Sep 7, 2007

Session #7: Brew Zoo

The Session Logo

This month’s Session has the goal of creating a brew zoo — collecting beers with an animal likenesses in the name or on the label.

Donning my pith helmet I struck out on several excursions into the wild in search of beer with an animal in its name or on the label. I admit, that traveling on safari around town in an explorer’s get-up can be a bit overwhelming for the natives — I did get some odd looks and my guide refused to walk anywhere near me, always keeping at least 15 feet between us — I was steadfast in my mission: to find something unique and new to me.

Hoping for a aye-aye ale or a hagfish hefeweizen, I found myself eying two beers I have had many times before, but haven’t enjoyed in probably three years. Resigned to the fact that my elusive prey would remain, well elusive, I grabbed a bottle of each stout (that’s right) and prepared for the tasty goodness to come.

First up was The Shipyard’s Blue Fin Stout. I actually had to look up “blue fin” to make sure that it was indeed an animal as only a ship appears on the label.

Beer Label: Shipyard Blue Fin Stout


The Blue Fin Stout pours a thick black. The head was large and dark tan, but faded quickly to a thin lacing.


This one smells wonderful. There’s plenty of roasted malt with a slight touch of chocolate. There isn’t much of a coffee characteristic to this one.


The taste on the Blue Fin isn’t bad. It’s got a heavy, smoked flavor to it, sort of like a half smoked cigar. The roasted malts are there as is a semisweet finish.


I once went through a case of this beer a couple of years ago while on week long vacation at the beach. Perhaps it was the setting that made my memory more favorable of this beer than this most recent tasting. It’s not a bad stout, but the smokiness can be a bit much unless you are truly in the mood for it.

Rating: 3.5/5

The second beer for this month’s Session is Mendocino Brewing’s Black Hawk Stout. I’ve only had this one a few times in the past 6-7 years and it’s been nearly 3 since the last time I enjoyed a bottle.

Beer Label: Mendocino Black Hawk Stout


Here’s another beautiful beer — thick, black and with a large two finger, dark toffee colored head.


This one smells much richer and more sweet than the Blue Fin. There are some nice espresso undertones present that give it a bit more complexity as well.


The Black Hawk is rich and earthy with a good bit of roasted malt and coffee flavors. There is a slight bitter coffee aftertaste. This being an American Stout, it’s a bit thicker and sweeter than the Blue Fin which is fashioned after an Irish Dry Stout style.


It’s a nice and complex brew with just the right mouthfeel and flavor balance. I think I’ll be picking this one up more often than I have in the past.

Rating: 4/5

In Summary

Both of these stouts are great examples of their styles and can’t really be compared against one another as they both have distinctive characteristics that make them what they are. If I had to choose I think, on the night of this tasting anyways, that I would prefer the Black Hawk over it’s counterpart, but both were equally tasty and will make appearances in my fridge on a frequent basis as the weather cools.

Now, if only I could figure out a way to look cool in a pith helmet.