When you first see The Great Wall, you have to gasp that you have finally crossed it off your bucket list.
The Great Wall of Stouts, that is.
We’re talking about 26 taps dedicated solely to stout for one week, Jan. 21 to Jan. 27, 2013, at The Ginger Man in South Norwalk, Conn. The popular beer bar has 52 total taps, and it decided to wisely devote half the wall to first-class stout.
"We attempt on a regular basis to have a beer-centric event like tap takeovers, beer dinners, or limited releases," said general manager Andrew Hoenig. "January is cold and stout is a perfect beer for winter."
The brew crew started collecting various kegs of stouts and at one point decided to put on the event, evolving into The Great Wall of Stouts. An artist, Jeremy Staub, was called on to do the poster.
"We have a big mix of everyday stouts, occasional specialty stouts, and limited-edition stouts," added the knowledgeable Hoenig. There is also grandpa-nitro Guinness, technically making it 27 stouts, as well as one gravity keg taking it up to 28.
The Ginger Man offers the Wall Pass, too, which allows opportunities for smaller sipping portions of stout, food, and future privileges, a sort of loyalty program.
"It’s been a great response," said another manager, Becky Gomes, "and we even created a stout-based food menu."
The list of foods is indeed a savory one, from stout French onion soup to the Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout braised pork belly. The Chocolate Truffle flight uses maple chocolate stout and coffee stout with a raspberry lambic, and the stout pudding chomeur brings back a French/Canadian dish created during The Depression as a poor man’s food.
The Daily Meal was fortunate enough to have a small tasting of all 26 stouts in succession, and here are some highlights from that list:
The rich but smooth Allagash Jim Beam Bourbon Barrel Aged Black probably ranks best on the wall, according to Hoenig, while the Del Ducato My Blueberry Nightmare tastes very sour and uses chile — two utterly different tastes.
A good everyday drinking choice is Founders Breakfast Stout, the "breakfast" name coming from coffee. Lagunitas Cappuccino does something very similar, as its own name implies.
Goose Island Night Stalker is a quirky hopped-up stout. And a local brewer called New England up in Woodbridge, Conn., delivers Imperial Stout Trooper with liquid love.
North Coast Old Rasputin leaves your palate tasting almost like red wine. Oskar Blues has the Tenfidy Imperial Stout, named for its 10.5 percent alcohol.
Porterhouse Oyster Stout uses actual oyster shells, and Sixpoint Diesel is super hoppy. Southern Tier 2x Milk Stout adds lactose, a non-fermentable sugar that adds body, mouth, and richness.
Saint Petersburg Russian Imperial Stout from Thornbridge in England is another favorite called "tremendous" by Hoenig.
OK, you can breathe now.
Award-winning owner Christian Burns might just be The Beer Prince of Connecticut, also owning The Ginger Man in Greenwich and The Cask Republic in New Haven. His South Norwalk locale brings together laudable beer, creative yet hearty food, and intelligent people in a fun, relaxed, and discerning atmosphere. One local distributor also enjoying The Wall said, "It’s my favorite hangout."
Burns is quite proud of The Great Wall of Stouts, as he should be. "It is a momentous event for all beer lovers, and we can’t wait to share all 26 taps with all who come."
What’s his beer philosophy?
"A great beer experience at The Ginger Man," he said, "begins at the tap (a clean tap!) and moves to our energetic, beer-centric staff and finally to the mouths of our beer-savvy guests."
While this is a limited event for one week, they will continue to drink out the taps until they are all finished.
Come on up then and climb The Great Wall of Stouts and start sipping.