Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Black Stuff


British dark beer is a bit hit and miss to my mind. I rarely get to visit England, but when I do the lack of stouts and porters on cask in the pubs I visit is quite plain to see. The GBBF is the best opportunity to try British stout and porter and I plan to take full advantage next month at the trade day. When dark beer does turn up I usually find it lacking in character. Many times dark ales have let me down on bottle and cask. I can't say they are bad beers, but I just expect a little more from a stout or porter. Perhaps I am too well served for for decent stout in Ireland; the craft brewers of Ireland brew stouts that deliver big time. Stouts from the UK rarely do. Luckily I found an exception to this sweeping generalisation in the form of Hook Norton's Double Stout. It is full and sharp with roasted grain in the way stouts should be. Old Slug Porter from RCH Brewery satisfies too with distinct wood notes, as if the beer had been matured in oak. Sadly, Rhymney Dark supports my view about stout from across the Irish Sea. The label states that the beer is 'hopped with a true stout uppermost in our brewer's mind', but the beer is decidedly light in colour for a stout and also too thin. It's not a stout, but interesting none the less, particularly the distinct flavour of blackened bread crust that dominates the palate.

It is a curious thing, but it seems to me that UK brewers are afraid to take on a full bodied stout. Perhaps they are intimidated by a particular well marketed Irish stout - I can recall a UK brewer (I can't remember which) stating on their bottle that they consider their stout very good but not as good as Guinness, the insinuation being that it would be foolish to attempt to brew a stout as good as this.

Listen guys, it's not that hard. I've done it at home in a bucket more than once.

10 comments:

Velky Al said...

Double Stout from Hook Norton is one of my favourite beers, let alone just one of my favourite stouts. If you can get your hands on some Bradfield Farmer's Stout that is also something of a treat.

Oblivious said...

St. Peter's Cream Stout is fantastic, can you get bottle Guinness in the UK readily still?
As then you are comparing a Nitro product with a CO2 version, which is not the same

Thom said...

Hook Norton's Double Stout was very nice indeed. But I thought it interesting that it was called a 'Double' stout. It kind of fits in with my thesis that standard stouts from the UK are often lacking.

I'm sure there are a great many decent stouts out there but few come my way.

O Hanlon's Port Stout was thin and gassy and Meantime's London Stout was a bit limp too.

The Beer Nut said...

Bottled Guinness is available in the UK, in a classy screw-top bottle, no less.

Barry (Adeptus) said...

Mmm, the Old Slug on cask was one of my favourites at the Belfast festival last year.

Séan Billings said...

I have to agree with you about Guinness. It is mediocre at best. Ok from a bottle, lousy from the nitro tap, even with the magic two part pour.

I should be careful what I say though. I might run foul of Ireland's new blasphemous libel law. Belief in the superiority of "The Black Stuff", born in St. James' Gate and brought to us by the Great Prophet Arthur is still a large and vocal religious group in this country.

The Beer Nut said...

In 1759 he invented 4.2% ABV nitrostout, and lo, a seal did balance it upon its nose. Fact.

I had a pint of Guinness on Friday poured in one go. It tasted the same.

Bailey said...

I wish more pubs in the UK would serve a stout other than bloody Guinness. Even if they don't fancy looking after casks of it, then they could at least try the keg stouts and porters from Meantime, Fuller's and Hopback, all of which are delish.

RCH stands for Royal Clarence Hotel, the original home of the brewery, near where I grew up in Somerset. My late grandad used to find it amusing to call it The Royal Cancer Hospital.

Barry (Adeptus) said...

By coincidence, I had my first bottle of Fuller's London Porter over the weekend. Apparently the "Yorkshire Bar" in Muenster is selling it now, alongside the usual Theakston's and Black Sheep gear. I quite enjoyed the porter, but then I was well greased before it slipped down...

The Beer Nut said...

I was well greased before it slipped down
That, I believe sir will find, is what she said.

Too right Bailey. Do what we do: just keep bugging them.