Tag Archives: Porters and Stouts

169. North Coast Brewing Old No. 38 Stout

It’s about time we drank this one. It has been sat in The Official Threehundredbeers Kitchen Cupboard for longer than I can actually remember. The “best before” date appears to be some time in 2015, and it was purchased from the long-closed and much missed BottleDog shop on Gray’s Inn Road.

North Coast Brewing Old No. 38 Stout

I opened this one over the sink with some trepidation: with a beer this old—especially one at only 5.4% ABV—you never know what kind of chemical reactions may have happened in the bottle in the meantime. Thankfully there’s no gushing to contend with, merely a gentle “pssssst” on opening.

What does burst out of the bottle is a huge aroma of chocolate, raisins and booze. Old No. 38 is certainly one of the finest-smelling beers I’ve come across in some time. This should be interesting.

North Coast Brewing Old No. 38 Stout

Hailing from Fort Bragg, California, North Coast Brewing Old No. 38 Stout comes to us from the same brewery that brought us that rather nice Old Rasputin Imperial Stout a while ago. It’s named after a steam engine that used to work its way up and down the Fort Bragg to Willits route, about which I know nothing whatsoever, but which I assume to be fairly picturesque.

Pouring a deep, dark, almost opaque brown colour with a smooth tan head, Old No. 38 sticks to the glass like a much stronger stout should. Perhaps on pouring the beer looks a little thin-bodied, but once you get it into your mouth, that couldn’t be further from the case.

Instead, Old No. 38 is rich, smoky, roasty and very smooth indeed. There’s a prominent dark chocolate bitterness that never becomes overwhelming, it’s full of juicy dried fruits, and it’s ridiculously easy-drinking for a stout. This is gorgeous stuff, to be frank.

This is a truly excellent beer. It’s hard to know what role the ageing played in its development, but what is certain is that if I ever find another bottle, it won’t hang around nearly as long.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: North Coast Brewing, Fort Bragg, CA
Style: Porters and Stouts
Strength: 5.4% ABV
Found at: BottleDog, Gray’s Inn Road, London (now closed)
Serving: 355ml bottle

162. Nethergate Umbel Magna

After furnishing us with the Batemans XXXB and the Hambleton Nightmare, The Crosse Keys in the City of London is becoming a valuable ally on our quest.

Conveniently enough, a recent weekend saw something of a tap takeover by Essex’s Nethergate Brewery, makers of that rather fine Old Growler I enjoyed a while ago, and of this: Nethergate Umbel Magna.

Nethergate Umbel Magna at the Crosse Keys, London

Umbel Magna is a recreation of a 1750s Porter recipe brewed with an addition of coriander to spice things up a little. It has won awards left right and centre, and I’m going to have a pint, even if it isn’t quite midday yet on a Tuesday morning.

It’s lovely stuff too, malty and chocolatey and hugely aromatic. It’s sweet and rounded at first, but with a hefty great dose of bitterness in the finish to balance things out and keep the beer hopelessly moreish. There are toasty notes alongside the chocolate sweetness too.

True to the Porter style, the body is a little lighter than a stout, while the colour is more of a deep, warm mahogany than a black. There’s a bit of booze in the nose, though perhaps that’s the early hour making me a little more sensitive than usual.

I didn’t actually know at the time that coriander was involved, and I certainly didn’t spot it, which suggests it’s contributing to the overall flavour of the beer rather than dominating proceedings, which suits me.

