#343 Young’s Double Chocolate Stout

Young's Double Chocolate Stout Name: Double Chocolate Stout
Brewery: Wells & Youngs (Bedford, England)
ABV: 5.2%
Source: Countdown Victoria St

The first time I ever went to the Malthouse in Wellington, this is the beer that I drank.

I remember I was overwhelmed/over-excited by the menu and couldn’t decide what to get. One of the staff, sensing that I needed some guidance, asked if I liked chocolate – to which I probably said something clever like: “aduuuuuuuh“.

He suggested I get this, and was right on the money. The concept of putting chocolate in beer was still a complete mind-bender to me then (If  you’d told me about cock ale I would have fainted), and the sheer novelty combined with the sheer chocolateness of it won me over.

This glass was the first I’ve had since then (I’d soon after discovered Renaissance Craftsman which became my go-to chocolate beer), and I’m pleased to report I still found it quite lovely.

On the nose it smelled of toasted grain, hot chocolate, and a little hint of coffee. In the mouth there was a moment of sweet milk chocolate, which gave way to building roasty flavours and a gentle bitter finish. It was smooth, dry, and not nearly as sweet as you might expect for a chocolate beer.

Without wanting to getting too soppy, drinking this beer and thinking about my first trip to the Malthouse made me feel a little teensy pang of nostalgia. My relationship with beer was simpler back then – I was impressed by everything (OK, so that hasn’t changed a lot) and I had this little red notebook that I would drunkenly write really bad notes about the beer in.

On second thoughts, perhaps nothing’s changed at all.


Published in: on July 23, 2012 at 9:02 pm  Comments (2)  

#326 St James Gate – Guinness Draught

Name: Guinness Draught
Brewery: St James Gate (Dublin, Ireland)
Style: Dry Stout
ABV:  4.1%
Source: Molly Malone’s Waiheke

St James what now? I don’t know about you, but I was surprised to find that one of the most famous beers in the world is made by a brewery I’ve never heard of.  I always just thought Guinness came from the Guinness fairy or leprechaun… The things this blog has taught me!

Before I became the craft beer aficionado that I am today (says she who did not know who brewed Guinness), I used to think this beer was about as fancy as it got. I loved and still do love the creamy, silky head that you get with a Guinness on tap, and compared to a lot of the beers I was first introduced to, it actually had some character. I remember friends in London talking Guinness as if it was some kind of mystical protein shake: “It’s a meal in a glass,” they would say, or, “did you know you can survive off only Guinness for a month?”

This particular glass – which I drank on a raging Saturday night with Mum and her husband John at Molly’s – did not come from the tap. It came from a bottle, which I always thought was the worst kind of Guinness, but now I’m actually not so sure.

On the nose it smelled mostly of malt. Not sweet syrupy malt, but dry, uncooked grain, and perhaps a little soy. In the mouth it was medium-sweet with flavours of lightly roasted malt and a little espresso, and a lightly bitter roasty finish. It didn’t seem to be was watery or thin as Guinness on tap – but it’s still far from being a stout you could eat with a fork.

After drinking so many amazing stouts in the past year Guinness does seem pretty ho-hum, but I’ll always have a soft spot for it. It’s one of the beers Dad always had in the fridge when I was a kid, and it’s one of the beers I stole from Dad’s fridge when I was a teenager. Who needs depth and mouthfeel when you have memories like that?

Published in: on July 16, 2012 at 3:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

#319 Richard Jack – Cherry Lambic Stout

Name: Cherry Lambic Stout
Brewery: Richard Jack (homebrew)
Style: Cherry Lambic Stout
Source: Richard Jack
ABV: 7%

When Richard Jack told me he had brewed a Cherry Lambic Stout that had been aged over bourbon oak, I immediately decided that this was to be my favorite beer style of all time. I hadn’t actually had one before, but I pictured Russian River Consecration and Old Rasputin making a baby and was immediately sold (and frankly, a little turned on).

In hindsight this was probably setting the bar a bit high. While I imagine my Consecration/Rasputin lovechild is probably out there somewhere, to expect it to come from a homebrewer (even a very very good one) was asking a bit much.

