Monday, 17 June 2013

Fade to black ....... four dark beers reviewed

1.  Thwaites Tavern Porter (4.7% ABV)

This was my first porter for quite some time and I wasn't disappointed.  Thwaites is brewed in the Lancashire town of Blackburn and as my wife has roots there she was pleased to give it a try.  This was a bit of a mistake on my part because it was difficult to get it back from her.  However, once I managed to wrestle it back without spilling any of it I was hit by the delicious smoky aroma.  It had quite an intense coffee bitterness and here's the strange thing.  I hate coffee.  I love the smell of fresh coffee but as for drinking it - no way.  Give me a beer with lots of roasted malt though and I love it.  This beer was quite smooth in the finish and a very good start to my mini exploration of the dark side.  Score 8/10.     

2.  Grain Porter (5.0% ABV)

This Grain Porter was one of the beers I purchased at the Norwich City of Ale brewers market.  This beer had the same jet black colour as the Thwaites but the taste was quite different.  It was described as an old fruit porter and the aroma was one of rich fruit berries with no discernible smokiness.  The intensity of the fruit flavours were apparent immediately with notes of blackberries and blackcurrant.  There was an underlying bitterness in the finish which was very pleasant.  It was velvety smooth and so easy to drink.  An absolute delight and the Grain Brewery is fast becoming a favourite of mine.  Score 9/10

3.  Black Panther (4.5% ABV)

I was on a roll now with my black beer theme so I opened another beer bought in Norwich.  Black Panther is from the Panther Brewery based in Norfolk as mentioned in a previous post.  The label displayed a rosette announcing it as the runner up in the Norfolk CAMRA real ale in a bottle for 2012 so I was expecting big things from this beer.  I wasn't disappointed.  This is definitely my favourite beer so far from this brewery.  There was a pleasant smoky aroma to it.  The coffee bitterness was restrained alongside chocolate and caramel notes making it incredibly smooth.  The finish was quite nutty and slightly dry and overall there was nothing at all to complain about here.  Score 9/10.

4.  Ascot Ales Penguin Porter (4.5% ABV)

Whilst planning to review a trio of dark beers I stumbled across this in the Prince of Wales, Farnborough.  This pub is superb with about ten real ales on at any one time and I will return shortly to conduct a proper review.  However, I was more than happy to include a fourth beer in this post.  Ascot Ales are based in nearby Camberley and this is my first beer from them.  To be honest the comments I made about the Thwaites Tavern Porter could equally be applied to this beer which is high praise indeed.  It had the same intense black colour, the same smoky aroma and the same coffee bitterness.  There was possibly slightly less bitterness and a few more chocolate notes coming through.  Finally, there was the same smooth finish.  Because of all this I will award it the same score.  Score 8/10.  

My journey to the dark side was a hugely enjoyable exercise.  It is easy to neglect these type of beers in the summer but I find them a delight all year round.  They all scored highly with me and I was possibly scoring them a point down if I'm honest.  I love dark beers so much and giving them all top marks would be a little silly perhaps.  Whatever the score all four of these beers are superb and highly recommended. 

Happy drinking.

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