Either way, Umbel Magna is a cracking winter beer and one I’d happily drink again, especially at the Crosse Keys’ improbably reasonable prices. Good stuff from Nethergate once again.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Nethergate Brewery, Pentlow, Essex, England
Style: Porters and Stouts
Strength: 5.0% ABV
Found at: The Crosse Keys, Gracechurch Street, London EC3V
Serving: Cask, pint

145. Hambleton Nightmare

Life isn’t all glamorous Belgian cafés, bars and breweries here at Threehundredbeers, you know. We’re not above a trip to a good old JD Wetherspoon pub from time to time, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

The Crosse Keys in the City of London’s Gracechurch Street, better known for its banking and insurance companies, is a blooming good Wetherspoon’s, in fairness. A bit of an old favourite of mine, this is a huge and rather grand drinking barn in the banking hall of the former Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank building. It’s all marble panelling and pillars, ornate clocks, and a ceiling so high you’d need a telescope to see it.

And beer, of course. Plenty of beer. I haven’t counted the handpumps but there are basically loads, dispensing a multitude of cask-based liquids, generally in very fine condition indeed. Today that includes Nick Stafford’s Hambleton Nightmare.

Hambleton Nightmare at The Crosse Keys, London

Hambleton Nightmare is listed in the Porters and Stouts section of The Book, and I’d say it looks more the former, pouring a very appealing dark ruby colour with a minimal tan head. I wonder if up in its native North Yorkshire this one would typically be sparkled, but that apparently isn’t how we do things down south.

Nightmare is relatively light bodied and easy drinking for such a dark beer, so again I’m leaning towards this being a Porter. It’s pretty uncompromising in terms of flavour, though. This is a hugely tangy, fruity beer, perhaps reminiscent of those malty Scottish ales, albeit with a great deal more hop bitterness.

There’s a big, rich bonfire toffee darkness too, which reminds me of the previous beer covered here, the Gouden Carolus Classic, though again the extra hops make it quite a different beer.

This was a great, thoroughly drinkable pint. All credit to ‘Spoon’s, it’s in great nick here, and at an eminently reasonable £3.25 you’re unlikely to find a better deal in the City. Good stuff.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Hambleton Ales, Melmerby, North Yorkshire
Style: Porters and Stouts
Strength: 5.0% ABV
Found at: The Crosse Keys, Gracechurch Street, London EC3V
Serving: Cask, pint

133. Titanic Stout

There are many things you could name a brewery after, but the chaps at Stoke-on-Trent’s Titanic Brewery seem to have made a particularly bewildering choice.

Not that the name appears to have held them back. Titanic Stout can be found as the resident stout on the bar in quite a number of pubs, at least in my part of the world, making impressive inroads into the territory more often associated with the ubiquitous Guinness.

One such pub is the well-regarded The Gun. Hidden away down narrow streets on the Isle of Dogs, and sat directly on the banks of the Thames, The Gun has been very much gastrofied in recent years, yet remains a perfectly pleasant location to try a pint of beer number 133.

Titanic Stout at The Gun, Docklands

It’s a handsome pint too, and the branded glassware is a nice touch. Titanic Stout is a deep ruby red colour, rather than the jet black which is often associated with stouts. There’s a lovely smooth tan head, no doubt helped in part from being served from keg.

Once we’ve finished admiring it and trying to get a decent photo while the low spring afternoon sun does everything it can to sabotage our efforts, it’s time to crack on and give it a try.

Well, it tastes like a stout. It’s nice enough, and pleasingly full-bodied and smooth, but it doesn’t give you much to say about it beyond that. There isn’t a great deal of bitterness or any real punch to it, making Titanic Stout thoroughly accessible but perhaps also a little inoffensive.

That could well be by design, as a necessary factor of getting the beer onto the bar in so many pubs. It’s not a bad pint by any stretch of the imagination, and I’d happily drink it again. I probably will in fact, in case I’m missing something, but for the time being it left me wanting somewhat more from a stout.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Titanic Brewery, Stoke-On-Trent, Staffordshire
Style: Porters and Stouts
Strength: 4.5% ABV
Found at: The Gun, Coldharbour, London E14
Serving: Keg, pint

132. Lion Stout

It’s not every day that one finds oneself drinking a Sri Lankan beer, so this could be interesting. In some ways I’m surprised to learn that any beer at all is brewed in Sri Lanka, let alone a thumping great stout.

