Whole Lotta Wonderful | Lil Beaver
Ah, the festival pour. The not-so-mythic libation that towers above all other libations at a beer festival. Very, very flavorful, the festival pour slays at the two to three ounces you get at the festival but wears you down with its excessiveness when an entire 12 or 16 ounce can is involved. But sometimes the festival pour comes out unscathed in a neutral setting. I’m hoping that’s the case as I don’t think I’ve ever had Lil Beaver’s Whole Lotta Wonderful outside of a festival setting.
Lil Beaver does regular drops to Chicago from its Bloomington, IL base, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen Whole Lotta Wonderful. Typically their hazy IPAs and sours show up, but any of the stouts seem to be a rare occurrence (I might just not be paying attention.) The only way I usually get to try them is at a festival – like Goose Island’s Stoutfest 2021, where it finished fourth in my rankings that features all sorts of stouts. In essence, Lil’ Beaver’s stouts are festival pours only because I’m only able to get them at festivals! When I saw that places in the city were getting it, I had to grab a can. I’m very excited to try this from the comfort of my own home!
Whole Lotta Wonderful pours pitch black and thick. I can tell pouring out of the can it looks thick. A very thin layer – about half a finger – of khaki head appears and then disappears. Some slight brown highlights can be seen on the outside rim. What looks like particulate (guessing coconut?) sticks to the side of the glass as you swirl. Some alcohol stain joins it for the ride as well. Not the thickest beer I’ve been, but possibly the thickest milk stout I’ve seen.
I expected Whole Lotta Wonderful to hit big with sweet chocolate and coconut. Wrong on both accounts! A bitter baker’s chocolate greets you upon inhaling, while at best a suggestion of coconut comes across. I don’t think I’d guess coconut if it wasn’t on the label. Some roasty notes also permeate. After smelling a few times, the lactose combines with that bitter chocolate to give off a milk chocolate aromatic, albeit one with some bitter qualities. So maybe a dark chocolate?
That bitter chocolate shines on the palate as well. That bitterness leaves you wanting more and the lactose is more than happy to make that easy to do, adding a smooth and creamy mouthfeel to Whole Lotta Wonderful. That bitterness also cuts a lot of any sweetness, delivering a beer that, while being on the sweet side, doesn’t go saccharine and keeps it from being too much. But what of the coconut?
Do not expect a coconut bomb out of Whole Lotta Wonderful. Again would not guess coconut was here if there was no label. But somehow, someway – and it could be the power of suggestion – all the way in the back, when you’ve finished your sip and are contemplating another, it hits. Mounds bar. A reduced-coconut, increased-chocolate Mounds bar, but it’s there. The scary thing about this beer though? The 13% ABV. I killed the 16 ounce can I had and immediately wanted more. It drinks really easy so be careful.
Based on the pour, I expected Whole Lotta Wonderful to come at me slow and low on the carbonation. Thankfully it stayed in the medium realm, though on the low side of medium. A lovely chocolate flavor hangs around long after the sip and that lactose makes it a smooth ride for your palate. Rarely do I ask for this, but maybe a little lower on the carbonation would’ve brought out even more candy bar vibes. Or I’m an idiot. It could be either.
An extremely drinkable imperial milk stout that doesn’t come off too sweet and eventually tastes like a candy bar? Sign me up! I would’ve liked more coconut presence on both the aroma and taste, but that candy bar finish almost makes up for it. The bitter chocolate does most of the work here in both cutting the sweetness while assisting with repeat sips. Whole Lotta Wonderful tastes nowhere near the 13% ABV so be careful when consuming as it’ll catch up on you. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for more Lil Beaver stouts that come up here and can only hope the barrel-aged version shows up at shelves at some point.