Roanoke, So Far, So Good: A Few Old Goats Milk Stout Draft and Milk Stout Nitro. Roanoke, Virginia
Date: May 7, 2019
The Story— We’ll talk more about Roanoke in future posts. Here it’s enough to focus on just one of many reasons to make the drive– or ride the rails.
A Few Old Goats is as endearing a brewery as the name implies. Some “old goats” — enthusiasts that include a college professor, have opened a brewery in a backwater section of Roanoke that our Uber driver suggested we not try to walk around in after dark. Happily lots of other people suggested that the Uber driver had probably hadn’t been around Roanoke for a while — which turned out to be right. The area is, we hear, safe enough, though still a long walk from the other Roanoke breweries.
The building is a brick for brick reconstruction of where you went to elementary school, but it’s actually a former health center, with a stage for graduation ceremonies and a layout that’s a deal ringer for Fernbank Elementary School in Charleston, West Virginia or Cherokee Junior High in Madison, Wisconsin. Shake off the ambivalend memories and enter past an array of apartments to get to the brewery-taproom. It’s a three barrel open fermenting system that countless brewers have installed — they’re cheap– and usually produce pretty mediocre, but locally acceptable beers. They’re kind of a low grade Peter Austin system today. However, a handful of gifted– and maybe lucky– brewers can wield exceptional beers from the close to craft toy. Gentlemans Brew near Pittsburg was our first encounter with these sorcerers, but these old goats are surely another with the gift
We’ve spend over 40 years hunting overlooked brewery gems and it still thrills us to find one. It’s what we do. But what set these goats apart was the universal respect they’ve earned from other Roanoke brewers. They’re very small, their brewery should be marginally dysfunctional and yet they brew beers that not only gained our interloper attention but commanded respect throughout the town.
The Beer— The draft version is a lovely strong mild stout. AT 7.5% it’s the sort of legendary “old ladies in tennis shoes” afternoon tipple, but sorry ladies, this has to be shared with football linemen. It’s full bodied and rich. It is sweet, which is appropriate for the style, but it’s not so sweet that it cloys. Very smooth. Big deep roast with some cocoa and a bit of acrid char that serves to create a bit of balance. The Nitro has the same big body, but the Nitro seems to pull the darkness back and allow the fruit to show more. Interestingly drier. Chocolate, more than the cocoa of the draft, and chocolate milk at the end and as it drinks.
Value — Good. Decent, but not cheap, brewpub prices here.
Values: “fair” is a good beer at an above market price, “good” is worth the money, “very good” is a bargain, and “excellent” is a steal.