Sunday, January 24, 2010

Review: Oak-Aged Orange Cream Stout (Ska Brewing)

Thomas Larsen, head brewer at Ska Brewing Co., had a sore throat last spring. He wandered the grocery store aisles looking for ice cream. He ended up with Swedish sherbet, an orange sherbet with chunks of chocolate.

It was good, and Larsen thought, “I’ve got to make this a beer,” he recalled.

Months later, Local Series #14 is born: Oak-Aged Orange Cream Stout. It appeared on the shelves in Durango last week.

Orange Cream Stout is based on Ska’s Steel Toe Milk Stout, a bronze-medal winner at the 2009 Great American Beer Festival and an old mainstay in the Durango brewery’s lineup.

Orange Cream Stout was aged for three to four months with sweet orange peel in Peach Street Distillers’ Colorado Straight Bourbon barrels (Ska and Peach Street in Palisade have some overlapping ownership).

Given its Steel Toe relation, it’s no surprise that Orange Cream Stout is quite good. It pours black, with little head. A roasted coffee taste yields to a mellow sweetness from the orange peel. It gets better as it warms, allowing the flavors full expression.

I would imagine it pairs well with all sorts of desserts. I split a bomber, drinking one glass with the beer alone. With the second glass, I made a float with vanilla ice cream. It worked well.

Ska’s Local Series comes out a few times a year with something new. The mad brewers have made everything from a pilsener to a fresh-hop IPA in this limited-distribution series, always packaged in 22-ounce bomber bottles. Orange Cream Stout is particularly limited; Larsen brewed only 75 cases. He gave me a bomber to sample and we split another at the brewery. Ska employees kept coming up to taste it. It was an admittedly biased audience, but everyone seemed to like it.

The brewery ought to be proud of Orange Cream Stout. It’s really a pleasant beer, not overpowering with booze or hops (5.5 percent ABV, about 30 IBUs). The orange taste is a natural fruit flavoring, not the uber-sweet artificial taste we’re used to from orange sodas.

I love imperial stouts, but sometimes it’s nice to drink a stout that’s not overpowering. I’ll be restocking my fridge with this one. Besides, it’s winter, and during winter, dammit, I want to drink stout. A-


  1. This beer sounds very tempting. I'm a bit gun shy on the orange though. Last beer I had with the word orange in it was an orange blossom beer that wasn't that good. I assume this is going to be a local SW Colorado beer only? I did manage to find a bottle of the Ska Sour this weekend. Look forward to trying that.

  2. Chipper: Yes, for now, it's SW Colorado only. I do hear some rumblings that it could be added to Ska's regular lineup at some later point, though. I hope you review Ska Sour. I'd be curious what you think.