The Heart of Darkness – Warming Beers For Winter (a.k.a. Bottled Ales – November 2013 Pt 3!)

1385318340020(A small – yet perfectly formed – haul from @TheAleManMcr, coming soon to a publication near you!)

If you have followed my sozzled ramblings for any length of time, you’ll know that my heart is – generally – given over to the darker side of beer. In winter, that becomes even more so. The only variation is that Milds tend to be pushed slightly aside whilst I reach for those heavier, more potent and maltier brews, Porters, Stouts and their steroid abusing children, Imperial Stouts.

There really is something that warms the cockles and makes me feel seasonal about these (mostly) black beers. Maybe it’s the roasted malt, perhaps it’s the chocolate or maybe (in more extreme cases) it’s just the bloody alcohol! Whatever it is, when the chill winds start to blow, it’s for these magnificent roasty wee beasties that I yearn.

Whilst I was thinking of committing my darker thoughts to a blog post, a blogger that I follow (Glenn Johnson) got in first, read his posts here. Whilst reading it, I gathered my thoughts and rooted through the stash. I had been storing a few just for this time of year and it was time to break them out! Spoiler alert though, a beer in this list that is likely to finish in my Top 3 bottles. Dark beers, who’d have thought!!!

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what is comes next!……The format remains….

1. The Beer, 2. The Brewer, 3. The Strength, 4. The beer style, 5. The Price & Size (including discount, eg: for CAMRA membership, where applicable – if I can remember the price of course!). 6. Where from,  and, If a website for the vendor exists, the hyperlink to the shop / brewer website, just in case you are inspired enough by my ramblings to make a purchase! Here goes… We’ll do this one, in ascending order of ABV shall we?

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1. Railway PorterFive Points Brewing Co (Hackney, E. London) – 4.8% abv – Porter – £3.50 (330ml) – The Ale Man (Urban Market – Greengate, Salford)

I like Five Points beers. Starting commercial brewing only 8 months ago in Hackney, they came to my attention on a visit to Damian O’Shea’s stall, which was then at Castlefield Market (He does a few now, including – this weekend – at Spinningfields in Manchester, go say Hello!). First beer I tried was a trial brew of a Red Rye ale (Which I think may have become their “Hook Island Red”), it was superb. The Pale Ale soon followed, easily as good. Now I’ve been waiting to try this, having recently had an exceptional (cask conditioned) pint at Font in Chorlton recently.

A black beer with a lovely creamy tan head and a chocolate & coffee aroma. A lovely smooth, creamy, full-bodied mouthful, initially smooth and chocolaty, then  a bitter chocolate hit and then a lovely and slightly bitter roasted coffee leading to a nice earthy bitterness. The chocolate and coffee merge into a smooth mocha which slouched awhile in the aftertaste. Easily as good as on cask. Lovely.

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2. Manifesto – Revolutions Brew Co (Castleford, W Yorkshire) – 6% abv – Stout – Mixed case (500ml) – Direct from the Brewers

I know that I reviewed this beer earlier this year, but another review seemed inevitable when I discovered this buried in the stash. And ’tis the season……..

Black as sin with a tan coloured head and a dark chocolate and slightly smoky roasted aroma. Full bodied and creamily smooth , with firstly, dark and seductive bitter chocolate, then overlaid with a  lively espresso, then a light smoky note. Very dry and bitter with the smokiness intensifying and a warming feeling with maybe a rum note. Just the beer for a cold winters evening  in a nice cosy Manchester pub. This is simply a bloody delightful stout. Possibly the best I’ve had in bottle.

I have just noticed that Revolutions have a batch ready in cask. Come ON Manchester! There HAS to be a pub to bring some over here!!!
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3. Mud City StoutSadlers Ales (Stourbridge, W Midlands) – 6.6% abv – Stout – £1.49 (500ml) – Home Bargains, Farnworth

Now and again, you can come across some absolute BARGAINS in “bargain” shops. For instance, B&M Bargains stock Citra by Oakham at £1.79, however, when I saw THIS puppy at THAT price Atilla got more in the trolley than she bargained for!