On the nose I didn’t get obvious cherry, but there was what some beer writers might term “a suggestion”. What I did definitely smell was the bourbon barrel the beer was aged in, though luckily not too much because the smell of bourbon makes me sick now (blame my youth/Kentucky Gold). It was a woody, slightly smoky smell that  complimented the toasted chocolate and espresso aromas nicely.

In the mouth there was a slight plum-skin like tartness, flavours of milk chocolate and slightly bitter roasty malt, and a dry slightly hoppy finish. It wasn’t as sour or as lambic-y as I was expecting, but it was a tasty and complex stout, and a really good homebrew.

Aha! I just sent Richard to ask him if it was really really a lambic, and he tells me that it’s more of a “more of a bastard, low born, kiwi-not-knowing-what-he’s-doing lambic.”  Basically it started life as a stout, then he chucked some cherries in that had been wild fermented with the bugs around his house, and then he “recklessly” decided to add charred oak sticks from his bourbon aging carboy.

This all came as a bit of a surprise because I thought of Richard as a very precise homebrewer, rather than a “reckless chucker-inner” – but it sounds like he may be beer’s answer to Jamie Oliver yet.

Published in: on July 10, 2012 at 11:27 am  Comments (2)  

#307 Invercargill Brewery – Pitch Black

Name: Pitch Black Real Stout
Brewery: Invercargill Brewery (Invercargill, NZ)
Style: Stout
Source: New World Vic Park
ABV: 4.5%

When people ask me if I’m running out of beer to blog about, I usually tell them breezily: “Hell no, I could go on for years” (while secretly reeling in horror at the thought of going on for years). But, in truth, things are starting to get slightly trickier these days.

I mean sure, there’s gallons of homebrew and hundreds of fancy expensive beers that I could order online, but there aren’t that many widely-available New Zealand craft beers that I haven’t blogged yet. And those beers are always the most fun, because readers can go buy them and then write to tell me my opinion is wrong.

That’s why I was like, “cha-ching!” when I was at New World the other day and saw this bottle of Pitch Black on the shelf. I had to do a quick “Beer for a year + Pitch black” Google on my phone to make sure, but my hopes were realised: this was a well-known, well-liked, NZ craft beer that I hadn’t blogged yet. What a treat!

And while I know literally nothing about it, I’d have to say Invercargill Brewery is one of my favourites. Like the Yeastie Boys range which they also brew, their beers exhibit both the carefree experimentation of youth and and the practiced craftsmanship of old men – a sentence which tells us, as much as anything, that I have been doing far too much copy writing recently.

Probably everyone who reads this blog will have already tried the Pitch Black Real Stout, and will know about it’s roasty malt and freshly ground coffee aromas, it’s mocha and toffee flavours, the light but well-rounded mouthfeel and the bitter finish that won’t quit.

But if not, please go out and buy it, and then feel free to write to tell me I’m wrong.

Published in: on June 25, 2012 at 4:56 pm  Comments (4)  

#299 The Kernel – Imperial Brown Stout

The Kernel Imperial Brown StoutName: Imperial Brown Stout London 1856
Brewery: The Kernel (London, 1856)
Style: Imperial Brown Stout
ABV: 9.8%
Source: Georgia Bollinger

I’d like to say I intentionally drank this fabulous beer to mark my 300th, but in actual fact I only realised this was número trescientos (yes, saying things in italicized Spanish is a thing I do now) after I’d poured it. Still, what a cracking  way to celebrate!

My friend Georgia who lives in London sent this and another Kernel beer back to NZ with her mum for me. It was such a nice surprise – I didn’t even know she read the blog and I still don’t know how she knew to get me Kernel beers. That brewery is right at the very top of my UK Most Wanted list.

The Imperial Brown Stout was black and opaque, and it glugged thickly into my glass to create the tiniest tan head. The aroma was deep and rich, with notes of roasted coffee, vanilla, and milk chocolate. In the mouth it tasted of roasty malts – more coffee and chocolate, with savory licorice and spice at its edges.  It didn’t bombard me with a million different flavors like some imperial stouts do – and I think that worked in its favor. What really threw this out of the ballpark though, was the mouthfeel. It was thick and smoother than Barry White, like chocolate milk but with a pleasing alcohol heat. I would almost go as far as to call this (dare I say it?) a perfect stout. 

