Beer Review 0316: Westbrook Cap’n Skoon’s Ballistic Stout

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I took a trip down to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for the New Year holiday, and an out of town trip naturally means a visit to a couple of local bottle shops for beers I can’t get back home. Westbrook Brewing Company makes beer in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. I picked up four bottles of their brew for review, and I’ll be going through those all this week.

While Westbrook’s website doesn’t divulge much history about the brewery, they are pretty new to the scene, having first produced beer in late 2010. The founder, Ed Westbrook, started with a local home brewing club, earning the name “Prolific Ed” because he brought 5-10 different home brews to the club each month. After graduating Furman University with a degree in computer science and later Clemson University with a MBA, Ed had the idea to start a brewery.

Planning began in 2009, and Mr. Westbrook hired an experienced brewmaster to run the show, given that he had no commercial brewery experience. Currently, Westbrook list two year-round brews and a host of seasonal/special offerings; in fact, they have so many of these type beers that I couldn’t find either of their regularly scheduled programming. Every beer I came home with is either seasonal or special release.

Celebrating their second anniversary as a brewery, Westbrook brewed the beer I have up for review today — Cap’n Skoon’s Ballistic Stout. Here’s the weird thing: this beer was fermented with a German lager yeast, and the brewery says it is a “roasty imperial black lager,” but they’re calling it an Imperial Stout. Yeah, beats me. Apparently, Cap’n Skoon is some kind of fictional character, although an Internet search turns up nothing. This beer is a big one, coming in at 10% ABV (alcohol by volume).

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Release from the bottle gave an average size, dark brown head, creamy and soapy, which lasted atop a pitch black beer. This is Imperial Stout to a tee — there wasn’t any light to be found, not even around the edges. I noticed it poured muddy, and I have no idea about particles or sediment, because the brew was so dark. Lacing was very nice, leaving this beer with a perfect score in appearance.

On the nose, there’s plenty of coffee and dark chocolate; then, there’s also a sour grape found in some Imperial Stouts. While not detestable, the grape doesn’t really compliment the rich coffee and chocolate. Thankfully, all is not lost because the grape does open the drink up to some dark fruit aromas, such as prune, raisin, and plum. What we have here is kind of standard and not really exciting.

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The taste is impressive — it starts with a sweet coffee, then opens to more of a dark chocolate that layers up from light to dark; darker when you touch your tongue to the roof of your mouth. Middle of the mouth rushes in a general roast with a suggestion of smoke, all the while a gentle alcohol gives this a stiff mouthfeel. The finish sees the roast tame and usher in more dark chocolate, strong black coffee, and ultimately concluding with a bittersweet flavor with a gentle drying quality. Ballistic Stout is full-bodied, with a thick and creamy mouthfeel, and while there is alcohol present, it only adds to the flavors.

I’m not quite sure what the German lager yeast does here, but this is a tasty beer; the best Westbrook beer I got on my trip to Myrtle Beach. Naturally, this one gets better as it warms. Westbrook seems like a solid brewery with a great future ahead. I wish I could try more of their offerings; next time I’m in South Carolina, I’ll be sure to pick up more. Try this Imperial Stout if you can.

Westbrook Cap’n Skoon’s Ballistic Stout, 92 points. Price: $10.29 US for one 22 oz. bomber size bottle.

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