Not the Supermarket Beer Project

Just noticed this post in my Drafts folder; I seem to have set it aside eleven months ago and forgotten to finish it. For what it’s worth, here it is. – Phil, 3/1/15

IPAs and old ales (and Burtons). What else comes in bottles in multiple forms, different enough to be contrasted but similar enough to be compared, and many of them strong?

Stout, that’s what. Since I’ve got a few of those under the stairs, I’m going to use this post to do some quick comparison tasting. Nothing below 5%, though, and nothing calling itself a porter – this is very much ‘double stout’ territory (a.k.a. ‘extra stout’, ‘imperial stout’… I mean, really, whatevs).

Shepherd Neame Double Stout 5.2% 7/10 One of Sheps’ ‘revival’ beers, currently available – pitched daringly high at £2.25 for 500 ml – in a couple of supermarkets. A bit thinner in body than I was expecting, but a solid whack of dark bitter roasty goodness. Surprisingly aromatic; if the base flavour is a bit like licking wood varnish (in a good way), to get the full effect you’d have to be licking a table where somebody had just been sitting and smoking something exotic. Sorry about that image. Nice beer, anyway.

Sadler’s Mud City Stout 6.6% 6/10 Currently on sale for buttons at licensed branches of Home Bargains, along with the same brewery’s golden bitter Worcester Sorcerer. Who knows why? It’s a strong stout brewed with cocoa and vanilla, although it didn’t taste of either; not much sourness or ‘burnt grain’ quality either. A big, full-bodied stout, but it was actually rather unmemorable – at least, until I got to the bottom of the glass, about 45 minutes after pouring. At that point, warmed up to near room temperature, the beer developed a bit of sweetness and a curious liquorice flavour, along with a rather unpleasant aroma of alcohol. Just rather an odd beer, really, and didn’t really earn its strength.

Guinness Foreign Extra Stout 7.5% 8/10 Perhaps I’ve been spoilt by the festival last week – both T’Owd Tup and King of Clubs were really excellent strong stouts – but this initially doesn’t strike me as all that special. What it is, though, is well-balanced. It develops as you get down the glass; you distinguish the light malty front-of-mouth attack from the heavy, lingering burnt-grain finish, and you appreciate how well they go together. There’s no actual flavour of alcohol, but the finish definitely tastes strong – you get the feeling you’re drinking something serious. Not a world-beater but a very solid performer (the highest score so far) – definitely the one to beat.

De Molen Hel & Verdoemenis 10% /10 Loses half a point for a layer of odd black jelly-ish stuff at the bottom (presumably yeast, although I’ve never seen it look like that before).  I’m not an extremophile, but I have to concede that there are some things that only a really strong beer can do – a Rochefort 10, a Spingo Special, a Vuur & Vlam. And this is one of those beers. From the smokey attack to the huge, enveloping finish, this is probably the best stout I’ve ever tasted. Not a supermarket beer, of course; I would probably never have tasted it but for the charity auction of the cellar left behind by Simon “Reluctant Scooper” Johnson. Cheers, Scoop!

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