It's strange. We've been running this site for over a month now, running our mouths off like the sad, pathetic eejits that we are and so far, we've somehow managed to avoid the huge elephant in the room. Or dog, to be more precise...
Somehow, we've managed to avoid reviewing any Brewdog beers. Until now.
I'm not entirely sure how to feel about Brewdog as a company. I mean sure, it could be said that they are leading the charge for British (nay, WORLD) craft beer, at the vanguard of a revolution that - God willing - will continue to burn for a long while to come. But at the same time, some of their legal practices recently could be regarded as ...iffy?
This shouldn't affect my opinion on their beer though. I'm supposed to be entirely neutral when it comes to my opinions on the wet stuff. The background, the noise about a brewery, shouldn't make the slightest bit of difference. The fact is, Brewdog are in the position they are in because they make some bloody good beers. For all their 'punk' bluster, at their heart, they really do know their beer and they aren't afraid to push the envelope. Which is why it's kind of amusingly ironic that I've chosen one of their brews that could be regarded as more 'traditional' compared to their other fare.
On paper, Jet Black Heart should be exactly the kind of beer I enjoy. This milk stout is described on their website having 'roasty malt flavours of coffee and chocolate, bound to a decadent full-bodied richness', which is all marketing bollocks for 'it tastes like coffee and chocolate and its smooth', but who can blame them for wanting to blow their own trumpet, when the end product is actually very, very good.
Pouring, like its name suggests, jet black, you get a small head of light brown foam - sort of similar to what you'd see on a freshly made cappuccino. This doesn't last long and seems to dissipate away to almost nothing a minute or so after pouring, but honestly, that doesn't bother me at all. We're not drinking Guinness here. Whisper it - a huge foamy head isn't necessary. Poking my oversized hooter into the glass and inhaling deeply, I get a huge smokey coffee hit, with a little bit of sweet vanilla chocolate in the background. All good so far.
Taking a big swig from the glass, the first thing you taste is the big coffee hit hinted at from the aroma. There's a dry, smokiness about it as well, that mellows into a just-on-the- edge-of-being-too-bitter-but-not-quite dark chocolate flavour. Once you swallow, you get even more complexity, with the chocolate flavour mellowing into a sweet, milky, vanilla flavour, with only a hint of the bitterness from before present. And all this flavour packed up in a silky smooth texture, like liquid velvet. I commented before in the Flavourly Pillow Fight article that that stout was the smoothest thing I'd ever tasted, but Jet Black Heart runs it really close, without the stupid marshmallow gimmick. This is just grain, water, hops and yeast, all perfectly balanced to create a really tasty, complex stout.
Do I have anything negative to say about the beer? If I was going to hyper-critical - play Devil's advocate, if you will - it's all a bit too perfect (is that really a criticism?!). I guess what I mean by that is, sometimes there are small idiosyncrasies when you drink 'craft beer' that let you know that it is 'craft beer'. That may be the fact that the beer hasn't been filtered, so could be cloudy (not really relevant for a stout!), or there may be slight variations in flavour between bottles, due to difficulties in getting each brew exactly the same. But this is just - for want of a better word - perfect? It's just so well done, as to not really classify as 'craft beer' anymore. It's transcended the craft moniker and become something else, something beyond classification.
So I doff my hat to Brewdog. Whatever reservations I had about the company before I drank this superb beer proved to be completely unfounded (and irrelevant). Maybe it's that whole British thing, where talent and success are looked down upon for some reason? Root for the little guy, but when the little guy does well for himself and moves up in the world, frown at his success? Whatever the reason, this is a great beer that I'll definitely check out again and which will probably turn me onto Brewdog again in the future.