It turns out that there are at least three breweries there, with Lion Brewery, formerly the Ceylon Brewing Company, tracing their history back to 1860.

This one came in an exciting case from Beers of Europe quite some time ago, and according to the label it is best consumed before, well, tomorrow. I’m not particularly worried since a 7.5% ABV stout should age quite happily, but it’s a good excuse to crack it open.

Lion Stout

On doing so there’s a big bitter chocolate and coffee aroma that’s instantly reminiscent of the Guinness Foreign Extra Stout. Apparently I liked that one, so no complaints there. Lion do actually brew Guinness under licence, so I wonder if that’s entirely a coincidence.

Lion Stout pours thick and black like a proper stout should. There’s a pleasingly thick coffee-coloured head that dissipates fairly quickly.

To taste, there’s an immediate, full-on and tangy berry-like sharpness. It’s full of fruity notes that oddly are not dissimilar to something like the sour cherry flavours in a Begian Kriek, such as the Cantillon Kriek.

It’s full of coffee and chocolate notes too, and a touch of sweetness not unlike a milk stout, though I’m sure there’s no lactose goes anywhere near it. A big hoppy bitterness suggests this one would develop in the bottle for a good while yet.

This is a decent little bottle of stout. It’s a proper winter beer though, so I’m not sure how well it goes down in Sri Lanka’s tropical climate. Still, they seem to like it. I rather like it too and I’ve glad I’ve had the chance to try something quite so exotic.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Lion Brewery (Ceylon), Biyagama, Sri Lanka
Style: Porters and Stouts
Strength: 7.5% ABV
Found at: Beers of Europe
Serving: 330ml bottle

129. Nethergate Old Growler

It was while making plans to attend next weekend’s Colchester Winter Ale Festival that I realised I still have beer left from a previous visit to Britain’s oldest town.

This was actually a lucky find on the shelves of a neighbourhood Co-op, and it has been sitting patiently in The Official Threehundredbeers Cardboard Box ever since. It’s cold today, and this looks like a good winter beer, so the time has come.

Nethergate Old Growler

Old Growler is a Porter brewed in Pentlow, near Colchester, hence the ease of finding it there. On pouring, it appears an opaque black, but held up to the light it’s a handsome dark ruby colour. There’s a lovely dense tan head that coats the glass and sticks around a lot longer than I seem to find with most bottled beers.

The aroma is malty and fruity, without any particularly pronounced hop notes. In that sense, it smells reminiscent of a Brown Ale or strong Mild.

It’s tasty stuff: strong in flavour, smooth and with a big full body. There’s a pronounced caramel sweetness almost like a Scottish “Heavy” style beer. I’m reminded of the old McEwan’s 90/- ale, but also Old Peculier, if somewhat sweeter.

Old Growler is just a little bit roasty, as befits a Porter, and the sweetness is happily balanced by a modest peppery hop bitterness, which sits quietly underneath. As suspected, this is a great winter beer. We’ve a couple more Nethergate beers to track down too, so I’ll have my eyes peeled next weekend.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Nethergate Brewery, Pentlow, Essex, England
Style: Porters and Stouts
Strength: 5.5% ABV
Found at: Co-op Foodstore, Wimpole Road, Colchester, Essex
Serving: 500ml bottle

117. North Coast Brewing Old Rasputin

BrewDog are one of those companies that can greatly divide opinion within the beer world, to say the least.

Their histrionic, Kevin-the-Teenager marketing schtick may not be to everyone’s tastes, but they do brew some fine beers. And now, via their bars and wonderful new shop, BottleDog in King’s Cross, [Edit: sadly now closed] they’re importing and making available some exceptional and rare beers from far-flung corners of the world. Which brings us neatly to this guy.

