Beer Review: Great Lakes Blackout Stout

Every so often, you will run across a beer inspired by an actual event. Great Lakes Blackout Stout fits that description, in more ways than one.

Does anyone remember the blackout of 2003? If you do not, allow me to refresh your memories. On August 14, 2003, at 4:10 pm, a power outage occurred. It affected parts of the northeastern and midwestern United States, as well parts of Canada. It was the second most widespread blackout in history. If you do some searching on the web, you will find stunning satellite photos taken the night of the blackout, placed side-by-side with a picture of the night before when there was power.

Great Lakes Brewery, based out of Cleveland, Ohio, named a beer after this event in history, an event that really brought neighbors together in a time of crisis, and aptly named it Blackout Stout. Great Lakes Blackout Stout is a seasonal beer, available each November-January. It registers 9% ABV (alcohol by volume), they brew it in the style of a Russian Imperial Stout and contains a curious hop: Simcoe. The IBUs (International Bitterness Units) are 50.

The release from the bottle gave up a small, light tan, creamy head. The stout wasn’t quite pitch black like a traditional Imperial Stout. Instead, when you hold it to the light, you actually see a dark ruby-red with a lighter brown around the edges. The brew is clear in body, free of particles and sediment. The lacing left behind was good, leaving thin and solid sheets behind sips.

The aromatics start off on an unusual note. There was the typical dark chocolate note, but there was also a sour cherry note going on. While it isn’t exactly pleasant, it was not off-putting, either. The cherry aroma fades the more you dig in, and it faded nearly completely as the drink warmed. Behind it are layers of black coffee with a touch of smoke. There was also a pleasant surprise of a light hop presence that gives off some grapefruit.

When tasting, there was dark chocolate and a punch of grape on the initial impression, followed by a puff of smoke and a generous amount of coffee. In the middle of the taste, the chocolate starts to layer up, showing sweet to dark, and the finish gives a dash of grapefruit, some light coffee, and a load of dark chocolate. The hops provide a light bitterness, which gives Great Lakes Blackout Stout a great bittersweet conclusion. While the beer is full-bodied, the feel is more on the medium end, creamy and lightly drying.

This beer is not nearly as hoppy as advertised. Instead, we’ve got an Imperial Stout that has good flavors and a well-hidden alcohol content. It was a nice and simple stout and is an easily accessible Imperial in terms of drinkability.

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Nick Ficorelli
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