Thanks so much to the lovely Georgia Bollinger for sending me this. A friend in need is a friend indeed – but a friend who sends you kick-ass beers from the other side of the world is better.

Published in: on June 18, 2012 at 2:28 pm  Comments (3)  

#290 ePICO – Broke Black Mountain

Name: Broke Black Mountain
Brewery: ePICO (Auckland, NZ)
Style: Stout?
ABV: 6.7%
Source: Epic beer

I’ll keep this brief, because I know that only a sadist would want to read about tasty beers they can’t try.

I was lucky enough to get my hands on a few bottles of ePICO beer, only really because I was in the right place at the right time. (The place being Epic’s headquarters, the time being several hours after Luke’s first bottle of IPA).

They didn’t come with any descriptions, just a little label over the lid with the hops (Kohatu in this case) and the ABV, so I’m actually not sure what the style was – but I guess some kind of stout. It was ten days ago that I drank it so my memory’s not so hot, but I remember a really distinct taste of tinned or poached plums, as well as cherries, warm spices, wet wood, and a hint of smoke or ash.

This was one of those wonderfully complex beers that I could write about for ages (especially if my memory was fresher), but only drink for so long. In this case I had about half of it which, to be fair, was still 250mls, before handing the rest over to Finn. It’s not that there was anything wrong with the beer – it was great – I just got sort of full, y’know?

Drinking this reminded me that I wish Epic would make some more dark beers. How good was the Thornbridge Stout? And the Portermarillo? Everybody chant with me now! EP-IC POR-TER EP-IC POR-TER….

Published in: on June 9, 2012 at 5:30 pm  Comments (4)  

#287 Richard Jack – Figaro

Name: Figaro
Brewery: Richard Jack (homebrew)
Style: Stout
ABV: 7%
Source: Richard Jack

This last week has been awash with homebrew (well, I had three bottles) and I still can’t get over how good it all is. I mean obviously people aren’t sending me bottles of their diacetyl-ridden kit brew to write nasty things about, but honestly, it’s a shame it’s so tough to make a proper living out of brewing because it seems there is some serious talent out there.

(Then again – I still don’t actually know how to pick diacetyl so perhaps I’m the wrong person to judge.)

This bottle of fig, coffee and oatmeal Stout came from Richard Jack, an Auckland beer geek who I met at Galbraith’s a few weeks ago.  He’s originally a spirits guy, but more recently turned his hand to beer and has a really fancy homebrew setup in his garage. He also built his own cider press, so I guess you could call him a Jack of all alcohol. Pun intended!

The beer was so so good – and I don’t use the double ‘so’ lightly. Flavour-wise it had the usual coffee stout stuff going on – bitter coffee beans (derr), a hint of chocolate, raisins, roasty malt, dark fruit (figs?) – it was the mouthfeel that really did it for me though. It was so full and velvety smooth, like it actually could cure tonsillitis or at least a sore throat. At 7% it would probably make you feel happier, at least.

I’m trying to limit the number of homebrews I post as I get down to the final 50 (there are just too many commercial brews I want to get through yet), but I am going to have to write about another of Richard’s – a sour cherry stout. Doesn’t that just sound like the best beer ever?  I think so!

Published in: on June 5, 2012 at 8:04 pm  Comments (4)  

#280 Belhaven – Scottish Stout

Belhaven StoutName: Scottish Stout
Brewery: Belhaven ( Dunbar, Scotland)
Style: Stout
ABV: 7%
Source: Waiheke Wines

Before I get on to talking about this beer, I just want to take a self-indulgent moment to say I can’t believe there are only 85 beers left until this thing is over! (And actually more like 80 because I’m still a bit behind on posts).

I know that sounds like heaps (what kind of a person utters the words “only 85 beers” anyway?) but it’s actually only 11 and a bit weeks – which incidentally is just one week longer than Kim Kardashian’s marriage lasted.*

But it’s still really too soon to be thinking about the end (except for choosing a final beer), so I won’t launch into any reflective ramblings just yet. I just wanted to let you know that it’s coming, and if there are any beers that you think must be included in the final 80, please do feel free to suggest them.

