Tag Archives: Porters and Stouts

78. Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout

After the rather wonderful pint of Kelham Island Pale Rider I recently enjoyed in Sheffield, this is the second beer in a row to hail from Yorkshire.

This time, however, we’re a little closer to home. A mild December Saturday saw me drift back to the Anchor Tap in SE1, the same pub where I sampled the Taddy Porter, to discover yet more of their tiny wood-panelled rooms. This one had a piano, and it had a burly man happy to dispense a bottle of this rather nice Oatmeal Stout.


The use of oats in the brewing process dates back centuries, and while it is apparently a bit of a sod to brew with, turning the wort a gelatinous, porridgy sort of texture and clogging all the equipment, it imparts a lovely, silky smooth texture, which complements a good stout beautifully.

And this is a terrifically good stout, pouring a deep reddish colour that’s almost black unless you hold it up to the light, and with a huge, dense tan head.

At first taste Sam Smith’s Oatmeal Stout is sweet, tangy and remarkably smooth, thanks to that oatmeal in the mash. Straight from the fridge it’s a little too cold, but as it warms hints of licorice and aniseed appear, and the finish becomes dry and moreishly bitter.

This is another top notch beer from old Sam Smith. It’s very easy-drinking for a stout, and it’s even certified vegan, if that floats your boat. If push came to shove, I’d probably plump for the Taddy Porter over this if I wasn’t blogging, but the Oatmeal Stout beats something like a Guinness hands down.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Samuel Smith Old Brewery, Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, England
Style: Porters and Stouts
Strength: 5.0% ABV
Found at: The Anchor Tap, Horselydown Lane, London SE1
Serving: 550ml Bottle

69. RCH Old Slug Porter

In retrospect, when I blogged about Pendle Witches Brew, I may have been a little harsh on The Grape & Grain, one of Crystal Palace’s very best pubs.

I criticised their slightly conservative selection of ales, but in fairness, recent weeks have seen guest visits from ales from some of London’s new wave of craft breweries: London Fields, By the Horns and The CronX have all been represented. To top that, the G&G have now provided three beers in a row for my humble blog, so I really should learn what side my bread’s buttered on.

The very day after I sampled the cask “Witches” and a lovely bottle of Worthington’s White Shield, this one came on tap: a curiously-named porter from a Somerset brewery I’d previously heard absolutely nothing about.

Any excuse to pay another visit to what is, truth be told, a great, authentic beer lovers’ pub where all walks of life rub shoulders.


Despite the name, RCH Old Slug Porter certainly is a fine looking pint. At first glance it’s as black as night, but closer inspection reveals a beautiful deep ruby red colour with a tan head.

It tastes just like a top-notch porter should. It’s dark and rich but medium-bodied, which is ideal for a porter. There isn’t too much of the tar, soot and smokiness that are more typical of a stout, and instead the “Slug” is full of dried fruits and christmas cake.

There’s a hugely satisfying dry, bitter yet wine-like finish, but the whole thing remains relentlessly quaffable and refreshing. Many people don’t expect that sort of drinkability from a dark beer, but my pint lasted no more than 10 minutes, and I’d gladly have had another.

It may be named after the least glamorous of creatures, but this is a first class porter, served here in prime condition.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: RCH Brewery, Weston Super Mare, Somerset, England
Style: Porters and Stouts
Strength: 4.5% ABV
Found at: The Grape & Grain, Anerley Hill, London SE19
Serving: Cask, pint

66. Samuel Smith’s Taddy Porter

There are no less than four Samuel Smith’s beers in The Book—an honour shared only by London’s Meantime brewery—so it seems like it might be time to try another one. I sampled old Sam’s Imperial Stout a little while ago, but wasn’t completely blown away by it. Nor have I been truly impressed by the several other beers that I’ve tried in the brewery’s pubs.

This one though, the 5.0% ABV Taddy Porter, is really quite famous, and is very well regarded by those in the know. It also makes for the perfect excuse to seek out a pub that I’ve heard a lot of good things about.

The Anchor Tap is tucked away in London’s Shad Thames neighbourhood and wears its long history with pride. As its name suggests, it was originally the brewery tap for the Anchor Brewery, which was situated on the banks of the Thames next to Tower Bridge, but has long since been converted into apartments that you and I will never be able to afford.

