Beer Review 0510: AleSmith Speedway Stout Imperial Stout
AleSmith Brewing Company is located in San Diego, California, and was founded by Peter Zien in 1995. AleSmith has deep roots in the homebrewing community; Mr. Zien was a home homebrewer himself who dreamed of wanting to own a brewery. Well, that dream came true; Zien is also San Diego County’s only BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) “Grand Master” beer judge. BJCP sanctions homebrewing competitions.
To continue the homebrew theme, the other major half of AleSmith, Tod Fitzsimmons, was a former president of the homebrew club QUAFF. He joined the company as a brewer in 1996.
The beer we are looking at today, Speedway Stout, is widely regarded as one of the best Imperial Stouts currently on the market. A year-round brew, Speedway Stout is a 12% ABV (alcohol by volume) beer that has coffee beans added. The beans are from nearby Ryan Bros. Coffee, Inc., and are locally-roasted. This beer is not distributed here in North Carolina, so special thanks to Dave (Untappd user OnWisconsin) for graciously sending me a bottle in a beer trade.
Pouring produced an average size, soapy head that was light khaki in color and dense, lasting for a good while atop the beer. The liquid was pitch black, with just a hint of purple highlight in the bottom of the glass when raised to light. The body appeared clear, free of particles and sediment, while lacing was very nice for such a high ABV beer, producing a nice film of weepy foam that descended into the glass toward the beer.
The nose is incredible; a deep, heavy aroma that presents equal notes dark chocolate and coffee. Yes, this beer is brewed with coffee, but it’s not in the way and contributes to the other scents to be found here — the coffee is black, perhaps with a bit of sweetener; there’s a big note of caramel along with the dark chocolate, and even some milk chocolate. Speedway Stout suggests some dark fruits like prune and plum as well, has a deeply roasted note, and just a puff of smoke. This brew smells rich and hearty. A meal in a glass, or more like it, dessert.
There’s three main flavors on the initial sip: dark chocolate, coffee, and caramel. It’s thick and viscous but not syrupy; in the middle of the taste, and as it begins to warm, notes of vanilla, creme brûlée, and a small bit of dark fruit begin to come out. But you can’t get rid of the underlying layer of dark chocolate, which serves to transition the beginning, middle, and end of the beer: the finish comes on like fine Swiss dark chocolate, with creamy and decadent notes of bittersweet heaven, burnt sugar, vanilla, and rounded out by coffee. The 12% ABV is here, but it’s hidden in taste yet present just enough in feeling to let you know this is a big beer. Speedway Stout is full-bodied, with a thick, creamy and foamy mouthfeel. Carbonation is soft, which contributes greatly to the pillowy texture.
Mind. Blown. AleSmith are hitting all the right notes on this one — I was so impressed right from the initial sip, I knew this was going to be a perfect beer twenty minutes before I finished rating it. What I like so much about this beer is that while it is brewed with coffee, the coffee doesn’t completely overtake the palate; instead, it helps all the other flavors while providing a solid base for everything to play off of. Drinkability is especially high; factor in the alcohol and the age (less than three months on this bottle) and it’s easily one of the most easy drinking, if not THE most quaffable 12% ABV beer I’ve ever had. I know I say it often, but Speedway Stout is a beer you’d take to a party full of wine drinkers and you’d show them a different, perhaps unseen side of beer.
This is one hell of a beer and you should, by all means, do yourself a favor and seek it out today! And at review #510, AleSmith Speedway Stout becomes the tenth beer to receive a perfect rating.
AleSmith Speedway Stout Imperial Stout, 100 points. Price: $13.99 US for a 750 ml. bottle.