was one from High Water Brewing called Campfire Stout. “Leaves you wanting s’more,” reads the bottom of the label. I’d tried this once before, at a beer fest, and had to include it in my taste test. Once I got home, I double-checked the clerk’s assertion that High Water, too, was local. He’s right! While the beers are brewed in San Jose, the brewer’s corporate offices are right here in Chico. Score one point. More points go to the Campfire Stout because, well, it’s just that delicious. It really does taste like a s’more, like I should be sitting around that aforementioned fire, listening to someone strumming guitar, gazing at a sky full of stars. Sounds perfect.