01 May 2017

The Nether darkness

Ask me about imperial stout in the Netherlands and I'll mention De Molen in the first sentence. Any sane person would. But the thrill of finding great strong dark beers from other Dutch breweries on my recent trip to Utrecht meant I brought a few home from brewers I was less familiar with.

But first this intriguing little number by De Prael in Amsterdam. The tidy little stubby is, I guess, intended to resemble a milk bottle, for it is Tony's Chocolate Milk Stout. This is a modest 4.9% ABV but could pass for lighter, being all about the smooth easy-going sweetness with nothing too upsetting in the way. Light milky chocolate is the beginning and end of the foretaste and this gets complicated only by a touch of light roast afterwards. The creamy texture is fun, and I suspect that's the bit the brewer put most work into achieving: it kinda does taste and feel like chocolate milk. But if I wanted chocolate milk I'd buy chocolate milk. As a stout it's just a bit too sweet and bland.

In Utrecht I had liked what Two Chefs were doing so acquired a bottle of their Dirty Katerina imperial stout. Even though it's brewed in Belgium it has that beautiful blend of freshly ground coffee and sweet juicy summer fruit that I associate with Dutch imperial stout in particular. And despite 10.5% ABV there's a very light touch throughout, with creamy milk chocolate, ripe strawberries and a gently drying bitter tang in the finish. It's very nicely done, to the point where I had to ask which barrels were used to achieve it and then remind myself that it's all straight-up from the fermenter. Lovely stuff.

The second one is Klein Duimpje Imperial Stout, again at 10.5% ABV. It took ages after opening to find out what this tastes like as the carbonation is insanely high, forming an ever-renewing tan head on top of the opaque black body. This is much more, I dunno, mainstream, or something. It's heavy and harsh, drastically plastiky with an abrupt hard dryness in the finish. The middle of the experience is fine, with a light espresso and rye bread dark roast, but the uncouth plastic twang leaps in much too quickly, spoiling everything. The end result is a Dutch imperial stout that leaves me wanting good Dutch imperial stout.

You pays your money and you takes your choice, and in my case you does it pretty much at random. When sifting through what runs past, however, it's worth hitting the occasional Klein Duimpje to get those nuggets of Two Chefs. Or just buy another bottle of De Molen Rasputin and leave me to worry about the rest.


  1. "Tony's Chocolonely" is a Dutch ethical chocolate brand with very similar lettering; I wonder if De Prael have a partnership deal going.

    1. Oh right. I assumed Tony was a crooner, in keeping with the De Prael brand strategy.