Acorn Gorlovka imperial stout
Very nice. Black in colour and a big, deep flavour, with the right kind of wry bitterness in the finish. 6% but doesn’t taste it.
Allgates Hung, drawn and portered
You see what they’ve done there? I could taste distinct mild and stout elements, reminding me of the (mythical?) prehistory of porter as a mixture of different beers. The different flavours were well balanced and the end result is very drinkable – a fine porter, despite its name.
Bank Top Dark mild
Fruity, malty, big mouth-filling heaviness, balanced with just enough hops for bitterness. Very nice indeed.
Beartown Polar Eclipse
This is a stout, but I ordered it under the impression it was a dark bitter & didn’t realise my mistake until about halfway down the pint. Quite a light stout, then – not as thin as the Rutland Panther (see below), but more like a dark bitter with added toasted-grain flavour than the full-on mouthful-of-ink-and-an-instant-hangover stouts we’re used to. (On a second encounter this tasted even sweeter, and I was convinced it was a mild until I looked it up.)
A nice dark mild. Not much maltiness there, and not much burnt-grain stout character either; instead, this has that odd Black-and-Tan quality of seeming to taste of nothing at all, but leaving you with the impression of a heavy, almost thick, dark beer.
Very nice indeed. Not the ‘stoutest’ of porters – could pass for a dark bitter or an unusually bitter mild – but a nice full flavour, rounded out nicely by a touch of rum. Sounds peculiar, but works rather well.
Another light porter, somewhere in the area between an old ale and a strong mild. Very nice.
Bollington Night Porter
(See what they did there?) A big dark spicy porter, which is not a bad thing at all. My only reservation is that ‘spicy’ here seems to apply literally – they have actually added cake spices to the brew (cloves and nutmeg, I think, although I could be wrong). The effect is nicely brought off, but it still seems a bit of a novelty-beer approach to me.
What are they doing here? Making a big, fruity, easy-drinking 3.8% dark mild, is what – and it’s on cask. A very nice beer. They’re subverting their own subversiveness, or something. Good.
Chocolate Cherry Mild
A bit heavy on the cherry, but that’s my only criticism. A nice dark mild with a flavour grounded in chocolate, with fruit cutting through it. A well-blended flavour; very drinkable indeed.
A big fruity porter; some bitterness on the finish, but overall I’d say it was closer to an old ale than a stout. Good stuff.
Elland 1872 porter
A beer of great beauty. No fruitiness but lots and lots of malt, balanced by a big dark bitter finish. 6.5% and tastes its strength – a really big beer.
Grainstore Rutland Panther
Stockport Beer Festival 2008. A light stout – 3.8% and with the thin mouthfeel of a session bitter, but the burnt-grain bitterness of stout to go with it. Flann O’Brien’s ‘pint of plain’ was probably something like this (the Guinness we know now is ‘Guinness Extra’). I’m not a regular stout drinker, but I’d have this again.
Green Mills Hair of the Dog
A very nice dark mild: lots of body, fruity malt and a definite bitter finish. Not one for the hop-heads, but it’s their loss.
Hawkshead Damson and Vanilla Stout
Damson and… run that past me again? They took a bit of a risk with this one, partly because it sounds so pretentious but mainly because the first impression is that it tastes sour. It takes a few seconds to tune in to the fact that what you’re tasting is damson fruit rather than off-beer sourness. (Unless I’ve just been had, in which case please don’t tell me.) The vanilla is there too, as a slightly oily aftertaste. Really surprisingly nice.
At only 3.2% you’d expect a thin, even watery taste. Not a bit of it: a rich dark mild, sweetish but with an emphatic bitter finish.
Another fairly light stout – in a blind tasting, it might pass for an unusually bitter old ale. Very drinkable.
Leeds Midnight Bell
A strong dark mild; a lot of the depth and warmth of an old ale, but more fruit & sweetness. Very nice indeed.
Apparently this is a lower-strength version of the (Sri Lankan) brewery’s usual dark beer. That figures: there’s a lot of the treacly richness you associate with strong export stouts, but it goes together with a light, malty body and a surprisingly thin mouthfeel. If you made a black-and-tan with Guinness Foreign it would taste something like this.
Little Valley Midgeley Mild
LV’s bitters haven’t had much character in my experience, but this was rather good. A real dark mild: not much fruit, and a fair amount of bitterness to balance the malt.
A great big flavour with a definite malty fruitiness and a big thud of alcohol (it’s 6% a.b.v.). Midway between a light-ish mild and an old ale – one hell of a between.
It’s a stout – heavy, bitter, espresso-dark with a tight, creamy head – and then it’s not. More specifically, something strange happens around the middle of your tongue, where the malt and the burnt-grain sourness usually kick in: there’s some of that, but there’s also a big sweet dollop of, well, chocolate. It really shouldn’t work, but it really does. It’d be interesting to compare it directly with Orval, which isn’t a stout but works a similar trick of simultaneously tasting like (a) plain chocolate (b) marmalade and (c) beer.
Back in pre-vegan days, the Marble used occasionally to brew a porter called McKenna’s Revenge, and what a porter it was too – a really distinctive flavour consisting mainly of shovelsful of malt, balanced by just enough bitterness to stop it being cloying. This isn’t that, sadly; more of a ‘dark bitter with stout overtones’ kind of porter. File under ‘perfectly pleasant’.
