27 May 2013

Black marks

I didn't go near the Struise stall at the Zythos Beer Festival this year. A glance at their huge menu board showed lots of beers I'd already tried and none I wanted to run back to. At Borefts they'd been charging multiples of what most other stands did and I wasn't going to bother finding out if they were running the same policy closer to home. So I brought my sour grapes to other stalls instead.

I did have a couple of Struis bottles waiting in the fridge at home, however, both of the dark and strong variety. First out was Black Damnation: Coffee Club: number 4 in the sequence, following "Mocha Bomb" in the weaponised caffeine drinks series. The blurb makes no mention of actual coffee here, only that this 13% ABV imperial stout is based on Struise's Black Albert and has been matured in rum casks, but one sniff demonstrates clearly how it got its name: there's a massive blast of coffee in the aroma, and quite a bit of rum too. Worryingly there's a fair whack of cardboard as well, suggesting that the amateurish label wasn't the only part of the packaging process that wasn't done as carefully as it might have been.

The rum elements in the aroma translate into a strong booze heat in the flavour, with a slight sourness and some lovely porty vinous qualities. The oxidised staleness is thankfully buried deep beneath this and, once you get used to the heat, it's actually quite a nice sipper. Not one of those that sneaks its alcohol on you: you feel every unit going in.

And because you can't have too many strong dark beers, here's Outblack, a milksop of just 10% ABV, brewed in association with Stillwater and boasting a grain bill including barley, wheat, oats and rye. Once again they're not out to be subtle so I can't honestly say what each grain brought to the finished product, but it is pretty damn full-on. Once the over-enthusiastic head subsides there's a hot-and-sour liquorice aroma and a flavour of dark liqueur chocolates. Some sort of brandy liqueurs, if I was guessing, though perhaps shading towards cough mixture.

Despite the best efforts of the busy carbonation to mask them, the flavours just kept on coming and before I was done I had noted menthol as well, plus -- oh no -- more of the wet cardboard I could smell in the Coffee Club. While the other elements kept shifting, that staleness stayed consistent on the end of each mouthful right to the very bottom. A lot going on in this one, but it's still something of a curate's egg, unfortunately.

You can't mark Struise down for being uninteresting or not putting the effort in, but too often the quality of the beers just isn't what it should be for a brewery that garners their level of acclaim.

1 comment:

  1. enjoyed a bottle of black mes at the weekend, none of the staleness you mentioned but certainly very alcohol heavy