1/5/20: Breakside Brewery's Salted Caramel Stout

3:46 PM

Just before the calendar turned, an old buddy of mine swung down to the Greater Cincinnati area for a visit. He and his girlfriend were in-state visiting his family for the holidays and they came down to spend the day exploring the Queen City with me (don't worry--this wasn't a spur-the-moment thing that put me and Michelle out; he and I arranged their visit months in advance).

I think they enjoyed their time here. Even if they didn't, I sure enjoyed the time I spent with them. The icing on the cake was that they brought along a few bottles for me to sample. Today, I'm breaking into one of them; the other'll be featured closer to Halloween (because it's a pumpkin brew). Oh, did I mention that they live in Portland, Oregon? Because that's where they live. This is a Portland brew you can't get around these parts, which makes me all the more excited to try it. So, here we go. Breakside's Salted Caramel Stout.

Breakside's from (as you've probably guessed from reading between the subtle lines in that intro) Portland. In operation circa 2020 (a decade now!), the brewery's seen some major changes since opening its doors to the public. It now has three separate locations under its wing, a slew of awards, and, just last year, it became employee-owned. Further details on all these points and more can be found by hitting up its homepage and scrolling to the bottom.

Salted Caramel Stout, brewed in collaboration with Salt & Straw Ice Cream, is a stout that features the addition of salt and caramel to the brew. It features caramel in the nose and flavor and a bit of salt in the finish. All this is packaged with typical stout roastiness and a slim 6.7% ABV (I know the linked page says 7.2%, but my bottle disagrees with that, dammit).

My first waft of the stout's bouquet yields deep and dark stout aromatics (namely dark chocolate and cold brew coffee) along with molasses and a slight hint of salt. If I dig deeper, I get that caramel, but it's not as prevalent as you'd expect, especially since it's touted on the nose by the brewery. I have to say, though, I like this aroma. Purrl could take it or leave it. She gave my bottle six whiffs.

Let me unpack the flavor profile. Sure, it's not super complicated, but it's one of those beers where the notes hit you one at a time. First up is the caramel, which is far more prominent than I'd expected and is followed by that typical stouty coffee and chocolate lingering about in the long finish. There isn't any dark fruit here, which is fine by me because that'd just add unnecessary complexities. The salt, as advertised is here, in the finish, at the very end, asking me to take another pull from my bottle.

The mouthfeel from the beer is big and brash. It wallops like a heavier stout and is exactly what I'd wanted from the bottle. Full and carbonated, neither creamy nor fizzy. A hearty stout.

This beer brings back a few Athens (Ohio University is my alma mater) memories. In one, Purrl Háma and I are in our apartment during a hot summer afternoon while Michelle is out. Háma's still a kitten (Purrl's only just not) and we're playing with a ropey mauve mouse toy. The storm door's open and cicadas are singing through the screen while sweat drips from my nose.

In another, it's the summer before, during the second derecho Ohio'd seen in two years. My buddies and I are uptown at the bars during the downpour. We're laughing at our drunkenness and at the even greater drunkenness of everyone else out in the storm. We're in one of our favorite dives, and, excepting the couple of people throwing darts in the back, we have the place to ourselves. We're at the front near a window, which is steamy from our being in the rain.

These are some of the most cherished memories of my adult life thus far (although I can recall some better ones), and I'm happy to think of them as I sit, slowly swigging from my bottle.

I like Breakside's Salted Caramel Stout a lot. Like, 8.5/10 a lot. Between its rich flavors and the joyful memories it conjures, I cannot recommend it to everyone quickly enough. While it's far from a summer beer, it's one that each of you should get to try, especially if you get to drink it in January.

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