I love a good stout. Hell,I’ll even take a mediocre stout if I’m really desperate. Because there’s nothing like the full-bodied flavor of a dark beer. So when Flying Dog Brewery here in Maryland decided to repeat their “Naughty” and “Nice” brews this year, I was excited to learn that “Nice” would be a Holiday Milk Stout. When I found out that “Naughty” would be an Egg Nog Ale? I was a bit iffy. But I’ll cop to a particular bias here; as a Marylander, I like to play favorites with my breweries. Doesn’t mean I don’t have favorites elsewhere – hello there, Shiner and Three Floyds – but the brewers in my home state do get a special benefit of the doubt. So I decided to tuck into both.
First off, let’s go Naughty, shall we? Medium-tall head, nice and foamy, quick to dissipate. Beautifully clear and golden (a much lighter color than their press images), with an almost champagne-like carbonation effervescence. While the “yellow beer” is something that everyone can recognize, there’s a warmth to this golden color, and the long-lasting fizz makes me want to keep tipping it back, if only to get yet another look at those tiny bubbles.
Then there’s the aroma. A nose that sends out the spices, but not with a wallop; a scent that invites rather than demands. That comes with the tasting. There’s a strong allspice and nutmeg hit on first sip, and while the spices are definitely loud and proud, it didn’t shock me out of a second sip. Or a third. There’s no rum notes here, though the idea of a barrel-aged Egg Nog Naughty wouldn’t be amiss. It’s just spice, spice and a touch of fizz.
As with Shiner’s Texas Warmer, this is a beer that ain’t afraid to get right up in your face. And I respect that. While the heavy spice may put off some, if you’re having a cheese and charcuterie evening, a sugar cookie sampling, or just want a bit of holiday spice while watching A Christmas Carol for the umpteenth time, Naughty‘s got your back.
Then there’s Nice, which starts off with a light, quick to dissipate head. And is that a hint of cascading that I see? Absolutely. Who doesn’t love watching their beer move in the glass like that? The beer itself is an absolutely gorgeous, clear, deep chocolate brown color I could get lost in. And with a 7.2 ABV, that’s not necessarily a figurative statement.
Nice is almost creamy, as a milk stout should be. The chocolate is a strong nib flavor, with a hint of toasty/smokiness that balances out the sweetness. This is a rough-trade sweetness; think the umami of cocoa rather than the overkill of candy. The creaminess of the mouthfeel and the bitter tang of the chocolate combine nicely, giving Nice a wonderful drinkability.
Another sip, and I catch a hint of Nice‘s fizzy, almost sharp, carbonation. But it’s such a fine bubble that it’s buzzy rather than off-putting. There’s no effervescence here, but with such a deeply colored beer, it’d be almost impossible to see anyway. Plus, anything overly fizzy would get in the way of the robust flavors in this stout.
I’d recommend this for dessert binges, a hearty brunch with pancakes and maple sausage, or as a dessert in and of itself. I’d also love to be able to find a six-pack of this to take camping; I’m betting s’mores would be a wonderful go-with. Nice is exactly that; robust but not heavy, flavorful but not too “busy”, smooth but substantial.
And yeah, I decided to do a half-and-half. And let’s just say that while these two beers play well with my tastebuds separately? It’s like sucking back a mouthful of Christmas tree if you combine ’em. I just can’t hang with that much powerful flavor all at once.
Nice Holiday Milk Stout
Style: Milk/Sweet Stout
ABV/Alcohol By Volume: 7.2%
Naughty Egg Nog Ale
Style: American Strong Ale
ABV/Alcohol By Volume: 8.4%