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Monthly Archives: January 2013

Five Brilliant Dark Ales

As I sit here typing this, outside my study window the snow is falling quite heavily onto an already deeply-whited landscape. I went for a walk this morning, and out in the fields I found drifts of snow that threatened to tip over the top of my wellies. Snow transforms the landscape into magical, fantastical vistas and yet also brings the very real threat of traffic accidents, delays (I’ve had no post today) and at the extreme, death. Snow is both exhilarating and frightening, beautiful and deadly.

Many people prefer to remain locked up tight and warm indoors at times like this, sipping cocoa and hot soup, but I like to get out, specifically to the pub, for a pint or two of a doughty, warming dark ale. You knew something like that was coming, didn’t you?

Of course it’s possible that you really can’t get out, in which case it is always advisable to have a good stock of wonderful dark beer ready for such an eventuality. Here are five brilliant dark beers, bottled and waiting for you right now on the supermarket shelves. In no particular order:

Williams Bros March of the Penguins 2 small

Williams Brothers March of the Penguins is a 4.9% dream of a stout, pouring a very dark brown colour rather than black with a good brown head. Masses of body complimented by a strong, dark flavour, the beer is creamy and sweet with a deliciously malty start which transforms into a finish that is both mildly hoppy and slightly fruity. Deeply satisfying.

TSA Glencoe 4 small

Traditional Scottish Ales Glencoe is our second stout from Scotland, described on the bottle as a ‘Premium Wild Oat Stout’ of 4.5% ABV. It is a very dark red in colour, the redness only really visible if you hold it up to a light. Coffee and chocolate aromas dominate the smell. The mouthfeel is smooth and velvety, a rich and malty taste with strong chocolate and coffee flavours. There’s something else here, nagging away at the edge of the taste – is it the oats? Could be. There is an underlying hint of smoke throughout the taste. Simply fabulous.

Blakemere Deep Dark Secret small

Blakemere Deep Dark Secret is again very dark red, virtually black, just hints of red in direct light. The head is light brown and short-lived. Weighing in at a respectable 5.2%, this dark ale, described on the label as a ‘liquorice porter’, is quite distinct in its flavour profile. The taste is very dark, malty and bitter. Yes, there is liquorice in the taste, but this isn’t like the stuff you chewed in the playground. It’s very dark and bitter and ultimately far more satisfying.

Tatton Obscure small

Tatton Obscure will blow your conceptions of dark beer right out of the water. Described on the label very vaguely as ‘real Cheshire ale’, this 5.7% beer is guaranteed to surprise you. If you’re like me, it will also delight you. It pours a beautiful deep red in colour, and the smell is not what you expect. You would expect malt, fruit, maybe coffee and chocolate, but no, what you get here is strong, dark hops. The taste is a revelation. It is strongly malty, giving it a dark chocolate taste with strong notes of burnt caramel and treacle. The overarching flavour, though, is those dark, bitter hops, making this a very hoppy, very bitter beer. Absolutely outstanding.

Ridgeway Bad King John small

Ridgeway Bad King John is the strongest beer in this selection. It’s 6.0% and is a dark reddish-brown in colour. This beer provides a whole mouthful of flavour. It’s very dark with strong bitter malt. The label says the flavour is ‘intense’, and that’s about as good a word as I could have thought of to describe it. It is full of darkness with a distinct espresso flavour along with hints of chocolate and dried fruit. Definitely a different taste experience from those earlier creamy stouts, but then it does not claim to be a stout, merely describing itself on the label, somewhat mysteriously, as ‘a very English black ale’. Well worth seeking out.

Thanks for reading. More dark beers to follow.

Words and images are my copyright, please respect that. All you have to do is ask. Thank you.

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Posted by on 21 January, 2013 in Bottled Beer

 

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Some Christmas Bottled Beers from 2012

Christmas has been and gone once more, and again I find myself pondering the special beers brewed for this special season. It’s a season that these days many people are as glad to see the back of as they are to welcome. It’s true that Christmas is a time of great pressure for many people. Gifts HAVE to be bought, and what you buy for Bob must be of an equal value to what you buy for Jane. Cards MUST be sent to obscure relations you wouldn’t recognise if you fell over them and to that couple you met on holiday seventeen years ago and haven’t seen since. Masses of food MUST be prepared and ready on time. People MUST be visited and at all time, you MUST look happy and full of joy.

If you’re anything like me, then that final requirement can get a bit stretched. What’s the answer? De-commercialise Christmas and just let everyone have a couple of days off work with their feet up? Sounds tempting, but what are the chances? No, we know the real answer – BEER!

I’ve picked out five beers that I supped over this Christmas, starting with a couple from the Cheshire-based brewery Blakemere, which also brews under the name of Northern.

Blakemere Ho Ho Ho 1 small

Blakemere Ho Ho Ho Hoppy Christmas enters with a high placement on the over-forced pun stakes. A light beer, Ho Ho Ho Hoppy Christmas weighs in at just 3.7%. It’s a mid-yellow in colour and sports only the thinnest of heads. Although there’s no indication on the bottle as to what type of beer this is, it’s a bitter, and a fairly ordinary one at that. The first taste impression is that it’s earthy, with a touch of soap. There is a growing hoppiness towards the finish, but it’s mostly earthy and soapy.

Blakemere Santa's Slide 2 small

A little stronger is Blakemere Santa’s Slide, described on the bottle as a ‘Yuletide Golden Best Bitter’. It’s as well to cover all options, I suppose. This is slightly darker in colour than Ho… etc., being more of a pale orange. The smell is good; hoppy and pithy. The taste delivers a smooth hoppiness with distinct citrus pith. The bitterness is never harsh and the flavours work nicely together to form a nice, rounded beer. Good.

White Horse Rudolph the Red Nosed White Horse Beer small

Ho… etc. is joined in the over-forced pun stakes by White Horse Rudolf the Red Nosed White Horse Beer. Yeah. It’s 4.8% and is a dark red colour, tending to brown. I suppose those with a more poetic view of colours than mine would call it chestnut, Which is quite appropriate for this nutty beer. Warm toffee notes and a good deal of marmalady bitterness join with the nuttiness along with some citrus pith and fruit. Quite a complex, warming taste, and most welcome on a cold December evening.

George Wright Reindeer's Revenge small

George Wright Reindeer’s Revenge is a heftier affair, punching in at 5.1%. This is a lively beer as it pours, forming a big, frothy head, even when poured carefully. There’s loads of hoppy bitterness here with a good side order of grapefruit pith. The hops used are Citra, and have a distinct floral-citrus flavour.  Cracking beer!

Innis & Gunn Winter Treacle Porter 2 small

Finally, I treated myself to an Innis & Gunn Winter Treacle Porter. This beer is oak-aged for 39 days and has treacle added, as you probably guessed from its name. It’s by far the strongest of these beers at 7.4%, and it even comes in a box. It pours a lovely dark red, with a promising aroma of fruity malt. From the first sip, you can tell that this beer is from Innis & Gunn. There’s just something about that unique flavour. It has a surprisingly light touch at the start, but the flavour grows with treacle and molasses and hints of rich fruit. There is quite a noticeable spirituous overtaste, common to many beers of this strength. Throughout the taste, there is an unexpected but engaging dryness. Yum yum!

Although Christmas is now over, it’s still the depths of winter, so I’m still in dark beer mode. More to come…

Words and images are my copyright, please respect that. All you have to do is ask. Thank you.

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Posted by on 7 January, 2013 in Bottled Beer

 

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