4 Hands Brewing Slipping Into Darkness Stout Festival
From LEX back to The LOU
I can’t lie–I am so ready for Spring and warm weather! But, last weekend Ben and I did get to say goodbye (hopefully) to winter in such a fun way! We traveled on back to our old home of St. Louis to celebrate a friend’s birthday and check out the 4 Hands Slipping Into Darkness Stout Fest.
Since moving to Lexington just a few short months ago and being newly married, we haven’t really had a chance for us both to go back to St. Louis together and reconnect with friends we miss and all of the breweries we’ve left behind.
One of the breweries back in STL that I myself miss the most is 4 Hands Brewery! Over the course of our time there, I watched the small taproom double in size when they added an additional bar upstairs complete with FREE arcade games and skee-ball. With the great beer and games, this was one of our favorite hangouts. And of course, THE BEER was fantastic. 4 Hands is one of those really great breweries that while making different and interesting beers, doesn’t take itself too seriously. As I’ve talked about before, I believe beer is for everyone! I love that 4 Hands has one of my favorite go-to beers for those used to drinking domestic brews or just newly getting into craft (Single Speed Blonde Ale). I also love that those guys are constantly experimenting with barrel aging and fun adjuncts like peanut butter (note the widely popular Absence of Light, a variant of the original Chocolate Milk Stout.)
While stouts aren’t usually my favorite beer-style of choice to drink on the regular, there are many exciting ways to play with the style. Also, Benjamin (and our other friends we met up with) LOVE stouts!
So, off we went...Slipping Into Darkness….
At this festival, stout lovers were presented with several different “experiences”– Cask, Madagascar, Chocolate Milk Stout, & Coffee. Over the years, 4 Hands has gained great popularity over some of these beers like the Chocolate Milk Stout, and looked to spice things up by creating different variations. Even as an avid beer enthusiast, the task of sampling all of the many offerings was daunting. Since we had a group of friends, it was great to have everyone get different pours and pass them all around. That way, everyone got to try everything but also didn’t get too sloshed—yay for being responsible adults!
Being the true gentleman he is, Ben dropped me off while he parked the car and I headed in search of our friends and my first beer of the day! A little overwhelmed, I quickly chose the double-port barrel aged version of Madagascar, the Imperial Milk Stout aged in bourbon barrels with vanilla beans…then aged in port barrels. If this sounds a little crazy, hang on tight!
Wading through the crowds, outside, inside the main tap room, and finally upstairs, where my friends were finally to be found, I was already thoroughly enjoying myself. Once reunited with my friends, they excitedly told me about all of their favorite beers they had already sampled. The “Fat Elvis” had me intrigued. If you know me, I’m not a huge fan of dessert or sweets, but I certainly enjoy my share of “dessert” beers–you know, have your cake, but drink it! (Isn’t that how the saying goes…?) We headed off for me to have a pour of the Fat Elvis. This was the Madagascar mentioned above with the Kings supposed faves–banana and peanut butter. The aroma was INCREDIBLE! The beer was rich and thick with a big banana flavor. It was one of those really fun beers that is like dessert–you don’t really NEED it, but once you have a taste, its deliciousness has you all giddy and ready for more. Ready for more, I searched for another friend-approved Nutella-spiked must-have. Verdict: also tasty. Next, we got in line for my friend, Coleen’s, pick: The Almond Joy Madagascar. Coleen LOVES coconut! Ben had also been enjoying the much-loved Absence of Light. This peanut butter chocolate milk stout was released as a variant of the classic version as a specialty release and has now become an amped up version released yearly. If you love Reese’s peanut butter cups, you would love this beer! I’ve had the opportunity to try out a few peanut butter stouts, and in my opinion, this one is definitely the best!
About this time, I was ready for something a little less sweet while waiting in line. While the beers with interesting adjuncts sure were fun, I really prefered the barrel-aged options. Many of these beers are released once a year on draft and in bottles, so it’s exciting to be able to get your hands on these. One of my favorites is the barrel-aged Bona Fide. This stout made with local Goshen coffee is then aged with vanilla beans in bourbon barrels. The sweeter, deep, rich notes of chocolate and vanilla are beautifully balanced by the bitterness of coffee and warmth of bourbon. Another new favorite that I hadn’t tried before was the newer, Azza. A Russian imperial stout is aged for over a year in port wine barrels, leading to the name Azza, meaning ‘The Strong.’ The mighty booziness of this beer is balanced with the wood and dark fruit notes from the port. I sure love the complexity, yet balance of all of the barrel aged beers 4 Hands was offering at this festival. While there were a few more barrel-aged beers that I tried, instead of belaboring over writing about them, I encourage ya’ll to get out to 4 Hands and try some of the barrel aged experiments they always seem to have on tap!
Even though all of the stouts at the festival almost felt like eating dessert, the chef-in-residence for 4 Hands, Kevin Nashan (of the Peacemaker) was serving up their regular menu at the window, as well as a few exciting specials outdoors. Benjamin, who is always hungry, tried the fried oysters with remoulade. This dish was so popular, cooks had to run down to their restaurant just a couple of blocks away to bring over more fresh oysters! Boy, those were delicious!
Obviously, we had a great time enjoying beer and food, but we also could not have asked for better weather for this festival! At a sunny 55 degrees, gathering outside was still very comfortable, yet there was still enough chill in the air to warrant drinking big, dark beers. As usual at most beer events in St. Louis, we ran into a TON of our old pals and loved catching up with everyone. This included a surprise sighting of one of our oldest STL friends, Caroline, singing with the Cara Louise Band. While we are loving our new Kentucky home, it is always great to get back to St. Louis–our other home.
We’ll be returning for more STL beer adventures at 4 Hands in May for their 7th Annual Lupulin Carnival! This festival, celebrating the hop, includes breweries from around the country (& world) and 4 Hands hoppy favorite–War Hammer Imperial IPA. With hoppy beer goodness, food trucks, and a giant ferris wheel, this festival has been one of our favorites and has gotten bigger and better every year. Can’t wait to see what’s in store for this year’s Lupulin Carnival! Hope to see y’all there!