[Update: Moo-Hoo has hit shelves and taps in Atlanta and Athens today (Nov. 1), much earlier than the previously reported December release.]
If you follow me on Twitter (for those who enjoy more than sporadic updates every month or so, I recommend you do), you know that I’ve been anxiously awaiting the release of Terrapin Beer Company’s Moo-Hoo since I had a taste of the uncompleted beer after the brewery’s Hop Harvest Festival in September. Moo-Hoo is a chocolate milk stout made with cocoa nibs and shells. Rumors surfaced as soon as news of this beer was released drawing comparisons between it and the second installment of Terrapin’s collaborative Midnight Project Series with Left Hand Brewing, Depth Charge. I was skeptical, however, as Terrapin’s contribution to the collaboration beer was an addition of Jittery Joe’s espresso a la their popular Wake-n-Bake Coffee Oatmeal Stout. It was Left Hand who shared their proficiency in brewing with lactose, regularly exhibited in their highly regarded Milk Stout. As the beer’s release has drawn closer, I’ve waited to try it for myself to see what Spike and the team came up with for a milk stout that was all theirs. After seeing hints that Moo-Hoo was ready last week, I am happy to say that I finally tried the chocolate milk stout (or a pint or three) this weekend.
Last Thursday night, I stumbled upon a keg of Moo-Hoo at Blue Sky in downtown Athens. A bar with an excellent selection of bottled beers but no regular drafts, the bright red jockey box on the bar displayed a Moo-Hoo tap handle rather conspicuously. Blue Sky has hosted a couple of casks featuring Terrapin’s special releases in the past, but I’ve always managed to hear about them ahead of time. My anticipation to try this beer was almost over, or was it?
The keg, which I was told had only been put on just over an hour before my arrival, was all gone. How? There were about a dozen people at the bar, and while I expected Moo-Hoo to be tasty, they couldn’t have put that whole keg away in an hour, could they? [I later found out that the keg was provided for a pub crawl that had stopped by earlier that night.] I extinguished my disappointment with one of Blue Sky’s bottled offerings and called it a night.
On Friday, I had plans to visit Terrapin for an event benefiting Nuci’s Space with a concert featuring Dave Barbe & the Quick Hooks with Patterson Hood (see below). After my near miss the night before, I hoped to score a taste of Moo-Hoo at the brewery. Upon arrival, I almost spotted the Moo-Hoo tap handle from across the room. I’ve got some, right? No! Moo-Hoo doesn’t come out until December, and won’t start pouring at the brewery until November 3.
So this is the end of the story, right? We’ll all just have to wait until next week to find out what Terrapin’s first milk stout tastes like? I’m a bit too stubborn to have given up that easily. It didn’t happen at first, but after talking Moo-Hoo with the bartender and flexing some beer knowledge, I guess he decided I was worthy of a sample. I thanked him politely and scurried off to share my first tastes of the chocolaty contraband with the only person I knew who was more excited about this beer than myself: my girlfriend.
The aroma alone of this beer is enough to put a smile on your face. Light roasted notes along with little mocha sweetness reminded me of a blended iced coffee. On the colder side, the dark roasted malts and cocoa nibs play a bit of a stronger role that would lead immediately to the bitter ending associated with some stouts if it weren’t for the sweetness of the added lactose, which fades in very gradually and never becomes overly sweet. As it warms, the flavor evokes more thoughts of chocolate milk, although the similarity never becomes quite as literal as other chocolate stouts I’ve had (think Rogue Double Chocolate Stout). A more complex, grown-up flavor prevails, perhaps due to the addition of cocoa nibs (around 900 pounds worth from Olive & Sinclair) rather than processed cocoa powder. I also detected a little hint of vanilla, although I haven’t heard that any was actually added. The mouthfeel was exactly what I look for in a milk stout, with the lactose (and flaked oats) adding palpable texture and creaminess that still ended rather cleanly. Moo-Hoo is quite drinkable, especially for the style. In my opinion, Spike has pulled off something really great here. The flavors could have easily been present, but ruined by a watery mouthfeel, or a satisfactory texture could have been undermined by an over-sweetened taste. Moo-Hoo hits the spot on the cow (this will catch on, I promise), however, in every dimension.
Again, Moo-Hoo will be out in stores sometime in December (I’d guess early December) as Pumpkinfest phases out. While it was originally listed as an entry in the one-off Side Project series earlier this year, Moo-Hoo will be a returning seasonal offering each winter (something I am quite excited about, and I’m sure you will be too once you try it). As is the case with all of Terrapin’s seasonals, Moo-Hoo will be available in 6-packs and kegs. [If anyone at Terrapin finds this, please do some special casks of this stuff with added goodies…I’ve got some ideas if you need help.] I don’t have any clue about distribution of Moo-Hoo, but I assume it will be the same as their other seasonals currently, so if you can get Sunray Wheat and Pumpkinfest, you should be able to get your hands on this stuff.