First Draught: Howe Sound’s Pothole Filler
By David Ort
Howe Sound's imperial stout (Image: David Ort)
The LCBO has brought Howe Sound brewery’s Pothole Filler to Ontario as part of its winter beer release. This imperial stout, which took silver in its category at the 2010 North American Beer Awards, is another great example of B.C.’s thriving craft-brewing industry.
With regards to beer, “imperial” has come to mean “stronger than usual.” But the origin is more literal. In the 1800s, Imperial stouts were brewed in England at 8 per cent alcohol (or above) for the journey to Russia and the Baltic States, and they became a strong favourite with the Czar’s imperial court.
True to its type, the Pothole Filler pours a murky-dark brown-black with an off-white cap. On the nose, it has all the roasted malt aromas of chocolate and coffee, along with a bit of sweet molasses (an actual ingredient), but there is also a hint of alcohol heat that reminds me of grappa. Maybe it’s the suggestive power of the name, but after taking a sip I get a definite gravelly note where the roasted malts edge towards burnt. That’s more pleasant than it sounds, since it gives the beer structure and keeps the sweet or bitter flavours from dominating.
Strong stouts like Pothole Filler are at home at either end of a festive holiday meal. Shellfish (oysters in particular) match well with the hint of sweetness of that spray-on-the-shore gravel note. At the other extreme, the funky flavours of strong cheeses like Stilton are given even more length and power by the high alcohol.
The crown cap and swing-top combination means that the beer will stay fresh until you’re ready for it, and it can technically be resealed if you don’t make it through the whole litre in one shot. The more likely scenario is that friends who brew their own beer will want the bottle for their supply — a green solution that might score the bottle’s owner some free beer.
Howe Sound Pothole Filler Imperial Stout, $11.35 for a 1L swing-top bottle, LCBO 303586
In addition to covering beer, new restaurants and food trucks for Post City, David writes about food and drink for several Toronto publications including Spotlight Toronto and his own site, Food With Legs. For more of his thoughts on food, beer and life in general, follow him on Twitter.