Tag Archives: stout

dark and mysterious stouts

Confession: even though I really like Tuesdays, for some reason it’s a miserable effort to get to Ale Stars. By the time I arrive, fake smile firmly plastered on for the benefit of acquaintances, I’m stressed, tired and on occasion actually pretty depressed. Maybe it’s the mad dash to get to the Local Taphouse during peak hour traffic?

In any case, it’s not so bad, once you find yourself at the familiarly lit board with the ever-changing beer list. The contemplation begins: which should I start with? Which ones do I need to avoid because they’re part of the night’s tasting? Which ones have I never ever tried before?


Genuinely friendly faces at the bar, pleasantries are exchanged. The day’s disappointment and stresses are gradually erased. I know Shandy feels like people come for the ‘rock stars’ of the craft beer scene, that being when brewers come to visit, but I love the smaller sessions too – more intimate, less rowdy (perhaps…) and easier to chat to other members.

It is possible too that there were those who were scared into attending because this session was devoted to stouts, apparently ‘dark and mysterious’ ones at that. Indeed, some Shandy had no notes for and so the moniker is somewhat appropriate, like the first beer, the Indian Ocean Brewing Company’s vanilla milk stout. It was beautiful – smooth, slightly sweet due to the lactose but still subtle. Doesn’t have the pronounced roasty characteristics some stouts are known for. I may have maligned this as a ‘girlie’ stout but it isn’t really. It’s just gentle is all.


Second beer on the list – HaandBryggeriet’s Dark Force, an imperial wheat stout. Wheat stout, you say? Yep, I don’t believe it myself. It was bready but smelt of dark chocolate, roasted malt and a hint of whisky, the latter being due to being in whisky-soaked barrels. I’m confused however – my notes say it was bottle conditioned? A very alcoholic drop.


We jump back to Australia to a stout du jour and one previously imbibed at the Local Taphouse – Murray’s Heart of Darkness, a Russian imperial stout. Mistah Kurtz, he dead! Holy cow – what a changed beast this is – it’s much sweeter and smoother than it was but a month ago. I think I preferred its first incarnation which was much more aggressive. It seems a little more bitter too. If I had to personify this beer, I’d say it’s King Kong after attending finishing school (I’ve been watching Little Dorrit of late and thinking of how no amount of tutelage could…’refine’ Fanny Dorrit, the sister of the main female protagonist). It was good to get confirmation from fellow beer nerds about HoD’s change too, so as to confirm it wasn’t just my dodgy palate.


The last one in the lineup was one I’d had the pleasure of imbibing a while back and was made available for the SpecTAPular – Dieu du Ciel’s! Péché Mortel. Cor blimey. Heaviest mouthfeel of any of the stouts in this session, with hardly any carbonation and the infusion of coffee. Dark as sin.

A couple of pointers on stouts: you have to let them warm up so that their flavours become more evident. Don’t drink them cold! Also, as our dear Ale Czar instructed us, don’t be afraid to ‘arouse’ the beer – swirl it around in your glass like the beer-tasting wankster you are. Arousing the beer may lead to arousal of tastebuds which could then lead to…you get the picture.

Very, very briefly, I also got to try some wheat beers just before Ale Stars started. My dear fellow Ale Star Mel got a tankard of the Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier. HOLY FUCK. You know that Plato theory about forms (that which I shall attempt to appropriate and bastardise in 3…2…1…)? How we have in our heads an idea of what a chair is? Well, now when I think ‘wheat beer’, I shall forever have Weihenstephaner’s one in my head. So freaking awesome.

In the meantime, I had to nurse my Bilboquet l’Archange (a hefeweizen) because I’d not tried any of the brewery’s beer at the SpecTAPular. It was quite a sweet example of a wheat beer. Needless to say, after drinking the One (Wheat Beer) to Rule Them All, drinking this was like being given Cadbury chocolate straight after the 85% cocoa content stuff.


The nibblies were as usual at an excellent standard, and Tristan (Ale Star member #50!) and I shared a bowl of mussels from the bar menu. It pains me to say that they were pretty disappointing. The bread was delicious, but the mussels did not smell nor taste fresh. Alas, no amount of tomato and chilli can mask that (though they did try…). I really should make the effort to get to the Local Taphouse early and just dine upstairs where the food is much, much nicer.

you don’t win girls with cheap stout…?

I recently finished reading an excellent Australian literary journal called Heat and it had a piece on a fellow called William Stanley Jevons. Jevons is remarkable for many reasons, but what amused me about the essay was that on Christmas Day, he went to a pub and paid an appropriate fare for a traditional Christmas dinner. You know how the English love their traditions: while English-born myself, I have never quite understood why on Earth the traditional festive roast remains so popular. This country, as I like to point out like the whingeing Pom I am, is bloody hot. I could definitely get into the whole seafood platter as an Aussie Christmas thing instead of turning the kitchen into a furnace.

Back to Jevons. He is at the table and seated with a pretty lady. Too shy to talk, he downs a pint of stout to attract her attention, and invariably impress her. Silly fellow. Stout is not a beer for downing quickly, and not in the heat. Also, he didn’t impress her.

Interestingly enough, I was a girl once impressed by stout: and a rough one at that – the Abbotsford Invalid Stout.

Abbotsford Invalid Stout

It was a second date of sorts. I had invited my date to my place for a Joy Division listening session. It had come up in conversation that I’d never tried the AIS. My date showed up, with a bottle in tow, and had sweetly tied a piece of old-fashioned twine around it in a bow. It seemed pretty evident that both of us were as nervous as hell. Less so, once conversation moved to the beer. The AIS is what I lovingly refer to as a ‘rough worker’s stout’ and not at all to belittle it. Yes, it’s cheap, and perhaps beer snobs may say plain nasty.

I have a soft spot for it. I expect to be shunned from now on by true beer gourmets.

The other day, Control was on telly (the biopic on Ian Curtis, Joy Division’s front man) and I asked that same fellow if he wouldn’t mind buying me some AIS – pure coincidence! He made me a ‘Black and Tan’ – am informed that this is largely ¾ lager, ¼ stout. Feel free to edit to your taste, of course. It was only fitting that seeing we were using AIS, we used an equally ‘rough Tan’ – so we pinched a remaining Carlton Cold from my father’s stash. I must say, I rather liked the ‘Black and Tan’. It’s like shandy, but for the manly! Alas, couldn’t get my father to try it – he looked very suspiciously at it.

I rather wish I made some for Australia Day just passed. Not to worry, I sunk down ‘tinnies’ of Toohey’s New instead, giggle. I wasn’t about to refuse free beer.