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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Cream Stout Challenge (Samuel Adams Vs. Bell's)

Here is a head-to-head review of two cream stouts: Samuel Adams' Cream Stout and Bell's Double Cream Stout.  First, the sniff test out of the bottle.  Samuel Adams Cream Stout definitely has the more robust bouquet.  It smells like a beer with stoutish tones of roasty and toasty aromas.  Bell's Special Double Cream Stout has a lighter smell, more mellow, with hints of almost like vanilla, so it defintely has more of the vanilla "cream" aspect to its cream stout.  I literally did a double pour into less-than-pint glasses.  Bell's has a darker head, a darker tan color to the foam.  Samuel Adams has a a lighter, whiter head.

Samuel Adams writes, "Smooth and rich, Samuel Adams Cream Stout is brewed with extra portions of roasted chocolate and caramel malts, roasted barley, and hand-selected English hops.  Tradition has it that ale drinkers of Samuel Adams' day considered all other stouts to be merely mile.  This was the cream.  Cheers!"  So, Sam Adams is using the "cream of the crop", the "cream rises to the top" metaphor, but I don't think I imagined the vanilla undertones of the Bell's Special Double Cream Stout.  Bell's writes, "Brewed with a blend of 10 different malts, Double Cream is an incredibly rich stout composed of dark, sweet and smooth tones intermingled with a soft, roasty finish."

So, I am not going to score these two beers head-to-head with competing scores.  I will let El Presidente take care of that.  He can chime in with the technical scores like an Olympic judge.  I will talk in more roundabout terminology.  At 6.1% abv, Bell's wins the smoothness and aromatic test.  It smells good, it tastes good, and it has an alcoholic kick without tasting of alcohol.  Sam Adams, however, has more of a robust stout taste to it, it leaves more attractive lacing on the glass, and it tastes great.  What is the abv %?  I don't know.  The bottle doesn't say, and neither does the website.  That is a pet peeve of min.  Information is power.  Tell your consumers what the abv% is please.  From Sam Adams' website:
Samuel Adams® Cream Stout is a true cream stout, balancing body and sweetness, with the natural spiciness of grain and hand selected English hops. Our brewers use generous portions of roasted chocolate and caramel malts as well as roasted unmalted barley to impart a fullness of body, a roasty malt character and rich, creamy head. Its dark, mahogany color makes it almost as easy on the eyes as it is on the palate.

In conclusion, if I judge coffee stouts by the taste of the coffee flavor, then I have to judge cream stouts by their creaminess.  It only makes sense.  Samuel Adams taste more like a stout, and Bell's seems to taste more like a cream stout.  If you take "cream stout" to be a top grade, "Cream of the crop" stout, then I probably wouldn't pick Samuel Adams anyway.  I am a Samuel Smith man, myself.  So, I am thinking of cream stout as kind of like a milk stout only better, richer.  

Bell's would beg to differ.  They write,
Double Cream Stout derives its name from its smooth, creamy texture, not the ingredients. Completely dairy-free, this stout blends ten different specialty malts to yield a remarkable depth of flavor. With only a touch of burnt notes, Double Cream Stout focuses on the softer, cocoa & espresso-like aspects of roasted malt.

So, no milk, but a creamy, smooth stout.  Bell's wins.  That is is my decision.  Chime in with comments if you feel otherwise.  Convince me I am wrong, but until then, Bell's is the winner of this showdown.

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