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 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.
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 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 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 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.