Anyway, this stout! It was bloody delicious and it went exceptionally well with Mum’s slow-cooked beef stew.

It poured really dark brown and retained a thin but creamy tan head. It smelled of lightly toasted wood, brown sugar and chocolate, then the mouth it was sweet and milk-chocolatey before the hops kicked in for a dry and slightly bitter finish. It had a smooth mouthfeel with very little carbonation, and was still light enough to be refreshing. I loved it! I really did.

And speaking of stout, did you know Mariah Carey was once criticized for drinking Guinness while breastfeeding?**

*I thought my blog might see a last-minute surge in popularity if I started to include more pop trivia.
** See above .

Published in: on May 22, 2012 at 9:33 pm  Comments (15)  

#138 Epic Epicurean – Fig & Coffee Oatmeal Stout

Epic Coffee Fig Stout Name: Fig & Coffee Oatmeal Stout 
Epic Brewing Co. (Auckland, New Zealand) 
Style: Stout
ABV: 8%
Epic  Brewing Co.

Ever since I started this blog I’ve been wondering what beer I might drink on Christmas.

I thought I’d either have something ridiculously lavish and expensive, like Pliny the Elder, or go the other way entirely and just drink a Steinlager (which is red and green, after all).

And then a couple of weeks before Christmas, just as I realised I was broke and heading begrudgingly toward Steinlager, this beautifully bottle of Fig and Coffee Stout arrived in the mail.

We had it for breakfast with glazed ham and freshly baked bread rolls. (And, admittedly – Heinz tomato ketchup. It’s a tradition.)

This is the first time in about 15 odd years that I haven’t had bubbly with breakfast, and the first time I’d ever had a stout in the AM, but dammit, if it didn’t just work. 

It worked wonderfully well as a breakfast beer (better than any official ‘breakfast beer’ that I’ve tried), because it tastes predominantly like fresh espresso. I guess it’s probably caffeinated too, which might me why I felt surprisingly perky after drinking it. Then again that might have been the 8% ABV.

It worked as a Christmas beer because it was special – intensely aromatic (espresso and chocolate-covered hard caramel), with a smooth, full mouthfeel and satisfying bitter finish. I can’t say I could properly distinguish the fig and coconut flavours, but I’m sure they added something.

Oh! I just remembered. Someone else has already done a way, way better job than I ever could of writing about this beer. If you want to know the ins and outs of this brew (literally, there is a strangely satisfying video of the figs being pulled out of the brew kettle), then read Epic co-brewer Kelly Ryan’s post on his blog beeRevolution.

And then come back to my blog! Because I’m heading to Mexico in three hours and shit’s about to get LOCO up in hurr!*

*note that by loco I mean posts will generally be shorter, more intermittent, and badly written due to tequila and chilli intake. Not more fun. (But then again they might be.)


Published in: on December 26, 2011 at 10:28 am  Leave a Comment  

#87 Coopers – Stout

Name: Extra Best Stout
Brewery: Cooper’s (Regency Park, SA, Australia)
Style: Stout
ABV: 6.5%
Source: Beer, Wines & Spirits (K Rd, Auckland)

I am really, really going to make this a quick post for once.

I had this yesterday, which was in fact International Stout Day. I’m not sure where this came from or why stout gets its own day and other beer styles don’t, and I’m not even going to Google it because I really have NO TIME!

I love the Coopers Stout. In fact, even though I buy the Sparkling Ale and Pale Ale more – this is probably my favourite. It’s punchy and decadent and bittersweet, with dark choclate and roasty coffee notes as well as a hint of marmite and dark fruits. Unlike some stouts which are a bit  rich and gloopy, it’s also refreshing enough to drink when you’re really thirsty (which I was). And, it’s only $5.99 for 750mls. Bloody ripper!

There. I just wrote a post in under 3 minutes flat. Now, like a marathon runner I go… off to drink today’s beer!

Published in: on November 4, 2011 at 12:28 pm  Comments (2)