In our new XL series, we take a previous topic from our weekly email and expand upon it, giving you a bit more of an insight into the various topics. We won’t lie, this idea is completely ripped off of QI, but we felt that as some people wanted more information than what 100 words in an email could provide, it would be worthwhile using our blog to provide a bit more detail. We hope this series goes some way to helping with your insatiable desire for all things beer related!

Dark Side of the Sun

For the first of our series, we decided to look at dark beers that you’d want to drink on a hot, sunny day. Not just because it gave us a mildly witty title, but rather because there are a plethora of great dark beers that should be drunk when it’s warm but are often overlooked in favour of their paler cousins.  It’s often assumed that all dark beers are stouts, and that all stouts are going to be heavy with a big body and minimal refreshing qualities. Whilst this is sometimes true, it’s certainly not a given. They can be just as bright as a pale ale or lager, their darkness just giving a different backbone and dimension to the beer. So instead of adding a sixth pale ale to the collection of beers you are taking to the park, instead look to some of these for some summer’s day drinking.

Wild Beer Co. – Sourbeest

Wild Beer Sourbeest
Wild Beer Co. are experts at giving us unusual but always excellent creations, and this one is no different. Whilst this may not shout refreshing, being based on their 11% Imperial Stout, Wildebeest, this is an entirely different beer. Once the grain has been mashed and sparged, they continue the sparging and collect these second runnings. Because many of the starches from the grain have already been converted, less fermentable sugars are created in this second running and the yeast is unable to produce as much alcohol during fermentation. Whilst this wort is cooling, they let it come into direct contact with the air, allowing wild yeast and bacteria access to the beer. This spontaneous fermentation is the same process by which lambic beers are brewed in the Zenne valley in Belgium. Unlike the carefully cultured brewer’s yeast in beers, wild yeast can have far more… wild… results. The resulting beer was then placed into oak barrels to ferment over a number of months. This allows the yeast time to properly get to work and create the desired flavours. The result is an incredibly rich sour beer, reminiscent of Flemish Reds such as Rodenbach Grand Cru. There is a vinous quality to the beer with a light vinegar flavour that persists throughout. This is backed up by flavours of dark cherries and grapes. Like it’s bigger brother, there are hints of a coffee bitterness that is toned back here to suit the lower ABV. This beers ends on a funky sourness that is not lip pursing but incredibly refreshing.

If you like this beer try Rodenbach’s Grand Cru or Burning Sky’s Flander’s Red.

Beavertown – Holy Cowbell

Beavertown Holy Cowbell
To be honest, we could have chosen any number of Beavertown beers for this topic. Having promised to never make “just an IPA”, they have definitely created beers that make the ‘pale’ in IPA redundant. In the end we settled with choosing their Holy Cowbell, because unlike the Black Betty it has a more sessional ABV. They have decided to call this beer an India Stout, and that pretty much describes this beer. It is a mashup of styles, a mixtape consisting of a stout malt profile supporting the hoppy high notes of an IPA. Some might call this a black IPA, but we’ll stick with India Stout to avoid being drawn into any arguments. An aroma of tropical fruits from the hops and dark chocolate and coffee from the malt meld together seamlessly. Drinking this beer is a test in Orwellian Doublethink, your brain trying to convince you, you are drinking not one beer, but two. However, in the end, neither aspect of the beer tries to dominate. Instead the dark roasted flavours from the malt act as a spring board for the fresh, hops flavours – the bright characteristics from the hops allowed to shine even clearer against a dark backdrop. Do not mistake this beer as an exercise in weirdness, this is an incredible fusion of styles. As perfect on a beach as it would be whilst in front of a fire, this beer goes against the idea of needing to have seasonal beers.

If you like this beer try Weird Beard’s Fade to Black or Hammerton’s Baron H

Saugatuck – Neapolitan

Saugatuck Neapolitan
If I say summer, what do you instantly think of ? Ice cream? Strawberries? Beer? Chocolate? Dreams of a future when your parents have invested in a sat-nav to avoid navigational based arguments in the South of France? If that list of buzz words and one slightly personal memory have made you nostalgic for neapolitan ice cream, then we’ve got the beer for you – the aptly named Neapolitan. On first sight this beer might appear gimmicky, but even gimmicks can be great. To a standard stout base, lactose is added, leading it to become a milk stout. Lactose, the sugar in milk, is unable to be broken down by yeast, causing it to stay in a beer, giving the beer a bigger body and touch of sweetness on the finish. Chocolate, strawberry and vanilla extract are then added to give it that neapolitan flavour we desire. Whilst ice cream rarely smells, the aroma from this beer is exactly what one would imagine you’d receive if a neapolitan ice cream were to have an aroma. Again, when tasting this beer, it does not disappoint. No one could buy this beer in the expectation of it being something different. Dark, with hints of roasted chocolate and sweetness from the vanilla and strawberries, it definitely lives up to its name. For the more adventurous, adding a dollop of real ice cream will let you create a beery twist on the classic Coke float. Summer deserts are now sorted.

If you like this beer try Bristol Beer Factory’s Milk Stout or Wiper & True’s Milk Shake