Late last year, I had the idea of reviewing beers with fellow bloggers. The whole idea sprouted from two realizations. The first being that the majority of the craft beer scene works together as a community, looking out for each other (#savestrange), sharing ideas and ingredients and even brewing beers collaboratively. I thought this would translate well to beer bloggers on a variety of levels.
The other realization centers around the old proverb that ”two heads are better than one”. Over the past few years, I’ve noticed that sharing and talking about beers with friends, has greatly opened up my sensory experience with beer. For example, I might have picked up on a certain aroma or flavor, while someone else with the same beer, may have picked up on something entirely different. Sometimes a beer can be so layered with complexities, that we might not pick up on a certain characteristic until someone brings it to our attention or we’ve had the opportunity to try a beer on numerous occasions.
And so, after a few e-mails, text messages and brainstorming during a late-night bottle share, I was able to team up with Dave Butler (who writes the fantastic Colorado-based beer blog, Fermentedly Challenged), for a series of beer reviews. For our first “coblogorative” review, we went with Odell Brewing’s newest seasonal, Lugene. This new release from our friends up in Fort Collins, is a Chocolate Milk Stout, dedicated to Lugene Sas and his family of cows.
The 8.5% ABV beer will be available from January through March. I paid $8.99 for a 4-pack.
Let me start by saying I love the artwork here. It sounds odd to call a cow cute, but the label has artwork depicting one of these peaceful creatures chowing down on a brick of chocolate. What’s not to like?
Brewtally Insane (BI): I used a moderately slow pour. The beer pours a deep, dark brown, nearly black color with a 1-finger, mocha head that was gone in the blink of an eye.
Fermentedly Challenged (FC): Dave used a “semi-aggresive pour and got a big 3+ finger head with lots of bubbles and sticky lacing. Color is dark as night – with just a hint of mahogany edges around the glass.”
Overall: It’s not quite oil dark, but dark enough to hide most of the carbonation inside or permit any light from penetrating. We both picked up on the mahogany tint toward the edge of the beer, near the wall of the glass. Looks creamy, thick and inviting. I can’t wait to taste it. Score: 4/5
BI: Lugene had “big, sweet milk chocolate” notes and came off like a “fine piece of rich Godiva”. I also detected the “slightest presence of hops, but it’s hidden” along with a “touch of vanilla”. I initially thought I was smelling peanut butter cups, but we later determined it to most likely be the chocolate smell from the type of chocolate used in candy bars. Admittedly, my favorite chocolate treat is a peanut butter cup, so maybe the chocolate just triggers my brain to automatically think it’s getting a peanut butter cup. Weird. Smells fantastic.
FC: On the other side of the keyboard, Dave picked up “milk sugars in this beer”. “Lugene has the classic milk stout signature aroma, only this one has a distinct chocolate aroma with the malt roastiness pushed behind it.” He also got a “hint of bitterness in the nose, but not much”. Dave agreed on the sweetness factor and picked up some “toffee perhaps, like a Heath bar”. He went on to say “I pick up a hint of alcohol, but not as rough as some Imperial Stouts”.
Overall: No surprise to find plenty of chocolate and candy bar sweetness in Lugene. We both noticed the slightest presence of bitterness and while I got vanilla, Dave picked up toffee and a touch of alcohol. Score: 4.5/5
BI: Lugene is sweet, creamy and chocolate-y. I felt it drank like a “rich, melted candy bar” and with a well hidden ABV, it was “very creamy and dangerously smooth”. There’s a “touch of bitter hops on the tongue”. This is a great dessert beer, and thankfully it’s not overpowering. This is what I would expect from a Milk Chocolate Stout, but it’s “not too big that they (flavors) turn you off and they’re not too small that you’re hunting with your nose crammed in the glass trying to find some sign of chocolate”. It’s sweet, rich, thick, bold, flavorful and quite yummy.
FC: ”First thing I got was a semi-sweet chocolate taste. Reminded me of baking chocolate with some additional sweet in there. The beer was more sweet than bitter. Smooth going down. The roast is subdued also. The chocolate really comes through on this. Definitely a dessert beer. Can’t really pick up on the higher ABV initially. It’s well hidden, probably one to sneak up on you.” Dave wrapped up by saying “the chocolate took center stage”.
Overall: We’re both fans of Lugene and appreciate what Odell did with this recent release. A very nice, sweet dessert beer. Score: 4/5
BI: Lugene leans toward the thick side, which I found to be “perfect for a beer like this”. Personally, “I think too many stouts fall short by being watery and thin”. Odell’s Chocolate Milk Stout is “not necessarily oily”, but rather “creamy and dangerously smooth”.
FC: Dave referred to Lugene as a “tongue coater”. He goes on to say that it “leaves a nice coating over the tongue that lingers.”
Overall: Excellent, thick mouthfeel that only gets better as it warms. No complaints here. Score: 4.5/5
Odell Brewing continues to impress me by releasing new and well crafted beers into their already stellar lineup of beers. Lugene is a rich and decadent chocolate milk stout that has won us over with its’ heavenly aromas and balanced flavors. This seems to be flying off the shelves, so get out and grab a 4-pack before they’re gone. Highly recommended. Score: 4.25/5
Barrel-Aging, Food Pairings, Cellaring & Final Thoughts
We kicked around some thoughts about how barrel-aging might change this beer. Personally, I’m a little fearful of the barrel characteristics overpowering the chocolate, but we both agreed that a little time in a rum or bourbon barrel would be a fun experiment. (Odell, you reading all this?)
About halfway through the bottle, we started getting the munchies and began talking about possible food pairings. Dave mentioned “vanilla bean chocolate milk stout”, while I thought of fresh strawberries or a fruity cheesecake. At the end of the night, I think we were both interested in making a beer float or milkshake with Lugene. Nom, nom, nom.
We also tried to imagine how a year in the cellar would change this beer. It seems like the alcohol warmth would fade away, along with the slight bitterness on the tongue. My only fear would be losing too much of the sweetness from the chocolate. Lugene tastes great fresh. Only time will tell how cellaring will treat this beer, but I’d suggest enjoying it fresh and if you’ve got the willpower, maybe tucking one away in the cellar for comparison next year.
As for this format of conducting a beer review, I hope you all enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed working on it. I’d like to extend a big Thank You to Dave Butler over at Fermentedly Challenged for taking part in this review. What I envisioned as the two of us chatting online about beer for an hour or so, turned into 3+ hours of two beer blogging buddies, geeking out and discovering a great beer together and discussing a wide variety of topics about the world of craft beer. Don’t be surprised if you see more of these “coblogorative”, “Fermentedly Insane” or “Brewtally Challenged” reviews from us in the future.
Thanks to Odell Brewing for creating this great beer, Thanks to Dave Butler for putting the time and effort into this and Thank You all for reading. Click HERE to see Dave’s review of Lugene at Fermentedly Challenged and don’t forget to follow him on Facebook.