I’ve been on a huge stout kick this month, partially due to St. Patrick’s Day and partially due to the desire to enjoy a bunch of rich dark beer before the weather gets warm and I switch my fridge over to lighter styles. The crazy thing with stouts is how much diversity you can find in the style, all feature the dark roasted malts that add coffee/chocolate notes and the deep brown to black coloring, but there are many different sub-styles. Some are relatively new additions to the stout portfolio, like sugar bomb pastry stouts, hopped up tropical stouts and even the bourbon barrel aged imperial stouts that have become craft beer staples. Other stout sub-styles have a rich history, from the dry Irish variety that works perfect with a nitro tap (think Guinness), to the full bodied oatmeal stouts, lactose infused sweet/milk stouts, and big and boozy (Russian) imperial stouts. One sub-style that hasn’t gained as much traction in craft beer is the foreign extra stout, a bigger and slightly hoppier version of the traditional Irish stout. American craft beer tends to focus on extremes, so it’s no wonder that the the majority of stouts are either hugely boozy, loaded with adjuncts like doughnuts and coffee, or both. With the rise in popularity of craft lagers I think breweries are seeing that other very traditional beer styles can gain an audience if they are done well. One foreign extra stout I grabbed recently was Finnegan’s Ladder from Shebeen Brewing in Wolcott, CT. Shebeen Finnegan’s Ladder is available on a rotating basis on draft and in 16 oz cans.
Shebeen Finnegan’s Ladder pours nearly black with a solid light brown head. The aroma features the rich roasted malt you expect from a big stout. The flavor is also malt forward, notes of milk chocolate, espresso and caramel. This is balanced by a sturdy dose of hops, hints of grass and herbs along with a noticeable bitter bite. Finnegan’s Ladder is medium-full bodied and drinks smooth but packs some punch at 7% ABV. The finish is rich with some lingering malt flavor and hop bite. This is a really tasty stout, loads of flavor, complex and still approachable. Grab some for the end of the colder weather before “real” spring moves in! Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.