The pub these days is operated by Sam Smith’s, and remains an unashamedly unreconstructed oasis of authenticity despite being besieged by gentrification and tourism. It’s a rabbit warren of tiny wood-panelled rooms, darts and pork scratchings, and even has a devoted cadre of working class locals, although goodness knows where they actually live.

And conveniently enough, it has Taddy Porter in Sam Smith’s characteristically generous 550ml bottles.


From the bottle, Taddy Porter pours a sumptuous deep brown, almost black, colour with a gigantic tan head thicker than some of the accents in the main bar. There’s an immediate waft of chocolate, black coffee and dark, bitter malts.

And it’s good. It tastes like the quintessential porter, with bitter and sweet flavours in perfect balance. Taddy Porter is smooth, deep and dark, and thankfully avoids the slight wateriness that can plague lesser porters.

This is probably the best porter I’ve covered on the blog so far, and one of the best I’ve ever tried. Given that porter is the most London of beer styles, it’s both impressive and refreshing to see this idiosyncratic little brewery from Yorkshire show the London boys how it’s done.

If I’ve been slightly disparaging of Sam Smith’s beers in the past, this one has given me a newfound respect for the chaps from Tadcaster. This was a cracking beer in a cracking pub.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Samuel Smith Old Brewery, Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, England
Style: Porters and Stouts
Strength: 5.0% ABV
Found at: The Anchor Tap, Horselydown Lane, London SE1
Serving: 550ml Bottle

61. Pitfield 1850 London Porter

This is the second of three beers in The Book to hail from the Essex-based Pitfield Brewery, following their Shoreditch Stout, which I covered a few weeks ago.

This is another dark beer, this time an example of that most London of beer styles, and a confirmed favourite of your author: Porter. As with the Shoreditch Stout, the 1850 London Porter is entirely organic and vegan, should that be a factor in your beer selection process.

In a rather endearing Accidental Partridge turn of events, this one proudly bears the denomination “2010 Champion Bottled Beer of East Anglia”.


Pitfield 1850 London Porter is a deep reddish-brown, rather than truly black, and pours with an enormous sudsy head, despite having been sat perfectly still for several weeks. There’s a good, fresh hoppy whiff, backed up with some inviting toastier aromas, as befits a decent porter.

It soon becomes clear that I’ve overchilled this bottle, because at first the 1850 tastes what I can only describe as a little bit strange. There’s an odd sweetness in there, which perhaps originates with the cane sugar which is added to the brew, and there’s an overwhelming and not entirely pleasant bitterness which makes it hard to detect any other flavours.

However, this all changes as the beer warms a little and starts to near room temperature. The flavour really fills out and deepens, and becomes a complex combination of dried fruits, burnt toast and nutty black coffee notes. The difference is quite pronounced, so I’ve learned my lesson there.

And I’m glad, because I like this tiny brewery and didn’t want to post a bad review. I’m now particularly looking forward to the third and final Pitfield beer which I have to track down: a mighty 9.3% Imperial Stout. I’ve haven’t come across that one in London yet, so perhaps a trip to Essex is on the cards!

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Dominion Brewery Co, Moreton, Essex, England
Style: Porters and Stouts
Strength: 5.0% ABV
Found at: City Beverage Company, Old Street, London EC1
Serving: 500ml Bottle

58. Hook Norton Double Stout

After a hard day patching up potholes on the information superhighway, there isn’t much that can beat putting your feet up with a good bottle of stout. Fortunately, there are an inordinate number of porters and stouts in The Book, so it’s probably time to open another of them.

This is our second beer from Oxfordshire’s Hook Norton Brewery, having tried their Old Hooky a few weeks ago. That was a good beer, but I couldn’t quite place what it was trying to be. There should be no such ambiguity with this, their 4.8% ABV, bottle-conditioned Double Stout.

What is slightly unclear is what the “double” in the name refers to. At just 4.8% we’re clearly not talking in the same terms as a Double IPA, which would typically be, well, double that strength. The bottle loosely implies that it might be to do with the fact that both black and brown malts are used, while The Book declares that it “recalls the period in the 18th and 19th centuries when porters and stouts were labelled X and XX”.

