Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Dark Beers

I know that winter's nearly over now and that spring is just around the corner. It may therefore seem a strange time of year to be writing about dark beers, especially when this type of beer is normally sold in the winter months, but I am writing this article primarily to bemoan the fact that not many pubs seem to sell the darker ales.

This is a great shame, especially for someone like me who loves the style. Before we go any further I would like to emphasise that I am not talking about Guinness when I refer to dark ales; instead I am talking about old ales, porters, strong ales and barley wines, and even that real pub rarity these days, cask-conditioned stout.

I have this moan every year, disappointed at the lack of dark beers in the area's pubs. There are a few notable exceptions; Harveys own tied pubs usually have their excellent Old Ale on sale over a long period from October through to March, whilst there are a few outlets that sell the superb Larkins Porter (the brewery's own tied pub, the Rock at Chiddingstone Hoath and the equally unspoilt Spotted Dog, at nearby Smart's Hill, spring to mind). The bee lover's paradise that is the Halfway House at Brenchley will normally have at least one dark ale on tap - usually something from Kings. In addition, landlord Richard will also have a mild on tap. Slightly further afield, the Rose & Crown at Halstead, winner of this year's West Kent CAMRA pub of the year award, normally has a mild on offer, and will sometimes feature an old ale as well.

These pubs are unfortunately the exception , rather than the rule. I really do wonder though why pub landlords are so un-adventurous. When my wife and I had our beer shop, we always tried to have a dark beer on sale at weekends during the winter months. They were always popular with the customers, and invariably sold out over the course of the weekend. Those licensees that do sell the darker ales, all say the same thing; these beers inevitably sell like the proverbial hot cakes, so why is it so many landlords prefer to play safe and stick to one or two well-known, trusted brands of bitter?

Tomorrow evening I will be visiting the Anchor in Sevenoaks, which is hosting a showcase of beers from the excellent Westerham Brewery. I have no doubt the company's Puddledock Porter will be available and I am hoping that their superb Audit Ale (an occasional beer brewed to the original Westerham Brewery recipe) will also be available.

In the meantime, whilst typing this article, I am enjoying a bottle of Pivovar Herold, a superb black lager from the Czech Republic. Last night I enjoyed the equally good Joulu Porter, from the A. Le Coq Brewery - one of several beers I brought back with me from my recent trip to Tallinn. I still have a bottle of Saku Porter to try; after that its back to the Fullers Porter for home consumption.


Graeme said...

I have not tried many of these "Dark Beers" but I have got quite fond of strong bottled Ales such as Hen's Tooth and Crafty Hen and even the devastating Golden Pride (better only have a couple).
I did try Fullers London Porter and it was very good but a tad sweet for me.

Ale Fan said...

I think Fullers London Porter is probably my favourite porter and I enjoy dark lager (even Heineken Dark) but after British dark ales dunkel wheat beers are truly fantastic

Alan Macdonald said...

I buy Pivovar Herold dark lager regularly. It really is good. Just wish it was slightly cheaper.