2017 Advent Calendar – Day 3 – Saugatuck – Cocanuck Stout

I hope that people are enjoying reading these write-ups of the craft beer advent calendar. I know that there are certainly some beers in this calendar that are going to be beyond their prime. They put styles in here that really shouldn’t sit for the ~5 months they sit, and it really doesn’t do the beers or the breweries justice. Even so, I find that the beers I get to try are unique and make it worthwhile for me. I know, very well, that many of the beers I’m trying are beyond their prime, but, there will be some gems, and for me, I enjoy that.

Today’s beer comes to coming to us from Saugatuck Brewing Company in Douglas, Michigan.  Douglas is a city that is after our own hearts.  It’s been the “City of friendliness” since 1870. Well, Friendly Manitoba says hello Douglas. The beer we have from them today is a Cocanuck (punny) stout. This same brewery did send a 12 pack of different stouts here to Manitoba and one of them was a coconut stout called “Beam me up stouty”. I’m not sure if this one will differ from that, but I do enjoy the addition of coconut (something I typically hate) to a stout.

Developed as a three-phase brewery plan by founder and original brew master Barry Johnson, Saugatuck Brewing Company first opened its doors in 2005.  In its infancy it consisted of a 3.5 barrel “brew on premise” system in a leased industrial space.  3.5 barrels is about 300 litres of beer, not very much when you are providing interesting and tasty craft beers.  So, in 2008 they moved to a 25,000 sq/ft facility that was fully remodeled to include an Irish style pub providing not only tasty beers but also tasty snacks.  They continued to use the “Brew on premise” system allowing for patrons to come in and brew their own beers to be taken away in bomber bottles after fermentation and carbonation were complete.

Around this same time a 10-barrel system was installed in the brew house and production began en masse of and start planning for regional distribution of their beers. Starting with a meager 70 barrels of fermentation space and only a single 650ml bottle filler, their first year consisted on only 250 barrels.  In 2010 they purchased Meheen 6 head bottle filler and in-line labeler enabling them to produce 4 mainstay styles of beer to be sold in six-packs. This allowed them to distribute not only to the lower part of Michigan but also into Chicago and they managed to reach 2000 barrels of production in 2012.

Today, Saugatuck Brewing boasts a large 45-barrel system paired with 960 barrels of fermentation space.  With newly installed bottling system and a fleet of over 6,000 kegs they are able to produce on average 13,000 barrels per year with a large scale distribution.  They produce a number of mainstay beers as well as seasonal and specialty beers. Led by President Ric Gillette and head brewer Steve Scheerhorn the team at Saugatuck focus on producing a variety of different beers for their taproom and restaurant and for distribution.

s I’ve said many times on this blog, stouts are one of my favorite styles of beer. Stouts are a dark beer made using roasted malts (or roasted barley), hops, water and yeast. Traditionally the term stout was used to describe the strongest (most alcoholic) porters, typically around 7-8%, produced by a brewery. The name ‘stout’ referred to the often stouter bottles these brews were sold in, which eventually became the term used to describe the style of beer.

There are numerous sub-styles of stouts ranging from Dry Stouts, to Porters, and Oyster stouts and my favorite, Imperial Stouts. While they had lost popularity after the First World War, they’ve started to have a bit of an upswing due to the growing popularity in craft beer and breweries. Stouts are very versatile, allowing for a lot of creativity in adjuncts and flavouring. You can see a number of craft breweries playing with stouts regularly. Higher alcohol stouts also often age well, making them a wonderful cellaring beer.

This particular stout is an American Stout that has been flavoured with coconut. American stouts tend to be more hop forward then your traditional stout (think Diesel Fitter). They have a dry slightly bitter finish but are very subtle on the hop aroma and flavour. While this beer is an American stout, the fact that it is flavoured with coconut means that there will likely be some sweetness. Let’s get to the beer.

Appearance – Pours black with a finger width of a tan head.
Smell – Bursting with toasted coconut notes and sweet chocolate.
Taste – Sweet malt-forward front with a strong coconut flavor that finishes surpassingly dry given the sweetness on the front. Alcohol warming is present, but it goes down smooth.
Mouth feel – Full bodied, sweet front and middle with a dry finish.
Overall – This beer plays a lot more like a Sweet Stout then it does anything else. It has a character to it that gives the impression of unfermented residual sugars from lactose, but they aren’t listed as an ingredient. I must guess that the coconut flavor comes from a syrup of some kind that adds that sweetness and body.
Do I like it?
– I did enjoy it. While I found it to be quite sweet, I also liked the interplay of coconut with malt sweetness and that slightly bitter dry finish. I think this is a pretty strong third day entry, but it’s not going to be winning my top pick.


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