Perhaps we’re splitting hairs: what matters is whether it’s any good.


Hook Norton Double Stout looks much as a stout should, pouring such a dark brown that it appears black, and with a good frothy tan head. There’s a big, creamy malt nose with both toasty and floral notes that certainly seems promising.

There’s a slightly sharp, hoppy twang that’s front and centre, a nicely rounded body, and a subtly dry finish which manages to be satisfying without being in any way overpowering.

Overall the beer is quite fruity and—dare I say it—delicate for a stout, but served nicely chilled, it’s remarkably knock-backable. I suspect this might be a good stout for those who wouldn’t usually venture quite so far towards the dark side, as it’s a little less challenging than some stouts, whilst remaining a very good example of the style.

After the last couple of beers haven’t quite hit the spot for me, thankfully I’ve very much enjoyed this one. It certainly didn’t hang about long, and I’d happily opt for one of these again, especially if it popped up somewhere on draught.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: The Hook Norton Brewery Co Ltd, Hook Norton, Oxfordshire, England
Style: Porters-and-Stouts
Strength: 4.8% ABV
Found at: Bossman Wines, Lordship Lane, London SE22
Serving: 500ml Bottle

53. Pitfield Shoreditch Stout

This is the first beer I’ve ever tried from the Pitfield Brewery, and until today I knew very little about them. In fact, I still know very little other than they are a small, independent brewery with a complicated history.

Founded in the cellar of a specialist beer shop in Pitfield Street in Shoreditch, London, the brewery is now based on a farm in the Essex countryside, having changed location and ownership several times over its 30-year existence.

The core beers in Pitfield’s range are all certified organic and vegan, but are otherwise a fairly traditional-looking selection of pale ales, IPAs, porters and stouts. The naming of the Shoreditch Stout harks back to the brewery’s geographical roots, and conveniently I didn’t have to travel to Essex to find it: instead all that was required was a ten-minute stroll from the office to Old Street in—appropriately enough—Shoreditch.


Pitfield Shoreditch Stout pours a deep blackish brown colour, as befits a stout, and there’s a generous tan lacing and a promising smoky aroma. It’s remarkably malty and full of date, fig and other dried fruit flavours topped off with a dry, bitter and slightly salty finish.

This one is a little lighter-bodied than might be expected from a truly top-notch stout, but it’s far from watery. It’s very drinkable, and at a restrained 4.0% ABV it’s eminently sessionable.

I may be a little spoilt in the stout department, having easy access to the Kernel Brewery and their magnificent Export and Imperial Brown stouts, but I do feel the Shoreditch Stout struggles to really distinguish itself from many other half-decent stouts. That said, if the vegan/organic thing is up your street then this is probably one of your better options.

There are two more Pitfield beers in The Book: a London Porter and an Imperial Stout. I’ve yet to find a source for the latter, but I certainly look forward to tracking it down and seeing how it compares to this one.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Dominion Brewery Co, Moreton, Essex, England
Style: Porters and Stouts
Strength: 4.0% ABV
Found at: City Beverage Company, Old Street, London EC1
Serving: 500ml Bottle

45. Coopers Best Extra Stout

This is this blog’s second trip to the land of Oz, and also our second beer from Coopers, having enjoyed their famous Coopers Sparkling Ale a few weeks ago. In the meantime, I’ve also tried their Original Pale Ale once or twice, and found it to be most refreshing.

Truth be told, I’m developing a bit of an affection for this plucky Adelaide brewery, swimming as they are against the tide of flavourless golden lagers for which so many Australian drinkers have so much affection.

This beer is as far from your stubby of Foster’s as you’re likely to get Down Under: it’s a bloody great unfiltered, bottle-conditioned stout weighing in at 6.3% ABV.


Here we have Coopers signature 375ml bottle, and you know you’re in for something a little bit special when your beer has a “best after” date and no sign of a “best before”. This one’s label suggests it should not be drunk until after 9:12 in the morning on Boxing Day 2011. No problems there then. By my maths this one has at least a year and a half under its belt already.

That’s good, because being bottle-conditioned, just like the Sparkling Ale, there’s a good dose of yeast sat in the bottom of the bottle, helping the beer to ferment in the bottle, and to continue to improve year upon year.

