Smuttynose Rocky Road Stout (Big Beer Series)
Look: 5.0 | Smell: 3.5 | Taste: 4.75 | Feel: 4.0 | Overall: 4.3
Brewery at a glance: If you are reading this and are familiar with the Brew Review series, you are probably wondering if Beard + Bloom has a partnership with Smuttynose Brewing Company due to, now, three of their brews being reviewed in this series. Sadly, we do not but it hasn’t stopped me from becoming mildly obsessed with their brews over the past few years and, in a very large way, would consider putting them on my short list of favorite breweries out there.
So, if someone from Smuttynose is reading this, Beard + Bloom is very interested in some sort of a partnership. Send me brews to reviews and you’ll definitely see them here. Hell, I would even buy the beers myself for a bit of swag. For readers, I’m sorry for this call out for shameless self-promotion but, by now, you’ve read my thoughts on the excellent brewery in my reviews of Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale and Smuttynose Baltic Porter. So you know, we’ve been interested in working with a few breweries to see if there is anything we can do to partner with them in an effort to expand our brand beyond our limited local influence. Smuttynose, even though they are hundreds of miles away from us, would definitely be a place I would want to work with. They make consistently good product and aren’t afraid to do something completely unusual like the beer featured in this week’s Brew Review.
If you haven’t done so already, I highly encourage you to take home a few of their beers. They should be widely available at most of the liquor stores in the Midwest. I’ve had several of their offerings and none of them have been disappointing. So read this post, go out to your favorite local liquor store, and make yours a Smutty.
Look: Rocky Road pours a deep, opaque black with a deep, caramel color foamy head. There looks to be minimal amount of carbonation but the lacing sticks to the glass with every sip making the beer look attractive all the way down. When I think big, rich stouts, the way this pours is exactly what I picture. On this alone, this beer looks like a perfect 5.0/5.0. This is the first in a series of bombers I plan on reviewing for the blog and, given that there is a little more space on the bottle, many breweries go all out on the artwork on their labels. I’ve spent some time in previous Brew Reviews (Once again: Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale and Smuttynose Baltic Porter) discussing my favor of the decidedly minimalist charm of Smuttynose’s beer labels. This one is no different.
On the label, we have a Yin-Yang made up of a swirl of marshmallow fluff and chocolate in front of a very chill nature scene. While I’m usually not a fan of any artwork featuring the often cliche symbol, I have to admit that it works really well for this beer on account of it conjuring up images of its advertised taste which, for those that cannot read the label in the provided picture, this brew is a stout brewed with cocoa nibs, marshmallow fluff, and aged on oak chips (see why I bought it?). As always, I’ve poured this stout in the appropriate glassware (a Spiegelau Stout Glass) which, by now, you should probably have already purchased yourself a set because I couldn’t stop raving about them in my 10 Gifts Ideas for the Beer Drinker post. Seriously, do yourself a favor and purchase these now. They are available on Amazon and are definitely worth the price.
Smell: On the nose, I get subtle hints of toasted marshmallows, oak, and an overload of rich, dark chocolate. The smell is decidedly more subtle than most stouts brewed with as many adjuncts but this is more representative of most stouts which often have a much more subtle smell than most other types of beer. Interestingly, I enlisted Aly’s help for the pictures this time around (hence the use of props) and, as soon as I opened the beer, she immediately made a comment about how good it smelled. She often has trouble distinguishing subtle hints of scent in the brews I drink but, with this one, she was able to identify the sweet smell of marshmallows and the olfactory wallop of its rich chocolate smell. For that alone, I have to give this brew a higher score in smell.
Taste: So the big question you should be asking yourself here is “does it taste like rocky road ice cream?”. I can say, without a moment’s hesitate, that the answer is, unequivocally, “yes”. For me, rocky road ice cream has always been almost sickeningly rich with dark chocolate flavors that are balanced by the light marshmallow flavor and creamy ice cream qualities. Miraculously, Smuttynose’s interpretation of the ice cream in beer form, has all of these qualities and then some. On first sip, you taste the bitter chocolate flavors that overwhelm your palate. Once the flavor settles, there’s a noticeable toasted marshmallow quality that is, most likely, helped from the oak chips to give it the toasted flavor. Given that all good stouts have a creamy quality, this one doesn’t fall short in conveying ice cream-like qualities. The only complaint that I would expect from people trying this beer expecting an alcoholic answer to their favorite ice cream flavor would be linked to its noticeable lack of sweetness. All things considered, Smuttynose’s Rocky Road is a somewhat bitter dark chocolate representation to the flavor. For me, this is a-okay. If the beer were even a tad sweeter, I don’t think would be able to finish an entire bomber and would probably be forced to share this with someone. But because it hits all the right notes for me and I was feeling selfish when I drank the beer, I’m totally okay with savoring the beer with no outside help.
Feel: If you are like me, I often have to eat rocky road ice cream with a glass of water (or milk) because of how drying the dark chocolate flavor can be. This brew is also a little bit on the dry side but it helps that this is most likely due to the cocoa nibs that were used to brew it. The taste profile is prolonged due to its viscous, syrupy mouthfeel that is settles into the more subtle flavors of the stout as it dries on your palate. It isn’t a really big stout but does pack a semi-high ABV at 7.3%. There is virtually no boozy punch at the end and, much like the ice cream flavor, I felt myself wanting a glass of water once the brew was finished.
Overall: I don’t recall if I have ever stated on the blog that I have this unhealthy allegiance to stouts that could be drunk for dessert. Among my favorites are Saugatuck’s Neapolitan Milk Stout, Southern Tier’s Creme Brulee Stout, and Short’s Key Lime Pie (look for a future series where I try all of the Short’s Brewing beers now that they are available in Indiana). Now that I’ve had Smuttynose’s answer to the excellent options of dessert beers on the market, I have to say that it fits among the best of the best. Where the three beers I’ve included as other examples of dessert beers overwhelm the drinker with intense sweetness, Rocky Road Stout takes the more subtle, pun intended, dry road. This is definitely a sweet beer but, given its influence, it stays true to form by being an intense barrage of rich dark chocolate that dries the palate with every sip.
It wouldn’t be the first beer I would recommend to someone looking for a brew that satiates their sweet tooth but definitely one I would suggest to those looking for a brew that is decidedly different yet reminiscent of a familiar flavor that they probably love. It is a beer that comes out annually as a seasonal but, strangely, I had a difficult time finding it on the shelves. So don’t expect to see this one on draft at your favorite local craft beer pub or widely available on many liquor store shelves. But, if you see it, grab a bomber and share it with your friends after a nice dinner for dessert. Or drink it all to yourself and write a blog post about it. Either way, I don’t think you will be disappointed.
Have you had this brew? Tell me your thoughts in the comments below.