A really deep ruby coloured beer that was as close to black as it could be with another tan cream head but with an aroma reminding me of molasses and dark rum with a sweet vanilla note. Full-bodied and creamy smooth. A little sweetish vanilla upfront more than balanced with a following bitter chocolate and cocoa flavour that followed and blended with it and gave a nice slight warmth. A big malty beer this, comforting with that vanilla sweetness and big chocolate flavours leading to a gentle bitter finish. Really impressive, shame I have never seen it on draught.

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4. Ola Dubh 16 – Harviestoun Brewery (Alva, Clackmannanshire, Scotland) – 8% abv – Whisky Barrel-Aged Porter – Mixed Case – Mail Order from the Brewery

One that has been left for a while this. Part of a Fathers Day gift from my youngest 2 kids, I was chuffed to bits when it arrived, the pack included two each of this, Ola Dubh 12, & 18 , Engineers Reserve and 4 Old Engine Oil. Dark paradise!

Based on Old Engine Oil, one of my favourite Porters. Poured black with a creamy tan head and an aroma mingling dark chocolate, leather and fresh tobacco. Really full-bodied with chocolate, a swish of peaty whisky and a distinctive nutty note that brought to mind brazil nuts (my favourite!) and a lightly burnt buttered toast. The finish was nutty and smoky lifted slightly with some grassy herby notes. My notes finished with the words “bloody lovely stuff”. Just about sums it up!

My arch-nemesis tells me (whenever I mention this beer) that he has been privileged to have this beer in cask conditioned form. You could REALLY fall out with someone!

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5. Smoked Imperial Treacle StoutQuantum Brewing Company (Stockport, Gtr Manchester) – 9.1% abv – Imperial Stout – £5.15 –  (500ml)The Liquor Shop (Whitefield, N Manchester)

A collaboration beer with the crew behind The IndyManBeerCon that was available cask conditioned at that festival. I had my first taste there and it was simply stunning. Treacly, gooey, bitter, fruity…it was a siren of a beer and it well and truly had me smashed upon its rocks! I was surprised to hear of it in bottled form, thinking (mistakenly, obviously) that it was a festival “one-off”. Glad it’s not!

I thank Raj at The Liquor Shop for stashing a couple for me (BTW – Bear in mind that Raj discounts 10% for 12 and 15% for 24 bottles). A pitch black beer with a beige head and a gentle smoked aroma mixed with something more delicate, yet elusive, a floral character perhaps. In the mouth though….Ooooohhhh! Wasn’t sure if Jay had brewed this or if it was refined, it was THAT viscous! Dark chocolate, burnt toffee and warming port wine were my first notes, then a building smokiness with that floral note coming through in the mouth as well as well as a woody note. Really warming beer with a surprisingly resinous finish cutting through. With 5 different hops and 8 (EIGHT) different malts, this is a BIG beer. It’s also bloody brilliant. A dark monster from the evil genius that is Mr Jay Krause!

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6. WildebeestThe Wild Beer Company (Evercreech, Somerset) – 11% abv – Imperial Stout – £8 (330ml) – The Colston Yard (Bristol) (Try Beermoth in Manchester)

This had been stashed since July, when I found myself in Bristol on a training course. Stashed for cold nights like these.

No light comes from this beer, it’s like a boozy black hole. What tan coloured head that there was quickly dissipated but it had a big espresso aroma with a hint of sweet vanilla. Described as an Imperial Espresso Chocolate Vanilla Stout. In that respect, this is a Ronseal beer as it gives you loads of those flavours. In the first oily mouthful I could get each of those tastes. Dense, oily and sticky with bitter espresso and chocolate and something a little fruitier, maybe a hint of blackberry. This was a lovely warming sleeping draught of a beer with a surprisingly big grassy bitter finish. Warning. NOT one to have as the first beer of the evening!

Well, that’s it for now…maybe some paler beers next!

On that note….’til next time….

Slainte!

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