26 September 2008

Darkness falls

And so to the far end of the colour chart at the European Beer Festival: those lovely black beers. Of course, I've already written about a fair few of the good ones in with my posts about Mikkeller and the US breweries, but there's always room for more.

I'm quite a fan of Heineken's Krušovice brand, so was delighted to see Krušovice Dark, which I haven't had in many years, available in bottles on one of the stands. I liked it: very dry and quite sharp in that mouth-watering schwarzbier sort of way. Holbæk Bryghus claimed that their Munkholmer was a stout/schwarzbier hybrid, but it definitely tasted much more like the latter, though with a nice touch of fruit amongst the dryness that would have me calling it a plain porter more than anything else. Nothing wrong with that. Lund Teknik also had a Dry Stout on display, promising lots of roasted barley on the nose but having quite an understated roast flavour, with a hint of caramel to lift the dryness. Well balanced and very drinkable.

Sadly, Wintercoat Oatmeal Stout was a much less pleasant experience, with some nasty phenolic marker-pen notes in it, but not much else: the complete opposite of Engbo by DaCAPO, a marvellously full-bodied and roasty simple, no-nonsense, high-quality session stout.

There was lots of woodiness apparent among the dark beers. Like Black Oak, a porter from Braunstein. Here the wood is fresh and fragrant, with the rich roasted flavours only arriving afterwards. Similarly with the very sweet Roskilde Imperial Stout by Det Lille-- freshly hewn timber dripping with sap is what I got here. A more mature woody character comes with Struise's Black Albert, a dry, sour, and oaky imperial stout. Det Lille's Roskilde Oak Aged Porter, was perhaps the most complex of them all, possessed of that strange sweet-dry character which aged malty beers take on, plus smoke, nuts and a touch of phenolic booziness.

I spent the early part of the Saturday afternoon camped out on the soft furniture of Carlsberg subsidiary Kongens Bryghus. When the dirty looks of the staff became too much I opted to try the brewery's "Caribbean Porter" Vestindisk. I'm glad I did too: it's a wonderfully smooth and smoky beer. Not especially challenging; easy-going but tasty. Another simple but suppable black one came from Stensbogaarde: their English Dark Stout is very heavy and sweet -- sticky but not too sticky. One of several beers I'd have liked a pint of.

Some good sweet milk chocolate notes in Stormakst porter by Närke of Sweden, sitting on a huge thick treacly body. Svaneke's Choko Stout is, obviously, chocolatier still, with much more besides. Cocoa, fudge and sweet tobacco say my notes. I must have liked it. The award for chocolate beer with no actual chocolate in, however, goes to BrewPub's cask porter Cole. This is light-bodied yet very creamy and loaded with chocolate and molasses. BrewPub has come a long way from what they were serving back in 2005.

And that's the dark beers put away. But I'm not quite done with Copenhagen just yet...

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