I'm currently writing this from a secret location, the reasons for which will be become clearer as this review progresses. I don't usually pour beer down the sink (yadda yadda UN Law yadda yadda  yadda yadda crimes against humanity). It goes against every fibre of my being to do so. I very rarely come across a beer that I despise or that offends me so much that I need to break the 11th commandment "Thou Shalt Not Pour Beer Down The Sink" (the bottom fell off the stone tablet when Moses picked it up and he missed it out on the scriptures). But, as they say, there's a first time for everything.
I'll admit it. I poured some of today's subject, Hook Norton Double Stout away last night. Not the full bottle, mind - about half (of a 500ml bottle) I'd say. And so I'm in hiding, waiting for the blue helmeted UN Peacekeepers to show up to take me away, never to be seen again...
And the weird thing is, I don't even think this is the worst beer I've ever tasted. It wasn't that it was particularly offensive to my senses. I didn't feel like I had to rip my tongue out whilst drinking it, lest the taste linger on my palate forever. And I didn't feel that I had to tear out my eyes to stop the image of the bottle burning itself into my vision. It's more that I just became so bored drinking it, that I felt that it was the lesser of two evils to dispose of it, rather than suffer through the ignominy of trying to finish it.
On paper, it sounded exactly my type of thing; not just a stout, but a double stout. I mean, that's like ...counts fingers ...four times as much stout as normal. Or something. It pours jet black - it's like, how much more black can this be. And the answer is - none more black. It's as dark as your ex-partners heart, damn them to hell. It's so dark, that you can see your own inner darkness reflected back at you, amplified to the extreme. It wasn't my fault - it wasn't! I was never to blame!
It's described on the Hook Norton website as smelling of "coffee, liquorice, roasted". Well, it does smell roasted. One from three ain't bad, I suppose...? And the taste is described as "burnt, oaky, dry". "Burnt" flavour? Since when was that a selling point? If it was, then come to my house for dinner - I'm good at burning stuff. Haute cuisine, indeed. "Oaky"? So... like, a tree? I guess if your name is Treebeard, then that might be a selling point.
What it actually tastes like, is peat. Really peaty. Excessively peaty. Like someone substituted all the grain bill in the beer for a big wad of peat and mashed it for a few hours. And I guess it does taste a bit smoky or burnt, but not in a pleasant way. More like someone burned that wad of peat from earlier on a fire for a day or two, before bunging it in the mash. And like tree bark, so I guess the "oaky" reference was right then? Happy quaffing, Lord Fangorn. Hrum hrum.
So it's basically boozy, peat and bark flavoured water. Peat flavour may be sought after in whisky (for some reason), but I don't like whisky, so having it in a beer doesn't do it for me.
And the thing is - despite what I've just said above, it doesn't actually taste bad. It's unpleasant, sure - it sort of hits the back of your throat, like you've smoked a couple of Hamlet cigars - but it's not really bad. It's just boring. At no point whilst drinking this stout did I think "This is awful". I was too busy fighting back the case of complete amnesia that seemed to be falling over after me while drinking it. Where am I again? Who are you? Who am I?!
I didn't feel like I wanted to finish the bottle. Even when I drink a particularly bad beer, I still force myself to finish it, rather than face the wrath of the UN Forces. That's just how it works - it's still beer after all. But this - it's just so meh, that I just sort of forgot I had half a bottle to go and eventually just disposed of it.
And the worst thing about all this? This was one of the beers I bought earlier in the day yesterday to bring in the New Year and I'd saved it especially for the bells, as it sounded awesome. So Happy frigging New Year, eh? Pah.