“Special Double Cream Stout derives its name from its smooth, creamy texture, not the ingredients. Completely dairy-free, this stout blends eight different specialty malts to yield a remarkable depth of flavor. With only a touch of burnt notes, Special Double Cream Stout focuses on the softer, cocoa & espresso-like aspects of roasted malt.”
Bell’s Special Double Cream Stout
Stout, 6.1% ABV
Sayeth the Guys:
KARL: I have to admit, I was a little surprised when I saw Ryan take this out of the fridge and announce it as one of our cellar experiments. I was equally surprised when I learned about how into this beer Andrew was. And maybe it’s just because I’m a little spoiled by my access to some Michigan beers but this particular Bells offering never jumped out at me. In fact, I had one sitting in my fridge nearly all winter, only opened on recent a Sunday night where I had regrettably failed to do any other beer shopping.
With that in mind, it was interesting to re-inspect my thoughts on a beer that I really hadn’t ever considered too heavily before. It was a fine beer when I had it, nothing jumped out at me too much but perhaps I just didn’t take the time to notice. Or was I right to begin with?
Make no mistake, this is a flavorful, well crafted beer. Cream stouts aren’t my particularly favorite style of brewing, but I know enough to say that this beer is a fine example of the genre. Pouring pitch black with a light head and very little lacing, there’s some nice subtle roasted flavors, an incredibly balanced profile and for being a “double” anything it’s pretty light bodied.
Having recently tried the Left Hand Nitro in a bottle that everyone was praising, it struck me that the Bells Double Cream was exactly what Left Hand was trying to do. The beer is silky, almost buttery smooth with zero aftertaste, letting the body of the cream stout serve as an almost nitrogen smoothness. It’s a rather restrained beer, a calm beer, an afternoon sipper and one that would be undoubtedly better on cask. I think the finer points might shine through in that presentation. This is fine, but still nothing I’m particularly excited about.
RYAN: This is our first attempt in our “Adventures in CellarSitting” series to step out of the taboo world of cellaring double IPA’s and in to the taboo world of cellaring a stout. Not an imperial stout, mind you, but a basic, run-of-the-mill stout.
We began this series two years ago to chronicle what happens to some of the most popular double IPA’s available when you cellar them. On purpose. Our hope is to prove that while, yes they are best when drank fresh, they can still taste pretty damn good with a few years on them. We are halfway through our four-year experiments with Dark Horse Double Crooked Tree and Founders Devil Dancer and finished an (unfortunately short) two-year experiment with Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA.
So what is our hope with this particular beersperiment? Well, we’re not quite sure. There wasn’t a whole lot of science put in to it. Andrew brought by a six-pack and said, “let’s cellar this and see what happens.” So, we are.
Enough about the methods to our madness, I’ve got a beer to talk about.
The Special Double Cream Stout has always had a soft spot in my heart. It was one of the first Bell’s beers I tried and I couldn’t get enough of it. And I, for one, am eager to see what some time in the depths will do to this beer.
When cracked fresh, you have a beer that exudes all things fall and winter; with the aroma of s’mores roasting over a campfire and a cappuccino-like, almost frothy body.
Poured in to a pint glass, this stout gives off warming scents of marshmallow, graham cracker and milk chocolate. Take a sip and you’ll be greeted by roasted coffee throughout with touches of vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg – finished off by a touch of coffee creamer.
The body is creamy, frothy and very smooth. I’ll fall in line with Karl here and agree to his milk stout comparisons.
Fresh, this is a world-class stout. Hopefully we don’t screw it up too much by cellaring it.
Andrew: I think I let out an audible gasp when Ryan took this one out of the fridge…so excited to do this experiment.
I had the Double Cream Stout on CASK at Church Key in Washington, DC last year and found it to be one of the best beers I had ever had, so to say I was looking forward to a cellaring experiment would be an understatement.
Fresh, this is an incredibly smooth but robust beer that finishes clean and dry. Tons of coffee, molasses and roasted malts dominate this beer, but it’s the creaminess that really drives it home for me.
I’m not sure what will happen as this ages, but I suppose that’s why we are doing this, huh? I wish us the best of luck.
Ryan: We weren’t anticipating (or at least I wasn’t) big changes in year one with this cellaring experiment. We’ve found, through past trial and error, that there isn’t a huge drop-off in the first year of cellaring. The bigger changes tend to come between years two and four. That being said, there were some interesting changes that took place in the Special Double Cream Stout after only a year in the basement.
The milk stout comparisons we drew in the fresh tasting come more into play after a year in the cellar. The initial flavors of marshmallow and s’mores have given way to fresh brewed coffee with creamer – poured by a heavy hand.
In fact, the nose is chalked full of coffee creamer and milk sugar. The body is incredibly creamy too, very milk stout-ish, with an espresso first act, a good dose of chocolate in the second act with – perhaps – a bit of chocolate covered cherries in the third.
This beer finishes dark and intriguing with loads of bakers chocolate and a touch of molasses rounding things out.
One year in and I’m that much more excited to see how this beer continues to develop over time.
Karl: If you were to crack this experiment open without knowing what it was, you’d be hard pressed to recognize it as any sort of stout – in fact you might not be blamed if you thought it was aged in wine casks because this beer has turned chock full of red grapes.
Lightly tart and fruity, and considerably thinner, there are acidic notes of cranberry juice floating around in here, making this one of the biggest aging surprises I think we’ve come across.
A near-total transformation and quite curious…but I think I’d still recommend cracking into this one while fresh.
Andrew: I was really in to this beer fresh, and I’m still really in to it after a year for totally different reasons.
Karl nailed it on the head – grapes. Where in the world did those come from? While I also picked up the creaminess that Ryan found, and some burnt marshmallows on the front end, I was intrigued by the grapes in the nose and the quite powerful red grape on the back-end of this beer.
So maybe my attraction to this beer isn’t all just the flavor, just how dramatic the change was.
With a year this has turned into an almost unrecognizable Bell’s Double Cream Stout.
But I still like it and am that much more interested to see what happens after two, three or four years.