Six more beers from the dark side. Four of these six are porters but I started with an oatmeal stout and I've also thrown in a black IPA along the way. I don't normally look at the cost of bottled beers too closely because when I am shopping around I just choose what I fancy at the time without too much thought as to the cost. However, after analysing these six it is something I will now be including in my reviews. I will particularly be mentioning where the cost of certain beers is ridiculously high as was the case with the first one.
Hix's Darkside (7.0% ABV) - Ales By Mail (£3.94)
This first beer comes under the umbrella of Discworld Ales and the names of their beers all have an association with the extremely popular series of Discworld books by Terry Pratchett. Does this make this a novelty beer then cashing in on this popularity? Well, the beers are apparently brewed at the Brentwood Brewery in Essex so this is my first beer from that neck of the woods. John Hix is a character in the Discworld books I assume although I don't recognise the name from the few I have read from the series. I do keep meaning to get back into them and perhaps this beer will inspire me to do just that.
Is this a beer Terry Pratchett would be proud of? I must say I was not expecting too much and the aroma wasn't particularly strong. After pouring, it did not have too much life to it but when it came to the taste I was pleasantly surprised by it. It was quite rich with a little sweetness initially and there was a nice gentle coffee bitterness in the finish. All in all it is a very nice stout indeed. Yes I've had better but I've also had much worse. On taste alone I would mark it higher than the 6/10 I'm awarding but the cost of this beer is ridiculous. For Pratchett diehards who have more money than sense I think. You can get better stouts at a fraction of the cost.
Partizan Porter 6 Grain (7.4% ABV) - Ales By Mail (£2.80)
Partizan are a relatively new brewery based in South Bermondsey close to the Thames in SE London. They are only producing bottled beers and they all come with brilliantly distinctive labelling which often make it a challenge to actually read the name of the beer. I reviewed and enjoyed a trio of their beers earlier this year so I was expecting good things from this one.
The aroma was quite smoky which is not a bad thing at all. It appeared to be quite thick and full bodied as it poured and this carried through into the flavour which was wonderfully rich. It had coffee, raisin and liquorice notes combining to produce a truly wonderful warming porter with a nice underlying bitterness. It is rare for me to award a bottled dark beer top marks as I enjoy them more in cask but this achieves it. For a 330ml bottle it is again slightly expensive but it does have a high strength. This one gets 10/10.
Brewdog Libertine Black Ale (7.2% ABV) - Beer Hawk (£2.99)
Some people love Brewdog and others hate them for various reasons. I am not a fan of their bars and I am a lover of cask beer so the only time I drink them is when drinking bottled beer at home. This means I can control the serving temperature and enjoy the full flavour of their beers. So far I have enjoyed the Punk IPA and been disappointed by the 5am Saint so how will this one fare?
The aroma was certainly exciting. It was bursting with hoppiness and smelled divine. Black IPAs (if that is the correct label for this one) always seem wrong to me. They generally look like stouts but the smell is nothing like that and the taste is often a complex mix. Having said that the ones I have tried have all been fantastic with the Langham Black Swallow (cask) and the Buxton Imperial Black (bottled) particularly awesome. This beer is up there with those two. It is certainly complex. Both myself and my wife detected apple notes in there but there was liquorice coming through too. My wife insisted it was actually green apple rather than red but to me apple is apple. The finish was definitely one of bitter roasted coffee notes. I loved this beer and my wife was impressed too so a score of 9/10 for this one. As with most Brewdog products though you do seem to pay a premium for the name as this is yet another steep price for a mere 330ml.
Williams Brothers Midnight Sun (5.6% ABV) - Beer Hawk (£2.19)
I first came across beers from the Scottish brewer Williams Brothers earlier this year in the Great Sainsburys Beer Hunt. Their two entries I tried were both excellent and were reviewed here. They began brewing the famous Heather Ale in 1993 and their current massive range of beers come in all forms (cask, keg and bottle). This is my first dark from the brewery.
Midnight Sun is described as a porter and it is certainly dark, rich and malty. The label indicates it has some ginger thrown into the mix but this wasn't really obvious (none at all says the wife) but there was a little spiciness to it I felt which was definitely not unpleasant. However, it has hints of raisin and liquorice to the fore and it has a very warming feel to it. Overall a very pleasant winter warmer at a very reasonable price for 500ml. 8/10.
Old Growler (5.0% ABV) - Beer Hawk (£2.49)
Nethergate Brewery, based in Suffolk, originally began brewing way back in 1986. In 2005 they moved to Essex and they were rebranded as the Growler Brewery in 2012. Old Growler, described as a porter, has always been their classic winter ale as long as I can remember. It has twice won the Overall Champion award at CAMRA's Winter Beer Festival and has picked up international awards too. This makes the rebranding of the brewery name quite a wise move. Anyway, it has actually been a few years since I last sampled this beer and it is the first time I have tried the bottled version.
The aroma is a little smoky which is something I always found with it. The taste though is quite sweet and richer than I remember with strong hints of molasses along with some blackcurrant notes. It is quite a complex beer with other fruit flavours bursting in along with some roasted malts. There is also hints of caramel and raisin too. For my wife this was her favourite winter beer so far and she would award it top marks I'm sure. For me it doesn't have quite enough bitterness in the finish that I like but it is still a lovely beer and it gets an 8/10 from me.
Otley O6 Porter (6.6% ABV) - Beer Hawk (£2.89)
For my final beer I head across to Wales. Otley Brewing was established in 2005 and are based in Pontypridd. This is the second bottled beer I have tried from them and they all seem to feature a large O on their labels.
O6 is described as an old style porter. It isn't as black as it looks in the picture. More like a very dark brown and it was lacking aroma. It is certainly very sweet and malty with strong hints of caramel and chocolate. My wife said 'the taste disappears'. There may be little in the way of a finish perhaps but it does pick up to provide a very warming experience with a deep richness. For me it is a little too sweet though and it has no hints of bitterness at all. It you like your winter warmers strong and sweet though then you will love this. For me it gets a score of 7/10.
Another batch of six bottled dark beers enjoyed here. I really need to find some more cask winter warmers but these bottles have all been enjoyed to varying degrees. The Partizan Porter came out on top for me and the Old Growler was my wife's favourite. I may be sounding like an old growler myself here but my only grumble is the number of breweries, especially the newer ones, that are selling their beers in 330ml sized bottles. This wouldn't be so bad if the price was a third less but that is certainly not the case here. It is something I will be aware of when purchasing beers in future.