I am a stout man, take that whatever way you will – those of you who have met me will know the truth in those words. But here I am talking about beer styles, and I am a stout man. I have mentioned elsewhere that my first legal beer on Guinness, and I have retained a love of the black stuff since then. This no doubt explains why I was happy to note on Saturday that my local Billa now stocks Primátor Stout and the reason stouts from Hook Norton, Bradfield, BrewDog and O’Hanlon’s formed the backbone of my Christmas beer list.
So far, touch wood, I am yet to have a bum beer from Hook Norton. Their Double Stout was a beer I had looked for in various off-licenses and shops in the Oxford area, all in vain – so naturally it was ordered from BeerRitz. Not a great picture to be sure, but even opening the bottle was to get a burst of roasted coffee aroma, once poured the roasted nature of the nose was dominant, suggesting a full flavour to come. The beer itself was pitch black with a loose off-white head. Coffee was also the major flavour in the beer, although smoothed out by a velvety chocolate. Not overly bitter, full-bodied and beautifully smooth, this was lovely stuff.
The guys up at the Bradfield Brewery have been a Beer Hero of the Week, so when I saw them available on the BeerRitz website I knew I wanted to try their stout. Again the picture is not great – sometimes I get good pics on the mobile, but there we go. The nose was certainly lighter than the Hook Norton, though still abounding in coffee and cocoa – both of which continued on into the taste, although there was a subtle caramel flavour in the background I really liked. This is very much a classic stout, with a silky smooth mouthfeel that makes it a very pleasurable pint.
I have no qualms in admitting that I am a fan of BrewDog, having thoroughly enjoyed their Paradox Smokehead, Punk IPA and Chaos Theory. Rip Tide is their 8%ABV Imperial Stout, which poured as black as a stout should be with a good stout head. This being a stout the nose was coffee and chocolate, this being a BrewDog stout they were there in abundance. As I said when writing about Paradox, this was big and bold, dominated by roasted coffee. Despite being a big hitter on the alcohol front, this was surprisingly easy to drink.
The O’Hanlon’s Port Stout caught my eye because it brings together two of my favourite alcoholic drinks – I love a glass of port and a wedge on Stilton. The Port Stout pours a very very dark red, bordering on black but not quite getting there, the head was frothy and light brown. Where I was expecting coffee and chocolate on the nose, there was wine, although coffee notes did eventually sneak through. The syrupiness of wine was the prime feature of drinking this stout, but I was surprised to find that the sweetness wasn’t cloying at at, in fact it was almost like drinking a Guinness with a dash of port chucked in – the intention I am sure, and certainly a hit in my books – if this is available in the States, I can see a Christmas tradition starting.
Talking of our impending move to the States, from reading Beer, oh Beer, it would certainly seem that the US craft brew scene love their stouts – a land flowing with coffee and chocolate must truly be the promised land of plenty.