Chow Town

North Coast Brewing has plenty to offer, even if you’re not a fan of hops

My taste in beer tends toward the dark and roasted, far more than the floral and hoppy; a recent week spent in Oregon was in some beer-ways interminable.

On my return home, I stumbled (not that kind of stumble) onto a beer tasting at the new Thou Mayest where it seemed that half the crowd already knew each other. I happened to know the beer guy, so I was invited to sit and taste five beers from North Coast Brewing Co.

You might have heard of their penultimate brew, Old Rasputin. It’s been a mainstay of mine for years: an imperial stout with more hops than I usually quaff but with so many chocolate and coffee notes that the hops simply blend into the chords instead of shrieking above the music as they so often do for me.

It toes another line as well, with mocha and Joe seeming to show a burnt trace that disappears as soon as you spot it, melding under caramelized fruits.

I say that I drink darker beers, but I lie. In fact, I drink all sorts of beers and I will put Pranqster on that list from now on — a golden ale with fruity, tropical Belgian-style notes of banana and clove. It has this zippy lemon character, alongside a floral element that seems derived from something other than hops.

North Coast’s saison, Le Merle, is redolent of citrus and spice as well, with a ginger and lemon finish that is refreshingly lifted and delightfully balanced. Both intense and bright.

The beer called Brother Thelonius, as strong and dark as the late great musician, is wildly entertaining — a malty, nutty nose that starts a bit sweet, with toffee and maple at the end. If Newcastle Brown Ale is as simple as “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” this is more like Monk’s “Straight No Chaser.”

We finished with North Coast’s Old Stock Ale, a brew you could age if you felt like it. It weighs in at more than 11 percent alcohol, so you definitely want to take your time, but it carries its power like a bantam weight boxer, with caramel and cooked pears and a delicious balance built with citrus. Floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee.

Doug Frost is a Kansas City-based wine and spirits writer and consultant who for decades has happily educated the public about all things drink. He is one of only three people in the world to have earned the coveted titles of master sommelier and master of wine. He contributes a monthly wine column for The Star’s Food section.