What In the World Is Tropical Stout?

Jim Lundstrom

The wind was howling like a banshee on a recent dark and stormy summer night. It felt like fall had arrived a couple months early.

Not that I mind. Summer is overrated. But imagine my surprise when I reached into the magic fridge and pulled out a Tropical Stout from the August Schell Brewing Co. of New Ulm, Minn.

The label says it is part of the Stag Series, Batch # 10 in this limited release series.
Hmm, I wondered, what in the world is a Tropical Stout? Will it be mango flavored? Coconut? Pineapple? Palm trees? 

What exactly does make it a tropical stout?

Or, my more rational side wondered, is this modeled after Dragon Stout from the Red Stripe Brewery of Jamaica? It’s been a long while since I’ve had a Dragon Stout, but I distinctly recall that it had a sweetness that reminded me of milk stout, but different. It’s been too long to recall what the difference was, but I’m guessing this Tropical Stout is paying homage to Dragon Stout.

And I’d be willing to bet that the name Jamaican Stout was already taken. I think Tropical Stout carries too much baggage to be an effective name. The name presents too many questions to the brain.

But pour a Tropical Stout into a glass and you’ll be entranced by  the tawny head atop the black. It has those milk stout-like tones and a deep darkness just this side of bitter – dark chocolate and espresso.

Curious to see if I had guessed right, I went to Schell’s website and found this description of Tropical Stout:  “A mild, Caribbean-inspired Stout with smooth grain flavors, mild bitterness and a dark rum quality.”

Sure. I can go with that. But rather than dark rum – which implies a strong alcohol tang that is not in this beer – I’d say it’s closer to the bittersweet taste of blackstrap molasses. Not that drinking a Tropical Stout is like downing a jar of Plantation Blackstrap Molasses. There’s just a hint in each sip. I like it.

I was hoping to find on the website other batches in this Stag Series, but they listed only this one, #10, and #11, an 8.14 percent Bananas Foster Weizenbock. 
That sounds like a delicious desert beer, especially if you can get it flaming.