The hop-loving brewers at Golden Road Brewing have turned toward sugar and spice for their latest seasonal release, and Back Home Gingerbread Stout is a balanced and flavorful holiday-time treat. The bouquet of cinnamon, ginger and allspice springs from the whimsically illustrated can the moment the top is popped, and the flavors of the walnut-black brew match the aroma. A sip of the stout evokes an illicit lick of the spoon when mixing gingerbread batter — all spices and molasses and the vague cognitive dissonance of tasting a baked good in liquid form.
Mercifully, it isn't all baker's spices, and there is still beer there. The full body has layers of malt flavors, from graham to toast to toffee, all underlined by smoky molasses. An earthy and woody hop character manages to peek through in the stout's long finish. While Back Home Gingerbread Stout is quite sweet, it avoids being cloying, and a prickly effervescence enhances the aromatic spices and helps keep the syrupy body from overwhelming the palate.
From the high notes in the first sniff to the gentle throat-warming after each swallow, the brew's alcohol strength is obvious, and Back Home Gingerbread Stout is a winter warmer that even beer-phobic drinkers can enjoy.
Style: 8.5% alcohol Russian imperial stout with spices
Price: About $14 for a four-pack of 16-ounce cans
Where to find it: Whole Foods, Costco, Trader Joe's and BevMo stores.