Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Some Dark Beers From Beer Hawk

After having tasted and reviewed over the past 18 months several cases of beer from online beer merchants, Beer52, I received a similar request back in September, from a company called Beer Hawk. Before agreeing to review the beers, I had an interesting on-line conversation with Zoe Piper, the company’s online marketing manager, about the beers featured in their portfolio. I pointed out that along with some rather good international examples, my No.1 favourite smoke beer, Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier from Bamberg was also included as a stock item.

I told her that as we were heading into autumn a selection of porters, plus a few bottles of Aecht Schlenkerla would fit the bill nicely. She kindly offered to send me a selection of porters and possibly a few seasonal brews as well. This was an offer I couldn’t refuse, although I did warn her that as I was heading off to the Czech Republic, it would be several weeks before I could get something into print.

The beers turned up whilst I was away; no problem as I arranged for them to be delivered to my workplace. Upon my return, I gave my system several days to recover from a week of steady drinking before cracking a few open. As Beer Hawk generously sent me a case of 12 beers (all dark), I have divided the review into two halves; the first half of which appears below. The second will be published in a week or so’s time; once I have finished drinking them!

Tiny Rebel - Dirty Stop Out Smoked Oatmeal Stout 5.0%
Perhaps not as smoky as its name suggests, this jet-black beer is brewed using a blend of nine different malts, which makes for a velvety-smooth stout, with coffee and chocolate aromas, balanced by sufficient bitterness to produce a very quaffable and enjoyable beer.

Tiny Rebel Brewing Co,are based in Newport, South Wales. Their Cwtch Welsh Red Ale, received the accolade of Champion Beer of Britain at this year's Great British Beer Festival.

Runaway Brewery - Smoked Porter 6.0%
Well this one doesn’t take any prisoners; instead it’s a full-on assault on the taste-buds and other senses. Again, not particularly smoky, but black as your hat and right in your face with its mouth-puckering bitterness, and almost oily mouth feel.

A bottle-conditioned beer from the Manchester-based, Runaway Brewery; this one is definitely a beer for sipping, rather than supping.

Aecht Schlenkerla - Rauchbier Weizen 5.2%
Now this is an unusual beer for sure; a Rauchbier that’s also a Weizen (wheat beer). I’ve been aware for some time that Heller-Bräu Trum (Schlenkerla) had this beer in their portfolio, but not being a fan of wheat beers (Bavarian ones in particular), I have never been tempted to try it – until now that is!

I’m certainly glad that I did, as the intense smokiness which is a characteristic of Schlenkerla beers, overcomes the banana and clove aromas normally associated with south German wheat beers. These ester-like notes are produced by the yeasts used to brew wheat beer. Schlenkerla state on the label that this beer is fermented using such a yeast, and even mention “complex notes of bananas and cloves”. The label also informs us that only the barley malt is smoked over beech wood, whereas the wheat malt used is un-smoked.

As Bavarian wheat beers are normally brewed from a 50:50 mix of barley and wheat, the smokiness of this beer is testament to the skill of the maltster, who produces the intensely smoked malt used in this beer.

The result is a very pleasant beer, which slips down rather too well. As a bonus, this beer is un-pasteurised and bottle-conditioned. It certainly takes me back to last June, when I spent a very pleasant couple of hours sitting in the timelessly old Schlenkerla Tavern in Bamberg, enjoying a few mugs of Aecht Schlenkerla.

Wiper & True - Milk Shake Stout 4.0%
I wasn’t certain I was going to like a milk stout; the name, and style remind me of Mackeson – the beer my father, who was never much of a beer man, used to drink.

This beer is Bristol-based, Wiper & True’s take on a style once famous in Bristol and the surrounding area. Dark and sweet, with a hop bitterness of just 14 IBU, this bottle-conditioned beer is brewed from a grist packed with luscious dark malts, including Munich, Mild, Chocolate, Crystal and Biscuit. Oats and a touch of wheat malt are added for extra smoothness along with vanilla. Lactose, a sugar derived from milk, is added to give the beer that rich, extra full-bodied feel.

I must confess to not having heard of Wiper & True before, but if this masterpiece is anything to go by, I’m going to search them out and try a few more of their beers.

Weird Beard Brew Co - Decadence Stout 5.5%
Presented in a nicely decorated can, this is another beer which is full on and in your face. Jet black and extremely lively; this is what stout should taste like. Thick and full-bodied, with plenty of mouth feel.  Rich with chocolate and roast coffee flavours with a touch of creaminess from the use of oats in the grist, this beer punches way above its 5.5% ABV strength.

Weird Beard Brew Co. As the brewery slogan says, "No gimmicks, no crap and never knowingly under hopped. Just great hand-crafted beer brewed in West London."

 Left Hand Brewing Company - Black Jack Porter 6.8%
I’ve enjoyed this excellent porter before, at a British Guild of Beer Writers function, back in August. The beer tastes every bit as good as it did previously, pouring with a jet black colour, but with surprisingly little head.

Brewed by the Left Hand Brewing Company of Longmont, Colorado, this fine example of an American brewed porter has a lush malty sweetness with chocolate and coffee notes, balanced by a slightly spicy hopiness. Like many strong beers, this one slips down rather too easily!


If you would like to send me beers to review, please be aware that I will give a totally honest opinion of your product. If I like it, then great, but if for some reason I don’t, then I will say so. 

If the beer is not to my taste, but has been brewed correctly, and is not suffering from off-flavours, then I will again be honest. I will probably say that the beer in question is a good example of the style in question, but it just doesn’t float my boat! You can’t say fairer than that!

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