New Hampshire's Smuttynose Brewery is one of my favorites. I say that as a beer fan and not just as a beer writer. Before my sudsy thoughts dripped onto paper, the entire line of Smuttynose beers found their way into my fridge at one point or another. That I'm reviewing my first Smuttynose offering now is a terrible oversight.
The brewery's latest release, Zinneke, is seasonal offering as part of the Smuttynose Big Beer series. A self-described hybrid, the beer is a Belgian-style stout aged in Bourbon barrels. "Zinneke" is a nickname for the people of Brussels referring to the stray dogs that used to roam the city streets. There's a picture of an upstanding gentleman and a hardy pooch on the beer's label.
The Smuttynose brew is indeed a mutt; it's a big, roasty stout fermented with Belgian yeast, with a portion of the batch aged in bourbon barrels. It packs 50 IBUs and an ABV of 8.4 percent.
Zinneke pours thin and dark with very little head. It smells of coffee, chocolate, vanilla, and faint bananas, though the aroma is not overpowering.
As suspected by the beer's appearance, the mouthfeel of the brew is not particularly thick; in your mouth the beer feels more like a porter than a stout. The flavor profile, however, leaves no doubt. Dark, roasted chocolate and coffee are at the forefront. Vanilla and whiskey notes are there, but they don't come through as strongly as in some oak-aged beers due to the fact that not all of the beer was aged in oak. I get a dry finish akin to the sensation one gets drinking a cup of hot chocolate where the cocoa powder hasn't been completely stirred in. I'm describing it poorly, but that dry finish is a good thing, making for welcome drinking.
This is a good, not-too-sweet stout to ease you into stout season. While you're at it, pick up a bottle of the Smuttynose Scotch Ale, which I tried the other night at Meadhall in Cambridge. Both beers will more than fulfill your desire for a winter warmer as the days get shorter and the nights get colder.