I don’t work Fridays, so I didn’t really notice the Bank Holiday. (Bargain Hunt wasn’t on, though, which was annoying.) I didn’t think today was a particularly special day – it’s not a particularly auspicious day for a wedding, and it’s certainly not a day for drinking good beer – so, apart from a bracing bottle of Bengal Lancer after working in the garden this afternoon, I didn’t open anything today.
Last Sunday was another matter, though. About two weeks ago my wife was offered some chocolate in a meeting at work and had to decline – “Actually we’ve given it up for Lent.” There was a bit of a silence and the conversation turned to other things; people were clearly wary of upsetting the scary religious person, or perhaps just wary of having a scary religious person on their hands. Actually we’re not religious at all; until this year I’m not sure I’d ever given anything up for Lent. But my daughter decided she was going to give up chocolate, and I thought we ought to give her moral support by joining in – rather than, say, deliberately eating chocolate in front of her and gloating (which was her brother’s preferred option).
I didn’t totally observe the chocolate fast (free samples don’t count, do they?), but I have to say that it was nice when it was over. And it seemed like a particularly good day to open my 750 ml bottle of Marble Chocolate Dubbel, which had been waiting for a day when I could (a) commit to drinking a 750 ml bottle of an 8.7% beer and (b) have some kind of justification for this extravagance.
What was it like? It wasn’t like the Marble chocolate stout, or Robinson’s Chocolate Tom for that matter. When the Manchester Twissup hit the Marble brewery, James Campbell told us (among other things) that ‘Chocolate Dubbel’ is a complete misnomer – a bit like that cider that Leslie Nielsen used to advertise, it’s not a dubbel and there’s no chocolate in it. I have to say my impressions of the beer bore that out – if the label on the bottle had said Liquorice Porter it would have been just as good a guide to the beer. It poured dark, but not black, with a tight woolly head on the first glass out of the bottle; the head on the last glass, poured several hours later, was looser but still half an inch thick. The immediate flavour attack was fairly malty, but sour more than sweet, and with a distinct smoky hop aroma to top it off: essentially a dark bitter with attitude. The cocoa flavour, with a slight sweetness, appeared in the aftertaste; the hoppy bitterness lingered as well, combining with the sweetness to give that suggestion of liquorice. In terms of mouthfeel it’s quite a big beer, but surprisingly drinkable – much more so than you’d expect it to be at that strength. It’s a cold-weather beer more than a thirst-quencher, but it doesn’t have the slight thickness of texture you often get in dark beers at 5-6%, let alone 8.7%. It doesn’t drink its strength, either; on a blind tasting I’d have estimated it at around 5% (I think the hops smuggle the alcohol in).
On balance I’m glad I got this bottle when I could and that I opened it when I did, but I don’t think I’d get it again – not in that size of bottle, at any rate. Sad geek that I am, I’ve still got a 2008 Decadence bottle (empty); that was 330 ml, both drinkable and affordable. Small strong specials, they’re for me. Now I’ve just got to find a special occasion (or four) for my remaining Marbles. There’s always Sunday…