The problem with thinking of a title before you write a post is that a) Game of Thrones S5 has long since finished and b) the shortest day of the year has been and gone, so winter is on the way out. It’s still very cold though, which makes it a great time for drinking dark beer. Dark beers are the red wine of the beer world – best enjoyed closer to room temperature and by the fire.
The three beers I’ve chosen this month (actually four, I cheated a little) are all seasonal winter releases, so you can only get them when the days are shorter and the heat pump is permanently on. These are three of my favourite beers and I look forward to them every year.
You may have noticed the popular thing to do with dark beer is add chocolate or coffee – my love of black coffee is what got me on to this style of beer in the first place, and I love chocolate, so I’m not complaining.
Renaissance “Craftsman” Chocolate Oatmeal Stout (4.9%)
This is the lightest beer in the line up this month. Beer gets body (or “mouth feel”) from residual non-fermentable sugar, or from adding things like oats. The oats in this beer stop it from tasting “thin” despite being relatively low in alcohol.
This brew has cacao nibs added at every stage (mash, boil and fermentation) which gave a nice, though not overpowering, dark chocolate taste and aroma which combined well with the toasty, almost burnt finish from the dark malts. It was light enough in body and alcohol level that I could have had more than one, and delicious enough to make me want to.
Tuatara Black Stout WCF Chocolate & Mojo Espresso editions (6.5%, 60IBU)
I cheated here, but then again so have Tuatara by making one beer and turning it into three! Their toasted black stout has two special edition collaborations, one with Mojo Coffee and the other with Wellington Chocolate Factory. We tasted the chocolate version first as I thought it would offer a nice point of comparison with the Craftsman. It was thicker, sweeter and the chocolate flavour was a lot more noticeable – although it was definitely milk chocolate, whereas the Craftsman had more of dark chocolate vibe going on.
The Mojo Espresso brew had a very strong coffee aroma, it smelled exactly like my morning long black. This carried through to the flavour, but instead of finishing on a sweeter note like its chocolate brother, I got a lovely toasty bitterness at the end.
Epic “Epicurian” 2013 Coffee and Fig Imperial Stout (8%)
While the other three beers this month had a dominant flavour of either coffee or chocolate, this one was all about layers of flavour – caramelised figs, coffee and toasted coconut. They were all there, but none dominated and I tasted each at a different point.
It also had a strong aroma of coffee, though the addition of figs, coconut and malt came across almost marmite-ish (in a good way!). At 8% this was the big boy of the line-up, and the fact that it only comes in a large bottle means this is a beer perfect for sharing with friends around a fire (or, in our case, a small fan heater on the floor!).
Ed’s note: Will is working with Andrew of Behemoth to create a media brew for Beervana inspired by the theme “the NZ flag”. It’s fermenting as we speak but it’s only a small batch, so if you want to try it, get yourself down to Welly in time for the first session on the 14th of August.