It has been a long, cold, day. My beans on toast lunch seems like ages ago, I’ve yet to light the fire, I’ll be eating dinner late, and I haven’t had a drop of booze for four days. I am hungry and much in the mood for a winter beer tonic. It’s at times like this that I reach for the richest, heaviest beer on the shelf, and today that shelf is offering me winter’s dark jackpot: a stout.
Drinking a big stout is like a meal and a drink rolled into one. Or at least that’s what we always used to tell ourselves after a falling into a pub on the way home from work and sacrificing dinner for a belly full of Guinness. But tonight’s stout is no Irish super brand. It’s a regal stout, expertly made by Manchester’s BlackJack brewery.
The first thing to note about this beer is its strength. The bottle weighs in at a mighty 7.2% ABV, which is enough to cause most stouts to quiver in shame. Super strength stouts are often given the prefix ‘imperial’ – this doesn’t quite reach those beers’ boozy heights, hence BlackJack giving theirs the ‘regal’ moniker.
The beer is deeply black as it slides into my glass, but no contrasting layer of white forms on the top – instead an ample head fizzes and spits like bubbling toffee, encouraging me to take the plunge. Big bitter roasted malt flavours immediately flood the senses and, as the yeasty fizz subsides, those flavours intensify even further. Within seconds, a fight between a bag of freshly ground coffee and jar of Ovaltine breaks out in my mouth – the coffee triumphs but leaves me with a few dark bitter chocolate wounds to lick. It is a quality brew that looks (and tastes) bitterly black, yet it could lighten the weariest of moods and give warmth to the most shivering souls.
As I eventually get close to eating, a slight tremor of alcohol-induced giddiness has reached my knees, and I’m still ravenous. But at least my taste buds have been satisfied with a parade of flavours most meals would struggle to better. For anyone who thinks that a good stout begins and ends with a pint of Guinness, craft beers like this can redefine expectations. But maybe that higher strength of alcohol means it’s not one to fill you belly with at the expense of a meal.
Brewery: BlackJack, Manchester
Beer name: King of Clubs Regal Stout
Beer supplied by The Other Brew