As the temperature dips (finally), I have visions of campfires, roasting marshmallows and grilling in the snow. I’m not always sure how much time I’m going to be able to enjoy the outdoors during the winter, but one thing I’m sure about is that I’ll be drinking some flavorful beer. That’s why the first beer of the year has got to be Half Acre’s Hearths Ablaze Stout.

The beer pours with a thin, tan cap of foam that dissipates quickly. The beer itself isn’t as dark as most stouts are; it’s black but there are brown and ruby highlights as well.

The beer smells of dark breads, but there is also a good bit of sweet hints, too. I get a touch of molasses, chocolate and caramel — All of which back up the roast character.

The flavor is on the roast-and-malt side of the spectrum; it’s dark and bready but with a fair amount of dark chocolate and caramel to balance. This beer never gets cloying, nor does it burn the taste buds with roast. This one rides that delicate middle ground that too few beers even attempt to tread for fear of being labeled mediocre. But there is beauty in simplicity, and this beer finds that spot perfectly.

I could drink glass after glass of this beer, but at 6.5% ABV, I’ll keep it to only a bomber or two. It would go great with some grilled foods. I love making veggie shish-kabobs or pork on the grill. I can even see this going well with a light dessert like vanilla ice cream or cake. No matter what you like, it’s not too hard to find a reason to try this great stout.

While this is a seasonal brew during a season that’s coming to a close, Hearths Ablaze is still available at the Half Acre Brewery as well as several other locations, at least for now.

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