This month’s edition of this column is its seventh anniversary in Free Times — a milestone of sorts indeed.
Candidly, I was surprised when this venture started, and even more surprised, for a variety of reasons, that it has continued for so long. When I began writing this column, craft beer in South Carolina was still shackled by post-Prohibition laws that limited the alcohol content of beer. This made South Carolina a poor market for most craft brewers, and I thought this column would be short-lived as the subject matter would be limited.
Fortunately, the state Legislature, in its infinite wisdom, passed the “high gravity bill” several months after this column began, allowing higher-alcohol beers to be sold in South Carolina and forever changing our beer landscape. Craft beers of all types and strengths have poured into the state at a stunning rate and that continues to this day, which has given me plenty to write about. Craft beer and brewing are booming in this state and I am enjoying the ride — so for now, at least, I will continue.
The recent snowstorm that terrorized Columbia reminded me that we need suitable beverages to fortify us against frigid temperatures. Traditional stouts are a good idea, but for really cold weather you need something big, and imperial stouts are the style of choice.
Stouts originated in England. First there was the porter style, which morphed into “extra stout” porter, a moniker that was shortened to simply “stout.” Then there was a stronger version that was exported to the Baltic states and Russia, thus the name Russian Imperial Stout. This style is now simply “imperial stout.”
Like many traditional English beer styles, imperial stout became nearly extinct in its home country until it was resurrected or at least encouraged by the American craft beer movement. The small English Samuel Smith Brewery, at the urging of its American distributor, began brewing the first modern imperial stout, called simply Imperial Stout. This modern version of the style has an alcohol by volume (ABV) of 7 percent — low compared to the original versions, which were well over 10 percent, but higher than modern stouts such as Guinness that weighs in at only 4.2 percent ABV. Samuel Smith’s Imperial Stout is a smooth taste experience with a slightly thicker body than ordinary stouts and a rich layering of coffee, espresso and dark chocolate flavors without the distracting presence of alcohol. This one is a sublime taste experience on a cold winter night.
American craft brewers, not surprisingly, have taken the style and made it their own with lots of alcohol and hop bitterness. Some excellent American versions are Sierra Nevada’s Narwhal , Oskar Blues Tenfidy (brewed now in Brevard, N.C.) and Stone’s Russian Imperial Stout. These all have ABVs of slightly over 10 percent and are ink black; when poured, they create a short tan stand of foam that dissipates quickly. The body or mouthfeel is surprisingly thin for a beer that has such a formidable appearance.
The taste of imperial stout is an interesting array of dark roasted coffee, espresso and cocoa with an initial sweet impression that is balanced by substantial bitterness from hops and roasted malt. The sweet impression is a combination of residual sugars in the beer and the sweet impression from higher alcohols. Overlaying this combination of flavors is a strong alcohol presence that the brewers do not try to hide. The secret of these beers is that brewers use various forms of sugar or honey in addition to the traditional malts to get the increased alcohol content without creating an unpleasantly thick body.
These American imperial stouts are best when served in a glass snifter, not cold, and sipped before a roaring fire. They can be challenging beers for some; the best way to begin exploration of this style is to enjoy them with strong aged gouda or cheddar cheeses or desserts such as rich cheese or chocolate cake. Cheers!
Music Break at Music Farm Columbia
Join COR for an evening of networking for music and business leaders on September 3rd, featuring performances by Josh Roberts and the Hinges, Death of Paris, Fat Rat Da Czar, and Lazy A and the Green Thang. Free admission for musicians and members! Register here.
Happy Hour and Sushi Specials All Week
Red Bowl in Lexington now has great early bird and late night sushi specials 7 days a week, as well as 99-cent kids meals on Saturdays! Click here for special information and hours.
Accepting Applications for Shakespeare’s Kidz!
Students ages 10-16 are invited to join South Carolina Shakespeare’s new youth company, with classes running September 20th-December 11th followed by a final performance. Learn and hone audition skills, monologues, and scenes from Shakespeare and modern works! Contact Katie Mixon with questions about scholarships and applications: PKatieMixon@gmail.com.
Make Your Own Beer and Wine!
Come get started on your “liquid hobby” and help us celebrate our 46th year in the Columbia area. Bet Mar Liquid Hobby Shop: 736 St. Andrews Road.
Back to School Tattoo Specials
Magnum Ink is offering 1/2 off all tattoos for students over 18 as well as 2 for $60 on letters or numbers for state employees. 1405 Rushmore Road, Suite B, right off of Broad River.
A two-day outdoor art and crafts show celebrating its 38th year. Being held on September 5 & 6, 2014, Click for details
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U.S. Security Associates
Now hiring immediately for armed and unarmed security officers. WE TRAIN YOU! Columbia & surrounding areas. ussecurityassociates.com
Company seeking carpenters, plumbers, masons work is year around with a 40 year old company. Starting pay is $10.00 but experienced individuals will be compensated accordingly. Must have a clean driving record and must bring a copy of your driving record to the interview. Please call 803-865-1200.
Pool Cleaning-Full and part time available. Must have a clean driving record, be organized and have a professional appearance. Starting Pay is $10.00 per hr, please call for an interview, please bring a copy of your Driving record and a list of all past employers with duration of employment listed as well as telephone numbers for references. Cal 803-865-1200