Like several other beer bloggers, when I heard that Cumberland Legendary Ales were offering review bottles of their ‘doppelbock’ Croglin Vampire I put my name down sharpish. The goods arrived a week or so ago, and after allowing a decent interval for the beer to recover from its journey I, well, drank it.
It was nice. (Will this do?)
OK, a bit more detail. It’s a brown beer; no head to speak of but there was a frosting of bubbles on the inside of the glass. As for the flavour, it’s… a big flavour. I was expecting something rich and malty, and I wasn’t disappointed. I can see why Barm mentioned caramel, but that wasn’t what came to my mind; if anything I was surprised how sweet it wasn’t, if you follow. If some beers are hop-bombs, Croglin Vampire is a malt-bomb: rich and fruity without being sweet, with malty aroma at the front of the mouth, a full malty body and a bitter malty finish. It’s a dense and complex flavour, which plays a lot of different variations on that theme of malt – from dark-chocolate bitterness all the way through to a light, banana-like top-note. Not sweet, though, and not at all cloying. At 8%, it doesn’t really drink its strength, except in a certain heaviness in the mouth; there’s certainly no alcohol flavour, and none of the rather treacly malt-extract quality of some strong dark beers. Despite the heaviness, it leaves your palate clear – given a clear enough diary I could easily imagine drinking two or even three of these.
My second free beer (I could get to like this beer-blogging lark) was one of the bottles of Dark Energy distributed at the Twissup by the estimable Dave Bailey. I’ve read since that DE is classed as a stout, or possibly that it was originally intended as a stout; all I knew about it when I drank it was that it was 4.9% and it was dark (well, black) in colour. I never would have labelled it as a stout: it certainly has an edge of uncompromising burnt-grain bitterness, but to me that wasn’t the core of the flavour. If pushed I’d have called it an old ale or possibly a mild, but with an odd lightness to the flavour – there’s plenty of malt there but no fruitiness, let alone sweetness – and then that big stout finish. It’s an unusual combination, but it works remarkably well. The only thing I can really liken it to is the cask version of BrewDog’s black lager Zeitgeist (the bottled Zeitgeist is thoroughly inferior).
Dark Energy confirmed the impression I’d formed after a half of Infra Red: Hardknott are doing some really interesting things, without much respect for style labels. (Apparently Infra Red is classed as an IPA, but I wouldn’t let that sway you one way or the other – I mean, it’s about as much an IPA as Dark Energy is a stout. They’re both much more distinctive than that.) The two beers don’t taste at all alike, but they both give the impression of someone intent on putting the pedal to the metal – or rather (the metaphor breaks down here) putting two different pedals to the metal and seeing what happens. Why not have a big malty bitter that’s also a big hoppy bitter? Why not have a strong light mild stout?
Very nice beers; I would happily pay money for either of these if I saw it on sale, and would encourage anyone who isn’t an incurable hophead to do likewise.
PS The Croglin Vampire picture was borrowed from Andy at Beer Reviews – many thanks.