North Coast Brewing Old Rasputin

North Coast Brewing Old Rasputin is a fairly intimidating 9% ABV Imperial Stout, and hails from Fort Bragg, California. You’ll very occasionally find it in bottles, but will almost certainly never have seen it on tap in the UK. Unless, that is, you made it along to the newest BrewDog bar in Clapham Junction within the first few days after it opened.

Which, needless to say, Threehundredbeers did.

The beer board at BrewDog Clapham Junction

It’s a stout alright, and a mighty one at that. Old Rasputin is utterly black, coating the inside of BrewDog’s well-chosen glassware thickly with its tan froth and boozy alcohol “legs” as you swirl it around.

Speaking of which, the 1/3 pint measures are a nice touch, since this is quite a strong beer, and there are many other strong beers to be sampled here too. For the curious, that other third in the background is the Stone Brewing Old Guardian, a gigantic Barleywine that’s similarly rare to find on tap, if at all.

The aroma is surprisingly fruity, though fruit as in dates, figs, that sort of thing. The body perhaps isn’t the fullest I’ve ever come across in an Imperial Stout, though it’s still pretty robust.

First impressions are dominated by a huge bitterness, so much so that in my scribbled notes I wrote the word “bitter” three times, just in case I somehow forgot. There’s a big, warming alcohol hit up front too.

All the requisite Imperial Stout boxes are ticked: there are licorice, dark chocolate, leather and coffee flavours in spades. That bitterness won’t lie down though, not that you’d want it to.

This is a great beer, and it’s a real treat to find it on tap. I’d have had another, but that Old Guardian won’t drink itself. Either way, a browse through the BrewDog beer menu suggests this won’t be our last visit. Any excuse to return to a very pleasant bar that’s a wonderful addition to the South London beer circuit.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: North Coast Brewing, Fort Bragg, CA
Style: Porters and Stouts
Strength: 9.0% ABV
Found at: BrewDog Clapham Junction, Battersea Rise, London SW11
Serving: Keg, 1/3 pint

108. Hanlons Port Stout

I’ve lost count of how many beers the Grape & Grain have been able to furnish us with so far, but I think it’s approaching double figures. Indeed it’s often worth casting a speculative eye over the pumps if I’m in the area, and today was no exception. Pint of Hanlons Port Stout please, barman.

There’s a minor operational matter to clear up before we dig in, though. This one is listed in The Book as “O’Hanlon’s Original Port Stout”, but is now the more concisely named “Hanlons Port Stout”, since the O’Hanlon’s Brewery changed hands just a few months ago.

It’s the same beer though, though, and is even brewed by many of the same people. It’s time to see what a Stout with port in it tastes like.

Hanlons Port Stout

Hanlons Port Stout looks much as a Stout should, pouring as black as you like, with a light tan head. From the first sip it’s very much an “Ooh, that’s quite nice actually” beer.

It’s smooth and rich, and basically tastes a lot like a decent Stout. I’m not sure I’d be able to identify port specifically, but it does work. There’s a floral and very subtle Turkish Delight sort of sweetness that balances the inherent Stout roastiness, taking any kind of burnt edge away.

In fact there’s no harshness at all, so this one might appeal to drinkers who wouldn’t usually try a Stout. There are plenty of nutty, chocolatey notes too, and a long, pleasing bitter finish to keep things satisfying and moreish.

This perhaps isn’t the deepest, most complex Stout I’ve ever tasted, but it’s one of the most drinkable, and is certainly worth a try if you come across it.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Hanlons Brewery, Half Moon Village, Devon
Style: Porters and Stouts
Strength: 4.8% ABV
Found at: The Grape & Grain, Anerley Hill, London SE19
Serving: Cask, pint

107. Harveys Imperial Extra Double Stout

Since we’re at the Royal Oak already, and very pleasant it is too, maybe we should make the most of our visit by treating ourselves to a bottle of the other Harveys beer we need, the Imperial Extra Double Stout.

