Sud Savant: Front Street – Bucktown Stout

Some personal business took me to the Illinois/Iowa border today and this was fortunate. On that border there is an area consisting of four cities referred to as the Quad Cities and it is composed of Rock Island & Moline on the Illinois side, and Davenport & Bettendorf across the Mississippi in Iowa. Despite being a smaller market, this area has given rise to FOUR, count ‘em, FOUR breweries and some would argue a fifth in a chain restaurant called Granite City. It makes a strong, nay, irrefutable argument for traveling into the area and having some great local beer and supporting local communities. This review’s beer is for Front Street Brewery in Davenport, IA. I am actually sitting in the establishment right now.

Quick Note: Please forgive the quality of any shots in this review or Front Street’s next review. I did not have a camera with me or even a decent cell phone.

My recently-deceased cell phone had an unfortunate accident involving a motorcycle. But I digress… The atmosphere is very nice in a remodeled early 20th century riverfront building – lots of wood and exposed brick. In fact, out the front window I can clearly the mighty Mississippi rolling on by, the local Lock & Dam No. 15, and the Rock Island Arsenal (which manufactured TONS of rifles used in WWII). Bucktown was actually an area of the city that Wikipedia describes as such,

“The eastern end of downtown Davenport, historically known as Bucktown, was infamous at the turn of the 20th century for its speakeasies, dance halls and German music pavilions. It was home to a documented forty-two brothels in a two block area. The reputation of Bucktown traveled across the country and garnered national media headlines as the “wickedest city in America… Bucktown was also known, however, for its culture. The strong German heritage of the community formed the identity of Bucktown and its infusion of the arts into the everyday… In Bucktown, the music of the people was played by the era’s finest musicians, including Louis Armstrong and the legendary Bix Beiderbecke.”

That is a pretty rich heritage. If that heritage was an uncle, he probably would not be invited to many family gatherings. This place is loaded with local history and it is literally plastered all over the walls in large black and white photos that depict not only the history of the area, but also of the building itself. Very cool! The community should be proud to have an establishment like this. Enough gabbing though! On to the beer. Let’s pour!

Aroma 8/12
The malty beginnings are smoky and toasted moderately. There was no charring when making this stout. There is, however, a chocolaty sweetness that makes itself more known as the pint warms. Coffee is the primary aroma, but this typically strong scent is not allowed to overwhelm its counterparts. Very mild beginnings.

Appearance 2/3
Like the aroma, the appearance is a bit light for the style. The beer is not black, but gets probably as close as it gets without achieving that goal. It is completely opaque, but black has been swapped for a ruddy chestnut brown that reveals dark reddish-browns at its edges. Head is small, does not offer much in retention, but sticks around quite a bit as a collar. There is a minute amount of lacing present.

The first sips show the malt used in this beer. It tastes like a rather pale malt that has gone through some lighter roasting than expected. It makes the beer less intense than other stouts, but that could work out very well for some drinkers who prefer just that. The malt also adds a sourish sweet flavor that is again distinct, but not unpleasant in the least. The backbone then steps in with the lighter chocolate notes and the stronger coffee flavors. This fades a bit and gives way again to the sour/sweet malt and some pretty distinct earthy tones. The finish is unusually sweet, but does have the appropriate emphasis on coffee. The coffee gets to combine with a delicate hop bitter which always makes for nice finish. Aftertaste is almost entirely hop bitters, but does involve a little of the prior coffee and the result is almost that of charred coffee beans despite the lack of blackened ingredients anywhere in this beer.

Mouthfeel 3/5
The carbonation is high and a little out of place for the style. It is prickly and contrasts the body/creaminess that stouts normally seek to attain. That said, it still does maintain a better than average creaminess and a medium heavy body. No detectable warmth.

Overall Impression 6/10
A pretty good stout. Definitely not an intense version, but not the type used to introduce others to craft beer stouts either. It lies somewhere in that dangerous middle ground that achieves neither wide spread success (too weak), nor critical accolades (flavor powerhouse). It is a good beer that I would not have problems ordering growlers of were I living in the area, but it would benefit from a push either to the extreme or to the acceptability of the masses.

Total 34/50
Almost every section of this beer’s review notes that it is light for the style and that sums things up rather well. This can make for a very good “exbeerience” for those who are not looking for the insanely dark tones that an Imperial might provide. It is a rather light coffee stout that I would prefer ANY day to almost anything most local places/chain restaurants have on tap. It is a great alternative to have in the area, but falls a bit short when competing on a national stage.

I really like this brewery/brewpub (They do serve food. Good food at that!). I enjoy this beer. It might not bring home any first place trophies, but it is a pretty good stout that you can definitely have several of without any reservations. Cheers to Steve and Jen for running a fine establishment!

Joel R. Kolander is the Cheif Blogger for Sud Savant, a beer-savoring blog for the rest of us. We’re not here to get plowed. We’re not here because we are world-famous beer critics. We’re here because we enjoy savoring a great beer with even better friends. Sharing great beer is just as amazing as finding it in the first place. Lets share!