Brew Blog: Travel Edition (Four Peaks Oatmeal Stout)

I've been in Phoenix on business this week, spending my days jammed into a conference center, struggling to hold onto consciousness. I've been lucky, though, to have some family in the vicinity this time, giving me the chance to catch up in between meetings. Enjoying conversation over dinner is a rare treat indeed for the business traveler.

Not only did I get the opportunity to hang out with some family who live out this way, but in an odd twist of fate, I also found the time to catch up with my dad. He lives in Houston. We ran into each other at Disco Kroger on Monday, and in the course of casual conversation, discovered that we would both be in the valley at the same time.

I tried to get him to join us for dinner at Pizzeria Bianco, the vaunted Phoenix pie joint, which has somehow eluded me on previous visits. I was dead set on making it to dinner this time around, and highly recommended it to my dad. He seemed excited, planning to bring the along a group of students in his charge.

As my group finished up dinner at Pizzeria Bianco (a must visit, if you're in the area), I got a call from my dad, letting me know that he and his students were on their way over. I decided to say goodnight to one set of family members, grab a beer from Bar Bianco next door, and join them. I was kind of excited about getting a second crack at some Bianco pies.

With the slight chill of a desert evening hanging in the air, I settled on something a little heartier, chosen from the admirable selection of local brews. Four Peaks Oatmeal Stout poured out a lovely chocolate color, with a thin but determined taupe head. The aroma offered fairly little, mostly manifesting as generally roasty, with a slight chocolate undertone and just a pungent whiff of olives.

The flavor was similarly restrained, with notes of dark fruit coming through first, followed by a bit of boozeless bourbon, its associated hints of vanilla creeping along at the edges. Cocoa nibs added a bittering foil to the YooHoo inflected chocolate character that permeated the middle, the whole process carried along by a truly luxurious body.

I kept picking up hints of char and nuttiness, but those may well have been phantom limbs from the Rosa pizza for whose parmigiano and pistachios I was already pining, not half an hour after the last slice had disappeared.

I was musing about how well the richness of the beer would pair with the crusty bread offered to each pizza-awaiting table when my dad arrived. I filled him in on the glories that awaited, pointing him to the hostess who would arrange his table. Alas, it was not to be. The hour-plus wait time for his party of five deflated his excitement, and the group sought other options. As they grabbed a table at a nearby (exceedingly mediocre, by all appearances) pub, I finished my beer, paid my tab over at Bar Bianco, and mourned the loss of my second dinner.

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