Sunday, April 3, 2011

Dark Star Brewing Company: Espresso Stout

Just a side note: I wrote this review during earth hour, by candlelight and later transferred it to this site. Thought it would be a nice way to support earth hour by using no electricity for the entire hour :] Anyhow, down to the beer. A little bit of background on the brewer just so you know where the beer comes from. Dark Star Brewing Co is based in Horsham, England, just south of London. The name for the brewery comes from the song from the Grateful Dead, Dark Star. They first opened their doors in 1994 and initially operated from the basement of The Evening Star Pub in Brighton. They have 6 core brews as well as Seasonal and Monthly Releases. The beers range in strength from 4 - 7% and this very Espresso Stout won the best Specialty Ale in the world award in 2009.

I also believe this may be my first time reviewing a coffee beer on the blog. And for those of you that just perked up, "Huh? Coffee beer?" Yes. Coffee beer. The two go hand in hand, that I can assure you. There are many different kinds of coffee beer out on the market today. Straight coffee beers, coffee porters, coffee stouts, beers brewed with actual coffee beans, freshly ground espresso, fresh brewed coffee and even some with coffee extracts. The one thing that is true, is that the world of coffee beers is quite large and a very popular style of beer today.

But coffee in beer? Really this one is a no brainer. Take a look at your next cup of coffee, and then take a look at your next stout or porter. See the resemblance? Both are very dark, sometimes with a nice foamy cream or tan colored head. The flavours of coffee and dark beers are synonymous. The process used to produce both are very similar if not exactly the same. The length of the roast will determine how strong or dark the flavour of the coffee or the beer will be. The bitterness from coffee is welcomed as well. I will take an excerpt from tasting notes on the Pike Place Roast from Starbucks (because everyone knows Starbucks, and Pike Place Roast is the first thing that came to mind): "With a smoother finish and subtle flavors of cocoa and toasted nuts..." Oh yeah, sound familar? Of course, it could be a beer. So yes, next time you purchase a nice bag of coffee have a look on the side of the bag. Most likely they'll have tasting notes and you'll see that in fact, the flavours in coffee and dark beers do align. Now to the tasting notes of the Dark Star Espresso Stout...

Name: Dark Star Espresso
Category/Style: Stout
ABV: 4.2%
IBU: Unknown
OG: Unknown
FG: Unknown
Malt Type(s): Roasted Barley
Hop Type(s): Challenger
Yeast Type: Unknown
Special Additives: Arabica Espresso Beans
Bottled: Unknown
Bottle Size: 500 mL
Location Purchased: de Bierkoning, Amsterdam, Netherlands

The Pour: Black. Tried shining light thought this, & it doesn't work. At the very edge it is dark crimson, but straight through nothing penetrates. Head is cream colored, not thick by any means, some lacing.

The Nose: Incredible. Lots of dark roasted notes, black pepper & coffee. Charred burnt character shines through. I'm picking up smoke, ash, cacao nibs, dark chocolate and a bit of acidity. Slight malty sweetness and a bit of bread crust, but dominated by coffee (as it should be). Ok enough torture, going for a taste.

The Taste: Smooth, low carbonation. Roasted, burnt notes; coffee bitterness, slight astrigency, dark chocolate, cacao nibs, a touch of smoke midway through. A hint of spicy black pepper and earth. Finish is coffee bitterness & cocoa powder, needless to say it's a rather dry finish. Tough to distinguish hop bitterness from the roasted malt and coffee. The body is light, low on the carbonation, and smooth, but extremely rich and full flavored.

The Verdict: Ahh the verdict. Yes yes, so the Dark Star Espresso won the award for best Specialty Ale in the World Beer Awards in 2009. And that's when I first read about it, but before coming to Amsterdam, never had the privilege of trying a sample. I do love my Coffee Beers. And when I saw this sitting on the shelf at de Bierkoning, I had to buy a bottle. I have come across a handful of delicious coffee beers throughout my journey through the world of beer; to name a few of my favorites: The Arctic Rhino Coffee Porter from Midnight Sun, incredible, and Cafe Frog from Rogue Ales (brewed in Issaquah). So how does this Espresso Stout stack up to my favorites? Pretty well actually. I would need a side by side comparison to see which one was my ultimate favorite, but I liked this beer quite a bit. It was much more rich than I would have predicted; it was perfect for savouring. A slight hint of smoke, and lots of coffee. I recently had a coffee stout from another brewery (not going to mention names here) that promised loads of coffee flavor and aroma. It was overly rich, and the coffee was masked and not able to dominate the brew. If I buy a coffee beer, I want to taste a beer dominated by coffee, and Dark Star has achieved exactly this. Back home in Seattle you might check Bottleworks and see if they're selling this. It's definitely worth a try if you're into coffee or dark beer or both :P

Thanks for reading!


1 comment:

Jeff said...

Sounds delicious! Although I'm not a fan of dark/bitter beer, this might get a try.