Bateman’s Dark Lord
Oh my. Dark, fruity, malty and strong (5.2%). A beautiful beer. (The 6% Victory Ale is also worth looking out for.)
Black Sheep Riggwelter
A big dark warm fruity ale, with one of those big complex flavours you get in the dark Trappist/’abbey’ beers – cut short in this case by a big bitter finish. I don’t like to rave about beers that are available from your friendly local supermarket, but this is the good stuff.
Howard Town Dark Peak
A terrific beer: a rum porter, and an absolute classic of the style. Flavour: big, deep and rich, with the rum always present without ever dominating. Colour: black. Texture: heavy. Alcohol: 6.4%. Electric soup, in a good way.
Decadence stout (2008)
The Marble brewery’s only recently got into bottled beers; most of them are 500ml bottles selling for £2.80, which is a bit steep but worth it for something like the bottle-only 6% Ginger Marble, which is rather fine. Decadence was a late addition to the range: an 8.2% stout sold in a 330ml bottle (with a painted label), for £4.50 a throw. Call me a skinflint, but to my mind £4.50 is a ridiculous amount for a bottle of beer. So the chances are I won’t be getting this again – but I’m very glad I tried it, & I’d recommend anyone who likes beer to try it once. What’s it like? Think of Dragon Stout, then multiply by Guinness Foreign. Think of the deepest, fullest-flavoured Trappist ale you’ve ever had, and add that. It’s the kind of flavour that rushes up to meet you and then keeps on going, enveloping you and then unfolding some more. Ink metaphors are hard to avoid with stout, and what this one reminded me of was the way black ink on wet tissue paper spreads out and unfurls into shades of blue. Shades of malt, in this case; shades of ale. It’s like swimming in beer, or possibly drowning. Really very nice indeed. Still ridiculously over-priced, though.
There’s a particular flavour, or combination of flavours, which immediately signals “Manchester pale” to me. You get it at the front of your mouth: a flowery, aromatic quality, combined with a slight sourness. It’s probably a particular kind of hops, or a particular kind of hopping, or something. The Tawny has the back-end qualities you’d expect from a dark bitter (malty body, bitter finish), but the front is all Manchester. Nice enough, but not quite my thing.
Young’s Old Winter Ale
Tawny, malty, fruity and other good chunky adjectives. A really nice beer.