Beer School, Week 2: Cuckoo for Cocoa Stout?

Every Wednesday, from roughly 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., Delmar Loop institution Cicero's hosts beer school. As part of a semi-regular account of the beer sampling and sudsy knowledge gained, RFT editorial fellow Matt Kasper will write about the beer he tastes and the people who present it.

If you are reading this at work and get thirsty, Matt apologizes. But maybe you shouldn't be wasting company time.

What O'Fallon Brewery lacks in creative naming (it is based in O'Fallon, Missouri, after all), they make up for in delivering delicious beer! Well, except for the Cocoa Cream Stout beer, which made at least a couple people cringe -- but I'll get to that.

The first beer of the night was the O'Fallon Gold, which O'Fallon representative Brian Owens described as a balanced golden ale that is "light, but not too heavy." Owens definitely has a way with words, likenening O'Fallon Gold's "soft, floral spiciness" to a German Kolsch. My only complaint was that it wasn't available on tap.

More O'Fallon brews after the jump...

The second beer we sampled was the O'Fallon Pumpkin Beer. Now, I love Oktoberfest brews, but dedicating a batch exclusively to something usually enjoyed in pie-form made me suspicious. Then I tried it--not so! The pumpkin taste in the beer doesn't overwhelm the nice balance of hops and foamy goodness. Owens said that at one point the was O'Fallon's top- selling beer. I believe it. This fall O'Fallon is distributing about 6,000 cases, a severe reduction from the high in 2006 when as many as 10,000 cases were available.

The 5-day I.P.A. was recently recognized by the RFT as this year's Best Beer. It's pretty good, but for me, not as tasty as the first two beers.

"Sometimes it's a little overwhelming," Owens said.

Exactly. I generally like a lot of hops, and the so-called "hop heads" enjoyed it, but I had to take a pass. Maybe I just liked the other two too much.

The Cocoa Cream Stout was by far the worst beer of the night. My seat-mate Cathleen said it "tastes like cold coffee." I had to agree. And I don't like coffee. A guy named Donald actually exclaimed, "Oh God," after tasting it.

In fairness, Cathleen later said the beer was growing on her. Owens gave us a lot of great information about the 50 pound bag of cocoa used to make the beer. In another great description, he mentioned the "oily sheen" on the surface. Don't be surprised if Owens byline appears in the New Yorker one day.

Just don't ask him if the stout is good for you.

"In terms of calories -- a lot," he said.

- Matt Kasper

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