Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Beer of the Week: Elysian Dragonstooth Stout

Note: This column appeared in the Contra Costa Times/OaklandTribune on Sept. 3, 2008.

What’s on Tap:  Beer of the Week

Dragonstooth Stout – A blast of licorice

By William Brand
Oakland Tribune
AN UNUSUAL cooperative agreement between one of America’s smallest but most highly regarded breweries and America’s third-largest craft brewery is going to widen the Bay Area’s already generous stock of great beer.

The deal is between relatively tiny Elysian Brewing of Seattle and New Belgium, Fort Collins, Colo.
New Belgium will begin brewing its most excellent special beers, such as Eric’s Sour Peach Ale**** in Seattle for distribution in the Pacific Northwest.

Elysian is brewing several of its award-winning beers in Fort Collins and beginning in the next month or so, we’re going to be able to taste and purchase them. They are:

  • Night Owl Pumpkin Ale**, 6 percent alcohol by volume, made with organic pumpkin pureee;
  • The Loser Pale Ale ***1/2,  6.5 percent.
  • The Wise ESB***1/2, 5.9 percent; (The Immortal IPA***1/2 5, 6.3 percent;
  • Avatar Jasmine IPA**, 5.6 percent;
  • Bete Blanche Belgian-Style Tripel***1/2, 6.9 percent.
  • Perseus Porter ***1/2, 5.4 percent.

Last, but far from least is Dragonstooth Stout****. It’s a dark, delicious 7.45 percent stunner and our Beer of the Week.

Elysian Brewing was founded in 1996 on Seattle’s Capitol Hill by brewer Dick Cantwell and two friends, David Buhler and Joe Bisacca. They now have two more brewpubs, Elysian Fields, across the street from Qwest Field, and Tangletown.

The star, of course, is head brewer Dick Cantwell, 51, who, when he’s
not brewing, writes about beer. He was named Brewmaster of the Year by the Brewers Association, the craft beer trade group, in 1999, 2003 and 2004.

A native of Northfield, Minn., he started as a home brewer and when he moved to Seattle, he used a six-pack of his home-brewed beers as a portfolio for job applications. He worked at a small brew pub, then at Pike Place, then Big Time, winning awards along the way.

Dragonstooth Stout is one of his winners. At the Great American Beer Festival, it won gold in 1992 and 2004, silver in 2002, 2006, 2007. It won gold at the World Beer Cup in 2006.

Cantwell says it’s a traditional oatmeal stout, ramped up in strength by his assistant, Marcus Stinson. It’s a blend of three dark-roasted barley malts, roasted barley and oats, which provide the delicious, smooth taste. Hops are German Northern Brewer, which Cantwell likes for their anise-licorice notes.

I totally agree. Wow. It pours with a thick, creamy head that lasts and lasts with a licorice nose. The taste is glorious, silky smooth, complex, like liquid bread.

Dragonstooth Stout is Seattle’s answer to my all-time “liquid bread” favorite, Anchor Porter. This is a beer worth buying.

The beers won’t reach the Bay Area until October. But all of them are going to be on tap at an evening fest this Wednesday, Sept. 17 at the Toronado, 547 Haight St. in San Francisco. See you there.

About New Belgium’s Eric’s Ale. In the East Bay they still have it at Luka’s, 2221 Broadway in Oakland and another keg is due at the Bistro, 1001 B St. in Hayward.

Reach William Brand at whatsontap@sbcglobal.net or call 510-915-1180 and ask for his Retail Beer Store List or Good Pub List. Read more by Brand at www.ibabuzz.com/beer