Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

Rhoades’ Scholar Stout

South Shore Brewery
Ashland, WI

Style: Stout
ABV: 6.8%

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Recommended)

97 … 98 …99 …

Wow … it’s almost here! This is officially review number 99 for Nigel, which, if I’ve calculated correctly (and I probably haven’t, as I’m terrible at math), means the next one is number 100. I have something special planned for the great centennial review, but alas, I have to get number 99 out of the way first.

While I was looking over the reviews to verify my total (yes, counting by hand, mind you and getting my dirty lil’ fingers all over the screen), I noticed there are certain breweries that have been heavily favored by us here at (considering we’re approaching the 250 review mark, this is understandable). Some of this has to do with the ever-important distribution situation, as us Senior Beer Review Correspondants are located in various Midwestern locales in or near major cities, so we don’t get the chance to scour the small, remote, less-distributed brewers as often as we’d like. While I’m not complaining, as we’ve been heavy on fine breweries such as Bell’s, Founders, New Glarus, Three Floyds, Tyranena, and others, it would be nice to be able to check out some of the little guys on occasion. While I try my best to locate the somewhat obscure, often times it’s hard to pass up the latest and greatest from the better known, more proven breweries that are easier to locate, not just for Nigel, but for you the reader as well.

Since the subject of my 100th review will be one of our favorite brewers, I thought I’d celebrate 99 with something a bit more obscure. South Shore Brewery, the Ashland, Wisconsin-based brewpub on the remote southern shores of frigid Lake Superior seemed like a good choice. While South Shore isn’t as hard to locate as other small brewpubs (you can find it in many Wisconsin, Upper Penninsula, and Minnesota craft beer retailers), if you’ve ever made the drive to Ashland, you’d know it’s both small and WAY off the beaten path. I raved about the refreshing Honey Pils from South Shore when I reviewed it a year ago, as it’s a beer that reminds me of warm summer nights at the Tanner family’s Northwoods retreat. Yet, despite a number of opportunities, I’ve never actually had anything else from South Shore.

Until now. South Shore has an impressive list of selections, but most of them are only available at the brewpub. This being February, Ashland is undoubtedly buried by 800 feet of snow, so there’s no way I’m going up there to sample. Thus, I’m stuck with the relatively uninspiring offerings they distribute regionally: Honey Pils (good, but well known to Nigel already), Nut Brown Ale (Nigel has yet to review a brown ale since they are incredibly boring), and Rhoades’ Scholar Stout. Also available in some places is Herbal Cream Ale, which doesn’t appeal to me in the least, and the fall seasonal Applefest Ale, which can be difficult to locate. Given the cold weather, I figured it’d be a good time to finally give Rhoades’ Scholar a shot.

Rhoades’ Scholar is not named after the elite Oxford scholarship (that would be Rhodes, by the way), but rather after Allen Rhoades, a homebrewer who helped come up with the recipe South Shore uses. It’s meant to be a standard sweet stout … not a ballsy Russian imperial, not an Irish dry, but your typical American offering. Given the harsh winters in Ashland, I’m expecting something thick and powerful, though this boasts a rather modest ABV.

Rhoades’ Scholar pours nicely into my official South Shore pint glass (this, uh … may have helped my purchasing decision, as it came free with the sixer). It’s ultra-dark like a stout should be, though the thick blackness is penetrated by a surprising amount of tan fizz. A head of about an inch or so greets you on the pour but begins to settle immediately, leaving a sticky, creamy trace at the sides throughout the drink and a picturesque lace at the top. I can’t argue with the appearance, as it’s exactly as I had hoped for.

The aroma is quite pleasant. It actually caught me a bit off guard, as I wasn’t expecting to detect much of anything. A unique mocha aroma hits first, sort of a sweet coffee/chocolate combination, perhaps not surprising considering this is a “milk” stout. As is the case with any type of stout, the aroma is dominated by malt, as the mocha smell is also tinged with a sugary sweetness of caramel, toffee, and molasses. Mild roasted nuttiness provides the only other scent, as there are really no yeast, hop, or alcohol aromas of any sort.

The taste is fine, but not up to the level of the aroma or appearance. It’s a typical American craft stout … nothing more, nothing less. Malt is the only player here, with a sweet, chocolaty/cocoa taste up front. Toffee and molasses fight it out with coffee after the chocolate subsides, and roasted nuts come in at the end. Again, not much detected in terms of yeast or alcohol, although there is the slightest non-malt earthiness at the very end of the sip that I can’t quite pinpoint. It’s mildly complex, but not over the top … again, it’s about as standard as standard can get. Fairly heavy in body, Rhoades’ Scholar is smooth on the palate and, with a modest ABV, could make a decent session brew for the winter months, as long as you like your brews a bit thick. A medium aftertaste lingers for a bit, but isn’t too offensive.

All in all, I would say this is worthy of a sample should you find it at the local retailer. I’ve been impressed with the way South Shore conducts their business from a relatively remote location, so I’m inclined to give them a thumbs-up despite the fact that Rhoades’ Scholar isn’t anything special. Should you find yourself in the Ashland/Bayfield area, be sure to stop in and check out the brewpub; you’ll find much more interesting selections there.


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on February 15, 2008.
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