As befits a beer with the words “imperial”, “extra” and “double” in its name, this one is a bit of a monster. At 9% ABV it’s not for beginners, and even draws a questioning look from the young barman who’s clearly surprised that anybody would drink one at lunchtime.

But it’s only a little bottle, and anyway Threehundredbeers does not have a choice. Not when there is science to be done.

Harveys Imperial Extra Double Stout at the Royal Oak, SE1

Harveys Imperial Extra Double Stout is as dark a brown as a beer can get without being black. There’s no head or even froth to speak of, despite a fairly aggressive pour, which isn’t unusual with beers this strong.

What it does have in spades, though, is what daft beer bloggers call “legs”. That is to say it coats the glass thickly with luxurious, lingering boozy alcohol residues. There’s a huge aroma too, wafting across the table as the beer is poured. It’s smoky, sinister and very alluring indeed.

The body isn’t the fullest I’ve ever seen on a stout, but that’s forgotten the moment you taste it. That smokiness is front and centre, and accompanied by massive quantities of licorice and a rich, chocolatey bittersweet tang that’s reminiscent of the Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, a confirmed favourite of mine.

There are soot, leather, tar, black cherry and even sour lactic notes, but thankfully none of the superfluous sweetness that can plague some Iesser Imperial Stouts.

You can taste the alcohol though, that’s for sure, as it adds a decadent, almost numbing heat. You can feel it too, but you aren’t complaining. It’s a lovely, warming beer that drinks more like a fine port or sherry.

This really is something a bit special. Given all the flavours that are in there vying for attention, I’m certain the Imperial Extra Double Stout would age beautifully, so we’ll brave another questioning look from the barman as we order a couple more to take home for the cellar.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Harvey & Sons, Lewes, East Sussex
Style: Porters and Stouts
Strength: 9.0% ABV
Found at: The Royal Oak, Tabard Street, London SE1
Serving: 275ml bottle

104. Rogue Shakespeare Stout

The short stretch of London alongside and under the railway tracks into London Bridge station is home to a growing number of excellent small, new breweries, including The Kernel, Partizan and Brew by Numbers.

On Saturdays these breweries, along with many of the other small businesses in and around the railway arches, such as bakers, cheesemongers and importers of various delicious foodstuffs, open their doors to the public, who are invariably eager to sample the wares on offer.

All in all, the so-called “Bermondsey Beer Mile” makes for a particularly pleasant Saturday stroll for the beer lover and so this weekend, the help of Official Threehundredbeers Drinking Buddy Ben was enlisted, and we were on the hunt for beer number 104.

The newest beery addition to the Bermondsey area comes to us via Canterbury’s The Bottle Shop, whose growing wholesale operations have seen them establish a depot in a Druid Street arch. Again, on a Saturday they open up to the public, who can take a seat and choose from the 350 or so beers in their catalogue.

One of which—I’m very pleased to report—is Rogue Shakespeare Stout.

Rogue Shakespeare Stout

Poured from its double sized sharing bottle, the Shakespeare Stout is as black as black can be. It’s entirely opaque, with a good dose of coffee-coloured foam that dissipates quite quickly.

It’s a complex beer. At first taste it’s a big, honest, flavoursome stout but there are notes of a roasty, caramel sweetness, vanilla and cardamom spice.

As with the Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout, the use of oats makes for a really smooth beer. There’s no harshness at all, but there is a huge long bitter finish that lingers and lingers.

The bitterness is offset by that slight caramel sweetness, making for a beautifully balanced beer. This is really just a great example of a no-nonsense, high quality stout, and one I’d happily drink again. Which is fortunate, as I took advantage of The Bottle Shop’s reasonable pricing and brought another bottle home.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Rogue Ales, Newport, Oregon
Style: Porters and Stouts
Strength: 6.0% ABV
Found at: The Bottle Shop, Druid Street, London SE1
Serving: 650ml bottle