6/16/19: Braxton Labs' French Toast

8:38 AM

It's a Sunday morning. Father's Day morning, to be exact. It's sunny here in middle-of-nowhere east-of-Cincinnati, Ohio, but the ground is still drenched from some heavy storms last night. I was going to try to mow before Michelle and I head to her family's Father's Day thing, but now that's not possible.

But, hey, when life gives you lemons, right? See, I kind of lucked out here. Yesterday was the second anniversary of Braxton Labs and, in celebration, they held a shindig and released a new stout for the occasion: French Toast. I ducked down to KY after work and grabbed three four-packs (two for me, one of a buddy of mine). Instead of hanging around for the whole party going on, I came home with aspirations of doing a post on the stout when time allowed.

And wouldn't you know? Time's allowing for that right now. So, here we go. Braxton Labs' French Toast.

Braxton Labs is a taproom/brewery that occupies the back of the building that also houses Bellevue, KY's The Party Source, a massive liquor, beer, and wine store. Braxton decided to expand to its Labs location (that link will take you to more information about the place) in order to use the smaller space to try new ideas. Here, they play with style and flavor and generally experiment with their brews (this is doubtlessly where the "labs" moniker comes into play). This Bellevue Braxton also features taps from different breweries and has regular rare bourbon nights. So, on the whole, it allows Braxton to have even more fun with beer and booze.

French Toast, as described by its Untappd page, is a pastry stout that clocks in at 10% ABV. Braxton Labs took what was originally an imperial stout and added maple syrup, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. I'm expected it to be big, boozy, and undeniably sweet.

Why sweet? Well, let's go back to pastry stout, a term that I've not used on the blog before. Yeah, I know that some of you are familiar this term, so you all can feel free to skip the rest of this paragraph. But, for the uninitiated, I have you covered. Pastry stout was once a derogatory term used to describe overly-sweet stouts that attempted to mimic flavors found in cakes, s'mores, cookies, and a myriad of other pastry-like confections. Recently (as in the last two years, give or take) breweries have leaned hard into this term, realizing there was a heavy demand for these kind of stouts. Now, a pastry stout is generally both lauded and abhorred in turn, much like every other beer style.

I happen to be in camp with those who enjoy pastry stouts. And, even if the term wasn't printed on French Toast's label, one could easily guess as to what it is by merely looking at the ingredients. Like I said, this thing'll be sweet. Beyond being just a pastry stout, we can added breakfast as a descriptor to my can's contents. A breakfast pastry stout. Perfect for drinking at 10:30 a.m. on a warm, sunny Sunday.

The bouquet is cashing the check written by the stout's description. Over-the-top sweetness here. My first whiff brings, in a way I don't know, banana. Maybe it's from a combination of the vanilla and the nutmeg? My second whiff is all vanilla. Diving deeper, get rich, candied maple syrup sweetness with a hearty layer of chocolate hiding below everything else. Purrl didn't get as much enjoyment from the beer's nose as I did: She gave it two quick whiffs and turned her face away. Like I said, pastry stouts don't please everyone.

And now the stout's flavor is spending the cash given to it by the bouquet. First there's a wallop of vanilla that's immediately overthrown by the cinnamon. The cinnamon dominates the brew. Just before the finish (and it's a long one) there's a hearty amount of maple syrup and finally, way back at the end of the finish, there's big, roasty imperial stout flavor. The whole thing is packaged in boozy warmth and wrapped in a big, bold cinnamon bow. The cinnamon undercuts everything in the beer. I don't hate this, but I can't say that really helps the beer in any capacity.

The mouthfeel is on par with that of any other imperial stout worth its grain. It's thick, it's full, it's filling. Everything here checks out.

When we lived in Athens, especially during the warmer months, I'd regularly go for runs in the morning. One of my favorite routes was to hop on the bike path and follow it east along the Hocking River. I'd run the path down until it's end on the far side of East State Street before turning around and following the asphalt home.

Sometimes, though (actually, pretty frequently) I'd peel off of the asphalt and run along the very edge of the Hocking. There was an old pine tree along this path-yet-not-path that had colorful chalk markings on it. There were rings drawn around the tree on its bark with a heart traced in a few different colors above these rings. I have no idea who did this or why, but I always took pleasure in seeing it. It was there for the five years I lived in Athens--it was probably there before I moved in and it's probably there now that I've moved out. I don't know why I'm think of that chalk-covered pine as I'm drinking this pastry stout, but that's the image in my mind.

Well, I've spent so long writing this post that the sun I wrote about earlier is gone, replaced by heavy rainfall. I'm hearing thunder out in the distance. This all means it's probably about time for me to wrap this post up, so I'll make it quick: Braxton Labs' French Toast is a fine pastry stout. While it's a little too heavy on the cinnamon for my liking, it's sweet and it's strong. I'm giving it an 8.0/10. Check it out if you're down in Bellevue in the near future--this'll go fast!

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