Mild of the Times
Very dark, not very sweet; if you had this and the Boggart porter in a blind tasting you’d be hard put to identify the mild. The slightly sour flowery front end and the bitter finish are present and correct; in the middle there’s a bit more going on than usual, but it’s not really distinctively mild.
Well Cut mild
A good strong mild is a thing of beauty. (If you like mild, and you like stronger and darker bitters, what’s not to like about a good 6% mild?) But strong mild is also an oddity – almost a contradiction in terms – and a rarity with it; this is only the second example I’ve come across, the other being Sarah Hughes’s Ruby Mild. Well Cut is good, but it’s nowhere near that good; lots of malt and tannic bitterness, but not enough sweetness. Would also lose points, if I were giving points, for playing silly beggars with pricing (see also Decadence) – yes, it’s seasonal and yes, it’s unusually strong, but £3.20 a pint? Give over.
It was Christmas Eve a couple of years ago when I went to my local and noticed that they had the Marble Port Stout on. There wasn’t a price for it, so I asked how much it was. They said it was free. That had never happened to me in a pub before, and will probably never happen again. (It was nice, too.) I’ve had the Stouter Stout before and not liked it much. A draught stout is a difficult thing to get right, and in that earlier pint I couldn’t taste much apart from great slabs of inky burnt-grain sourness. (A real aficionado probably doesn’t mix beers, but I have to admit I’m partial to a black and tan, precisely because the bitter hides the sourness of the Guinness. Or rather, the sourness of the bitter and the sourness of the Guinness cancel each other out, somehow – with the right bitter, a black and tan tastes of almost nothing at all.) This one, anyway, was a lot better; the sourness was still there, but well down in the mix. A big, dark, bitter stout – inky in a good (metaphorical) way. As distinct from the earlier one, you understand, which actually tasted of ink.
Marston’s Merry Monk
There’s a blast from the past, eh? A strong dark mild; a big flavour, with that cough-mixture heaviness where fruit and hops meet.
Maui Coconut Porter
A dark and bitter porter, with a strong hop finish. Coconut isn’t a very strong flavour at the best of times, and here it was pretty much overpowered – you’d miss it if you didn’t know it was there.
Mordue Coffee Porter
Nice deep tawny colour – not stout-black – and a rich flavour, with a bit of malt and (as advertised) a bit of coffee. Not bad at all. I don’t often do acknowledgments on this blog, but in this case my thanks go to the local Wetherspoon’s for putting this on and serving it in third-of-a-pint glasses, the woman on the next table for cadging a taste, telling me it tasted like shit and dropping the glass, and (especially) her partner for buying me a half to make up for it. Very nice it was too.
Okell’s Smoked Porter
What was nice about this was the malt. What I think of as the distinctive taste of porter is, I think, essentially the taste of malt – it’s certainly reminiscent of the malt extract I was dosed with as a small child (and on one occasion helped myself to, straight from the bottle). There was lots of malt here, but I wasn’t so keen on the smoky bitterness.
Ossett Treacle Stout
Dark and bitter, but fruity with it; there’s no burnt grain sourness in here, and the overall effect is more like a strong mild than a stout. I liked this a lot.
Fairly dark in colour, but light in flavour; almost a sweetish bitter.
Peerless Dark Arts
Is it an old ale? Is it a porter? Very nice, anyway, combining a big fruity body with an assertive charcoaly bitterness.
A dark, bitter-tasting mild, bordering on porter territory, but with a rich and fruity finish.
Dark brown but light in flavour, like a bitter with a bit more malt and sweetness than usual.
Prospect Nutty Slack
A dark mild that thinks it’s a light stout. Light and thin, without much malt; not a lot going on, really.
Rossendale Pitch Porter
A distinct burnt-grain finish, balanced by a really mouth-filling malty flavour: rings the ‘stout’ bell and runs away. A very nice porter indeed.
Rudgate Ruby Mild
Officially the best beer in the world, or something. Personally I’d say it’s quite a nice pint, midway between an old ale and a dark mild; not sure I’d seek it out, though.
St Peter’s Old Style Porter
Possibly an explicit reference to the mythical origins of porter as a mixture of separate ales. This certainly tastes mixed: it’s a light bitter and a full-bodied stout, all in one. Interesting, but not totally successful.
Three B’s Oatmeal Stout
A big, ‘dark’, mouthfilling taste; no sourness, but dry and hoppy rather than fruity, particularly on the finish.
A Russian Imperial stout, apparently. Very dark – and, at 6%, quite strong – but with a richness and ‘old ale’ quality which put me in mind of porter more than stout; just a slight edge of that sour burnt-grain flavour that overpowers a lot of stouts. Good stuff.
Chocolate and Vanilla Stout
A great big heavy stout, with a rich but mild flavour and distinct vanilla overtones (I’m less convinced about the chocolate). One of those stouts that make you think you’re getting a meal in a glass – definitely not one to knock back.
Traditional Scottish Ales Double Espresso
I confess, I’ve never understood why people are so keen on making beer that tastes of things that aren’t beer. But if you’re going to do it, you might as well do it properly, and this is doing it properly. A definite coffee aroma is the first thing that hits you, but it’s surprisingly delicate; it doesn’t overpower the beer, but floats on top of the stout character, very like the chocolate overtones of the Chocolate Marble.
Waen Blackberry Stout
Yes, Waen; it’s Welsh. 3.8% and a fairly light body with it, but still definitely a stout: a big, ‘dark’ flavour, rounded out rather than overpowered by the ‘blackberry’ overtones. A brewery to watch.