Ohhhh, why it has taken us this long to do a proper Stout review I could not tell you. The satisfaction of pouring that smooth nectar into a glass, the rich blackness and light beige head, the thick malty smell. It’s one of those smells that takes over your head, you can feel it massaging your sinuses, it’s heady, it’s inviting, it’s bloody tasty.
This offering from Hook Norton is a ‘hand crafted’ ale from Hook Norton in the Cotswolds. With a recipe over 100 years old it has only been (relatively) recently produced again since dying off in 1917. It even won the World Beer Awards ‘Best Dry Stout in Europe’. It’s got the accolades, it’s got the history, but does it have the taste?
Admiring this black beauty of a bevvy, the carbonation is slight, bubbles languidly break the surface – it’s too dense to see any streaming. The glass feels heavier in my hand than usual (I sound like a beer salesman’s wet dream right now), and I cannot wait to have this inside me. Many of my friends are intimidated by the blackness of Stout. Guinness was not a fashionable drink in my youth (yet I pounded quite a few). This is definitely not a beer to be scared of.
After the first hit I’m already considering putting its number in my phone; sadly I realise this is a beer and most likely does not have opposable thumbs to work a touchscreen. But alas, with the rain against my window, I am with an old friend. It’s not too strong of a beer, measuring in at a bottle conditioned 4.8%, but the malt mix makes it feel bolder and sturdier than that. It’s dry, my tongue feels like it’s shrivelling after each sip. It steals the moisture in my mouth replacing it with an arid bitterness, it encourages you to consume more, grab some respite from the wrinkling of the roof of your mouth with more liquid. And I love it.
This is not a refreshing beer. It’s heavy and thick, bitter and dry. I don’t think I could drink more than two of these at any one time, but by Zues, my beard has gotten thicker (and redder, thanks genes) and my voice just dropped an octave. I have been supping quickly, it’s moreish, like chocolate, coating your mouth and as the lingering aftertaste begins to recede it leaves you wanting more.
Thank you Hook Norton and your hand-crafted delight, we’ll be Stouting a lot more from now on.