Shorter daylight hours, needing to put socks on while I’m home, and even looking at getting old footy guernseys out for warmth….it all means that the Bledisloe is just around the corner!
It also means that I can start trying to convince you to start cracking those bigger, fuller tasting beers.
You know the ones I mean, the ones that you pour into a glass, and enjoy while out on your patio with mates in 15 degrees. Those darker beers, stouts and porters, even some of the strong ales are perfect for this time of the year, you can pour them into a glass, and, because they are often better as they warm, you can solve the problems of the world as you blissfully sip away.
Porters and stouts are part of the ale family of beers, alcohol percentages that can range anywhere from about four percent alcohol to whopping double figures alcohol for the Imperial Stouts. Both stouts and porters have a diverse range of tastes, from heavy chocolaty and roasted characters, coffees and toffees, to quite bitter Irish Stouts, while Milk Stout, named for the fact that it uses the milk sugar, lactose, has a little more sweetness to it.
These darker ales are often thought of as a just a winter’s drop, but in truth, they match so well with a range of foods and situations. Sure, no one is going to finish mowing the yard in summer and say to themselves “what I need now is a pint of Guinness”, but later in the afternoon when you have cooled down, and are sitting back looking for a beer to contemplate on what a fine job you have done, then this is where these beers come into their own! I think I’ve said here before that Toohey’s Old is one of the best breakfast beers you will ever find. In fact I’ve thrown the elderly, frail and children out of the way to get to the bar when I find out its on tap!
Porters match well with roasted and smoked foods, meats coming off the barbeque, blackened Cajun fish. Stouts are great with rich stews, pies, and both are fantastic with oysters and desserts.
The dark colours and strong flavours are created by the use of darker malts and crystal malts. Darker malts such as amber, chocolate and roasted malts are pale malts that have been roasted for varying degrees. The more time the malted barley spends in the kiln, drying and roasting, takes it though toffee, chocolate, coffee and finally to roasted/burnt and astringent characters. Crystal malt are slightly different in that they aren’t kiln dried before they are roasted, which results in a crystal like build up around the barley.
Neither crystal nor roasted malts have any residual enzyme activity, so the brewers still rely on the use of pale malts in the brewing of these beers for the enzymes needed for fermentation to begin.
Whether you love or hate these darker beers, by at least being open to trying them, you open yourself to a new world of tastes and flavours. Beers that are often more contemplation than a weapon of mass consumption.
And who knows, you might find one you like.
Great Australian Dark Ales:
White Rabbit Brewery Dark Ale – part of the Little World Beverages group, the parent company of Little Creatures. This beer proves that not all dark beers hit you like a mouth full of charcoal. It’s lighter in taste and super easy drink, lingering coffee and caramel notes. A favourite around the tasting table. Great with chocolate desserts, and aged crumbly cheddar.
Toohey’s Old – aromas of charcoal and dark malts, great on the tongue with a slight cigar tobacco aftertaste that fades after the first few mouthfuls. I’ve spent a lot of time with getting to know Old, and find it more “sessionable” than “quiet contemplation” beer. Great with mates and a Sunday session…..and breakfast.
Cascade Stout – a really deep, dark, rich colour with tinges of mahogany around the edges of the glass. It’s a great version of an Aussie Stout, full bodied, strong roast flavour and a touch of nuttiness and chocolate to it too. Slightly bitter aftertaste that is quite pleasant. Great with big thick snags coming off the barbeque
Coopers Extra Stout – Coopers always seem to take a beer to the next level. This is one that may not appeal to everyone though, its smooth, full bodied, that leaves the mouth with a creamy feeling, great from the bottle, better from the glass. Toasty coffee, caramel and chocolate, with hints of dark fruits, nice bitterness and a lingering aftertaste, that some find a touch astringent. Think this would be great with rabbit, and Irish style pork snags.
James Squire Jack of Spades Porter – dark black beer with a tinge of mahogany around the edges. Mix of cocoa, dark chocolate and some toast and coffee notes on the nose. The dark roasted flavours really dominate this, with a slight bitterness and a lingering aftertaste. Bigger than both the Old and White Rabbit, and even more flavoursome than the Coopers. I quite liked it, but one of my fellow tasters were put off by the dominate tastes from the roasted malts. Try it while trying to solve the major problems of the world, contemplating your navel, or just watching the world go by.