Dish of the Day: Ales of the Corner Shop Part Two – Dark Ales
For me, a great dark ale is second to none. Intensely rich and at times smoky and complex, they are certainly part of any beer drinker’s repertoire and are often harder to come by then their pale cousins. However, during my exploration of the shelves of my corner shop, the range of stouts, bitters, brunes, and dunkels was surprisingly good – as indeed were some of the beers.
There was a decent selection of bitters and I skipped over some of the most well known, instead trying the ones that caught my interest. Adnams Southwold Bitter (4.1% ABV) was a ruby-copper classic British Bitter. It had aromas of caramel and fresh hops, and the beer was big and bold with a real bitter finish. The late and dry addition of Fuggles hops really leaves a powerful dryness to the beer and the flavours linger on the palate.
Verdict: surprisingly satisfying and I would recommend it.
Jennings Sneck Lifter (5.1%) is another in the classic bitter category, not quite a stout, this dark ruby beer is thick and intense. It has aromas of rich dark toffee and treacle, the taste is strong, bursting with intense dark roasted and bitter flavours – a beer I imagine would pair well with dark chocolate and tastes like a beer with a higher ABV.
Verdict: definitely worth the money and not for the faint hearted, this powerful beer packs a punch. Finally among the bitters, Hook Norton Twelve Days (5.5%) was a dark brown, almost black, bitter. It had a pleasant heavy malt aroma with complimentary big malt flavours, compared to Sneck Lifter though, it was not very bitter and instead finished with an almost nutty flavour.
Verdict: a decent beer.
Brits may have invented stout and porter, but the Belgians and the Germans certainly have their own breed of satisfying dark beer. Available at the shop was, Leffe Brune (6.5%), Erdinger Dunkel Weissbier (5.3%) and Red Stripe Dragon Stout (7.5%). Leffe Brune was a classic Belgian brown ale that is almost black in appearance. It has a slightly sweet aroma, with a note of sourness. The flavour is bold and malty with slight acidity that comes with Belgian yeast varieties and finishes with notes of toasted malts.
Verdict: definite yes, one to enjoy many, many times.
The Erdinger Dunkel, a bottle-conditioned dark wheat beer, was also excellent. The condition was great, with a big foamy head and plenty of fizz in the beer. Dark brown in appearance the beer’s taste is initially sweet, quickly switching to a slight bitterness and plenty of big toasted malt flavours.
Verdict: yes, this beer is beautifully balanced and worth every penny.
I was curious to try the Red Stripe Dragon Stout. A strong beer of 7.5% ABV, I was expecting it to be big, rich and powerful like a great Imperial Stout. Thick in body, it poured with an off-white head and had a sweet aroma of raisins and dark dried fruit. It was ‘heavy’ tasting, the alcohol really coming in an overpowering way with a heavy dark malt flavour – it was almost too much and lacked the necessary toasted coffee smokiness to give the balance of a great strong stout.
Verdict: maybe as a one-off?
The only other stout on offer (that wasn’t Guinness), was the Young’s Double Chocolate Stout (5.2%). This was a rich chocolate stout with a sweet flavour and masses of chocolate throughout the beer. So chocolately in fact, you’d be forgiven for forgetting it was a beer. Very tasty, but too sweet to drink more than one – worth trying though!
So there you have it; a range of delicious beers, both light and dark, on offer two minutes away from my front door. Drinking good beer doesn’t have to be confined to the specialist ale houses and, having finally made the effort to try some of these beers, I will definitely be purchasing them more often. I hope you will too.
Follow Rory at @RoryElsome
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