Westbrook Cap’n Skoon’s Ballistic Stout

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Westbrook Brewing Co.

Mt. Pleasant, SC

Cap’n Skoon’s Ballistic Stout 2nd Anniversary Baltic Stout

10% ABV

On Monday, I talked about my love for Westbrook’s first anniversary beer, their Mexican Cake imperial stout, dubbing it my favorite new beer of 2012. After close to a year since first trying that delicious brew, it still ranks up there as one of the best beers I’ve ever had. But alas, I must move on, and what better way to do that than with the second anniversary beer from the Mt. Pleasant beer factory?

To honor their second year of existence, Westbrook recently put out Cap’n Skoon’s Ballistic Stout, which they’ve dubbed an “Imperial Baltic Stout,” a style they’ve created to classify this 10% imperial stout brewed using German lager yeast. I previously wrote about how Westbrook was crowdsourcing a name for the beer. They passed over the “(country) (dessert)” mold – much to the chagrin of some of my friends – and instead decided to honor Westbrook Head Brewer Scott Koon. The beer’s been hyped as a massive roasty bottle of goodness suitable for immediate enjoyment or delayed satisfaction.

But the question still remains: Is it better than Mexican Cake? Let’s walk the plank and find out.

The roasted qualities used to promote the beer are certainly strong on the nose, which has a full, sweeter dark chocolate note with the hint of rich coffee behind it. As opposed to most imperial stouts, which have a really thick, rich smell, the lager yeast dampens that and creates a richer, smoother overall quality to the nose while leaving it a bit dry. It’s still definitely an imperial stout, but smells a bit different from your usual entry in the style.

There’s a very light bitterness on the front of the tongue that imparts a bitter dark chocolate flavor. An almost salty quality arises in the middle of the mouth, complimenting the burnt coffee flavors nicely. That roasted flavor continues into the finish and wraps up with this really dry, cocoa powder-like taste on the end. After a few sips, you get this chalky taste over you entire palate, which when mixed with the roasted notes gives off that salty quality. It’s very fitting for the name. The alcohol gives a very slight punch on the finish but hits you in the chest – and the head – after a bit.

One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard about Cap’n Skoon is “it’s not Mexican Cake.” To be honest, I really hate that criticism, because to me it’s as if everyone is writing off the beer for being different. I think a lot of people went in expecting Cap’n Skoon to be a clone of Mexican Cake, or just destroy it all together. Mexican Cake was a phenomenal beer, I don’t deny that at all. But in its own way, Cap’n Skoon is just as great and inventive as it’s 1-year-old brethren. Using lager yeast in a stout is a nice and creative touch. It certainly made it one of the more unique imperial stouts I’ve had.

Did I like Cap’n Skoon as much as Mexican Cake? Honestly, no, I didn’t. But by no means does that make it a bad, disappointing or lackluster brew. The roasted qualities were a perfect match with the dryness the lager yeast imparted. It’s still young, and I think revisiting it after a few months will give me and everyone else a better feel for what the beer really has to show.

Cap’n Skoon is a great beer to cap off a big year for Westbrook. The growth and inventiveness of the brewery has really surprised me, and 2013 will certainly see both grow and expand even more.

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