While many brewers recommend that you let their bottle-conditioned beers settle upright, then pour carefully so as not to land the yeast in your glass, Coopers helpfully suggest a variety of rolling, twisting and agitating rituals, each one tailored to the specific beer, to reintegrate the yeast in to the beer before pouring. I just gave it a little shake.

Coopers Best Extra Stout pours as black as you like, as befits a quality stout, with a big tan head that sticks around tenaciously. The nose is all dark bitter chocolate, freshly-ground coffee and soot courtesy of the roasted malts. It’s a stout alright.

It’s reasonably full-bodied, though lacking the sheer velvet luxury of the Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, which I’m aware that I mention in every single review, or The Kernel’s magnificent Imperial Brown Stout.

That said, the Coopers offering is easier-drinking and more gluggable than those two hooligans, whilst still being a big, big stout. There’s a hefty, raisiny dried fruit flavour in there which reminds me, interestingly enough, of Bishop’s Finger and a massively dry, bitter finish that embiggens as the beer reaches room temperature.

This is a good stout and no mistake. In fact I suspect it’s the best stout being made in Australia right now, though I’d be delighted to hear of a better one. It’s still eclipsed by several British stouts, obviously, but it puts many of our weaker efforts to shame. Good stuff once again from Coopers.

We’ll be returning to Coopers Brewery one more time, and quite soon. Stay tuned, because I have an inkling that the third and final Coopers beer might just be something a little bit out of the ordinary.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Coopers Brewery, Adelaide, South Australia
Style: Porters and Stouts
Strength: 6.3% ABV
Found at: Utobeer, Borough Market, London SE1
Serving: 375ml Bottle

38. Samuel Smith’s Imperial Stout

Just when you think it’s going to start getting difficult to find all these beers, you make a discovery like Utobeer. Little more than a big cage in an unpleasantly busy market in London, Utobeer claim stocks of around 2,000 distinct beers, of which, given space constraints, around 700 are on display at any one time. Needless to say, Utobeer will be a trusty ally on our beery quest.

Sam Smith’s are primarily known in Britain for their chain of countless improbably well-priced pubs, none of which happen to sell any beer you’ve ever heard of. That’s because they only sell Sam Smith’s beer, brewed up in Tadcaster, North Yorkshire. To my surprise, a lot of their beer is available in bottles, and four such beers are in The Book.

Conveniently enough, Utobeer stocks at least one of them: Samuel Smith’s Imperial Stout.


Imperial Stout is fast becoming my favourite style of beer. Essentially, the style is like stout but stronger. Way stronger in some cases: I glowed about the 10% ABV Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, while my current favourite is probably The Kernel’s Imperial Brown Stout, which is marginally weaker at 9.9%.

Those are both incredibly good beers, so old Sam Smith’s version, clocking in at a comparatively shandy-drinking 7% ABV has some tough competition on its hands.

It’s a handsome enough bottle, with a charmingly old timey label, apparently designed by Charles Finkel, founder of Merchant du Vin who import Sam Smith’s beers to the US. True to form, even Sam Smith’s bottles are of a generous size, coming in at 355ml like this one, or at 550ml.

On cracking open the bottle, there’s an immediate chocolate aroma, though strangely it doesn’t stick around for long. Pouring the Imperial Stout, it certainly looks the part: black as it comes, with a smallish tan head.

It tastes, unsurprisingly, like a strongish stout but there’s slightly too much sweetness to it, followed by a odd bitterness that seems out of place for some reason. It’s also a little thin-bodied and kind of sticky.

Sam Smith’s Imperial Stout is quite drinkable, but it doesn’t rock my world. There just isn’t that depth of chocolate and coffee and smoke that one expects from a really good stout. It’s not a bad beer, but it’s not the best Imperial Stout out there by a long shot.

I’m no expert on brewing, but my feeling is that this beer is just crying out for more of the sugar to be fermented off, which would in turn result in an ABV more fitting for its style, and would no doubt add some of that complexity that it lacks.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Samuel Smith Old Brewery, Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, England
Style: Porters and Stouts
ABV: 7.0%
Found at: Utobeer, Borough Market, London SE1
Dispense: 355ml Bottle

21. Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout

The Draft House, SE22 is a heady, intoxicating place to while away an afternoon. Dangerously so, in fact, and I bloomin’ love it.

