Posted by: Michael | 25 February 2013

Brew Review #15: Dogfish Head Chicory Stout

Beer: Chicory Stout

Brewer: Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Rehoboth Beach and Milton, Delaware

Style: Stout

ABV: 5.2%

What the hell is chicory? I asked myself as much as I was drinking this beer. I’d seen it referenced before, usually in the form of Cafe du Monde. But I still didn’t know what it actually was. A quick glance at the Wikipedia entry for chicory tells us that it’s a “somewhat woody, perennial herbaceous plant.” Furthermore, its roots can be “baked, ground, and used as a coffee substitute or additive,” which is what the Eastern Germans apparently did “during the ‘East German coffee crisis’ of 1976-1979” (thanks, Soviets). More importantly for our purposes, “some beer brewers use roasted chicory to add flavor to stouts,” which brings us to the present beer from Dogfish Head.

Unfortunately, no photos today – I was without my iPhone during this review. I’ll skip visual descriptions today and move straight to the rest.

Dogfish Head writes that this beer stems from their earliest days as a brewery, when capacity limitations meant the brewing process had to be going on constantly to keep the bar  stocked. Enter Chicory Stout, brewed as a way to introduce some variety into the company’s portfolio and including “organic Mexican coffee, St. John’s Wort and licorice root.” Let’s see how that pans out in the glass.

On first sniff I detected a very deep, very dark roast – it doesn’t hit you over the head but it’s definitely there. I reviewed this beer before reading Dogfish Head’s description so I didn’t know I should have been looking for coffee; combining that with chicory obviously yields a prominent roasted nose. Those two scents dominate the aroma here. If licorice root is detectable, I certainly couldn’t do so. In any case this more or less typifies what you’d expect on the nose of a stout – dark, roasted, and just a tad smoky.

On the palate, one word jumped out at me immediately: creamy. This is a creamy, creamy stout and I absolutely love that about it. One of the dangers of bringing a dark, roasted element forward in a beer is that it can dominate the entire palate and offer a pretty unpleasant experience; this beer does not do so, all to Dogfish Head’s credit (my notes actually say “this is great”). Adding such smoothness to an otherwise bold, roasted coffee flavor makes for a powerful combination. I do wish that creamy aspect was even more pronounced, though, as a slightly astringent note pops up – it was just a bit too bitter for my taste. That very well could be chicory exerting its whole influence on this stout; if that’s the case, I can understand why it would be used as a backup additive for coffee rather than a first-choice ingredient.

What’s interesting about Chicory Stout is that it shows a distinctive cola-like mouthfeel in addition to its creaminess. That makes it surprisingly light for a stout. I know, I know – that doesn’t really make sense, but you’ve got to drink it to understand. Maybe think about a root beer float at the very end, with the ice cream competing with what’s left of the soda. In the end I’d say that you’d be well-served by drinking some of this when it’s released – November and December – as a handy winter beer, but also keep some aside for those crisp early spring days, when winter doesn’t want to let go.

But what to make of the chicory? It doesn’t stand out to me, unless that slight astringency is where it’s at (in which case – give me the stout and keep the chicory). This is a solid stout, and a good representation of the category. But if you’re desperate for in-your-face, off-the-charts chicory, you might want to look elsewhere. Check out this stout if you need a great go-to, though, and enjoy it for its strengths there.

If you want a more numbers-oriented breakdown of this beer, you can find me under maskaggs at I’ve switched away from Pintley because I got tired of not being able to find the beers I was drinking in their database and never hearing back on whether new beers were being added or not.

Don’t forget – alcohol is meant to be enjoyed, but it can hurt you and those around you. Drink responsibly – buzzed driving is drunk driving, too. Enjoy your fine brews in moderation, and don’t be afraid to know when it’s time to stop or call for a driver. There’s no shame in handing your keys to someone else. As they say over at Beer Advocate – Respect Beer!


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