I may never buy a Guinness again.
At least, never in the beer store or LCBO.
Guinness was my first stout and my first favourite beer. When I still lived at my parents house and was old enough to buy booze, I feared that if I kept beer at home, my father would drink it on me. When I kept a case of Labatt's Blue or Miller Genuine Draft (I didn't know anything about beer in the early 80s), he would help himself.
But then, I discovered Guinness and immediately fell in love. And if I brought any of it home, my father would leave it alone, asking me, "How can you drink that stuff?" Of course, back then, that Guinness came in bottles and wasn't the same as the stuff I sought in pubs.
When Guinness came to Canada in cans with the nitrogen widget, it was the greatest thing to happen to beer. And though canned Guinness isn't cheap, it's always been worth it.
Over the years, I've discovered more stouts, and Guinness lost its place as my favourite stout. I still loved it, but my favourite stout is St-Ambroise Oatmeal Stout, by McAuslan Brewing. I find it richer, smokier, and more flavourful than Guinness. It doesn't come in a nitrogen-charged can, but it's great out of the bottle.
Nipping at the heels of St-Ambroise is another stout by one of my favourite breweries, Mill Street. I first tried Cobblestone Stout at the Ottawa Bluesfest a couple of years ago, and ever since that summer evening, I craved more. The trouble was, it was only available on tap and no pubs in Ottawa carried it.
And the Ottawa Mill Street Brew Pub was a couple of years away.
When the pub opened in January, I became a regular. Rarely does a week go by when I don't make an appearance. And one of my choice pints is Cobblestone. And I thought to myself, it would be nice if this fine stout was available to take home.
Well, as a matter of fact, a couple of weeks ago, my dream came true. And as soon as it did, I bought a 12-pack.
Cobblestone Stout DraughtIf you haven't had a can of this wonderful stout, let me give you a big heads-up: great care must be taken in opening the can to avoid spills and to ensure the head comes out right. I was told how to open the can by head brewer, Adam Rader, at the Ottawa pub. I've done it many times already, and it works like a charm.
Mill Street Brewery
LCBO: $2.90, 422 ml can; 4.2% ABV
|The perfect pour|
Step 1: take your time opening the can. Lift the tab slowly until you start to hear the gas escape and then hold it. Don't pop the tab. It should take about 30 seconds for the pressure to leave the can. I know, this can seem like an eternity, but it's worth the wait.
Step 2: once the gas is out, crack the top open. There should be no sound if all the pressure is gone.
Step 3: turn the can upside-down and allow the beer to freely and rapidly flow out of the can and into your glass. No finesse, just dump it out.
The head will be about an inch or so thick. Thicker than what you see when it's poured at the pub, and thicker than a good pour of Guinness. But the Cobblestone head is a dense, creamy head with which you can form peaks by sticking your finger in it. It's a gorgeous coffee-cream colour, a tad darker than Guinness. The ale itself is a blackish brown, like a great cup of espresso.
On the nose, I detect coffee and chocolate overtones with a faint smokiness. And in the mouth, I am first met with dark, unsweetened chocolate and then an intense dark-roasted coffee. I find the canned Cobblestone a bit more raspy on the back of the throat, but I'm not complaining. There's a roasted, slightly burned toast about the finish, and I like it.
Cobblestone is a serious stout. It is a traditional Irish-styled stout, but it leaves Guinness squarely in its dust.
I'm happy that I can now enjoy this stout in the comfort of my home. Not limiting it to the pub means that I can focus on the other great Mill Street offerings when I make my weekly visit.
That's bad news for Guinness. Given the choice of the two cans of stout in my local LCBO, there's no contest. Cobblestone would be the one to come home with me (and because I can pick up a 12-pack at Mill Street, there's no reason to even go in the LCBO).
So, goodbye, Guinness. I'm sure we'll meet again some day, when I'm at a pub where you're the only stout on tap. We've had a good run, but I've found another.