Following the delicious, staff-recommended 7.0% ABV Texels Bock with the 8.2% Schneider Aventinus might be considered brave at best, but only a fool would go on to round out the session with this 10.0% ABV hooligan of an Imperial Stout.

Foolish or not, we have no choice: it’s in The Book. There is science to be done.


Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Chocolate stout is black. It’s blacker than ink. I mean, just look. It’s so black it’s actually sucking light out of the room around it.

Brooklyn’s Chocolate Stout—from the same chaps that brought us that rather nice Vienna Red lager—is brewed just once per year and the bottles are dated, a little like a vintage wine. According to my scribbled notes, this example is from the Winter 2011-12 bottling, so I assume it has been sat in a cellar somewhere, quietly maturing for a little while.

And oh my, it’s good.

Unlike Wells & Young’s comparatively puny Double Chocolate Stout, this one needs no artificial help to throw out hedonistic, decadent bitter chocolate notes. It’s all a function of the six combined varieties of black, chocolate and roasted malts that they use.

Beyond the chocolate, there’s a lovely, toasty sort of tar and soot thing going on, and a long bitter finish. And by long I mean that I drank this last week, and can still taste it. Every mouthful is an absolute treat.

It’s all topped off with that head-swimmingly intoxicating, warming double-figures alcohol hit, and suddenly all is well in the world.

Some might suggest that 10.0% ABV is a bit racy, but I believe that once a beer gets this strong and attains this level of quality, you have to stop thinking of it as a strong beer, and that comparisons with a fine wine or a liqueur are more appropriate. This is absolutely to be drunk slowly, and just savoured and enjoyed.

I didn’t expect the Chimay Bleue to be beaten for luxurious self-indulgence quite so soon, but those guys over at Brooklyn have done it.

There’s one more Brooklyn beer to track down, and considering the beers they’ve given us so far, I’m not sure I can wait.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn, NY
Style: Porters and Stouts
Strength: 10.0% ABV
Found at: The Draft House, Lordship Lane, London SE22
Serving: 355ml bottle

18. Young’s Double Chocolate Stout

Oh cripes, here we go again. From Wells & Young’s, the incorrigible beer-botherers who took a bitter and turned it into the lamentable Wells Banana Bread Beer comes another flavoured concoction. This time they’ve taken a stout and flavoured it with chocolate.

The thing is, there is actually a valid style of beer known as Chocolate Stout, but the term comes from the use of chocolate malts (named for the colour, more than anything). Young’s have apparently taken one of those and made it “double” by the addition of “natural chocolate flavour”, which doesn’t fill me with optimism.

Now, I do love a good stout. Enough to know that a good stout or porter should not really need any extra help to give out chocolatey, coffee notes. That this one does need a leg up has me fearing the worst.

Still, it’s in The Book, so I think we all know what comes next.


Sniffing the brew with some trepidation, I’m almost relieved that I’m not actually getting a lot of chocolate. In fact this smells a lot like a decent, normal stout with a faint whiff of something extra, yet subtle.

That carries through to the taste. Again, there are no strongly discernable chocolate notes beyond what might be expected from a stout. In fact Young’s Double Chocolate ticks all the stouty boxes: it’s full-bodied and smooth with a good long bitter finish. If anything the chocolate addition just helps to take away a little of the rougher smokiness that many stouts have.

To my surprise, the result is really quite a nice beer, and I soon find myself settling in and enjoying it.

This perhaps doesn’t attain the level of “pure luxury/pur luxe” that the label aspires to, and it’s not a patch on, say, the Guinness Foreign Extra we saw recently, or my current favourite, The Redchurch Brewery’s Hoxton Stout, but it’s really OK.

Whether by luck or by judgment, this time Wells & Young’s haven’t created a monster by ruining a perfectly good beer. This is, on its own merits, a perfectly good, enjoyable beer.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Wells and Young’s, Bedford, England
Style: Porters and Stouts
ABV: 5.2%
Found at: Jolly Good News, Rosendale Road, London SE24
Dispense: 500ml Bottle