The tropical stout is a newer style for me. We don’t see too many of them in Ontario’s balmy tropical weather, but I’ve come across them in Cambodia and Belize in my travels. Tropical stouts tend to have a very dark appearance with sweet and fruity aromas, and smooth roasted flavours without a harshness you sometimes find in other styles of stout.

I felt the need to pick up the rather tongue-in-cheek 7% ABV Cheap Flight Tropical Stout from the fine folks at Black Lab Brewing in Leslieville and their friend Beerderhof. Why tongue-in-cheek, you ask? As soon as people find out that I work in the travel industry, the first question out of their mouths is always if I can find them a cheap flight to a tropical destination. Since booking flights is only a very small part of working in travel, it gets on my nerves. But in the spirit of today being the busiest travel day of the year, and since this time last year I was lounging in the sun in Belize instead of stressing out over the holidays, I thought it was an appropriate choice for the second night of Chanukah. Maybe the Chanukah Armadillo has a plane ticket in store for me during my #8BeersOfChanukah?

In celebration of the true spirit of Chanukah, we popped into this doggo-friendly east end brewery recently armed with a stack of stickers from Black Lab Brewhouse in Barcelona as a small gift. We were on holiday in Portugal and Spain last month and happened to discover the other Black Lab brewery on the final night of our trip when we were looking for craft beer options near our hotel. We casually mentioned to the bartender that we live in Toronto and quite enjoy petting all the pretty pooches while sipping brews at Black Lab, and they insisted that we take some stickers home to share with them. Since Chanukah presents are usually small, meaningful tokens that you thought of someone, we were glad to shlep them home with us. If you’re heading to Barcelona, maybe you can return the favour with some stickers from our local Black Lab for us? Snoopy deserves it!

Appearance: Black with a frothy, lingering tan head.

Aroma: Bitter, dark chocolate, coffee, black liquorice, coconut.

Taste: Dark chocolate, caramel notes, sweet canned pineapple, coconut, crême brulée. It reminded me of Angkor Stout from Cambodia, another high ABV tropical stout. Definitely better than Belize’s strange holiday tropical stout, the Belikin Sorrel Stout.

Aftertaste: Malt backbone of toasted chocolate notes.

Food pairing: Chocolate rugelach, macaroons, and of course Chanukah gelt. It would also work nicely with apples and honey, and we noshed on plenty of Indian street food snacks from Thindi, who had a food pop-up at the brewery to help me overdose on carbs and heartwarming spice.

Overall: I would like to see more tropical stouts making the rounds in the Ontario market. Maybe this will be the new beer trend of 2020?

Shawna O'Flaherty

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