So, apparently this will be 2 reviews in a row from me (or if I'm being extra generous, 3, since this will a review of 2 beers) which is almost unheard of in the world of BeersWotIHaveDrunk, given how prolific Andy can be at producing site content. Don't worry folks, I have checked, he is alive. The 2 week absence had me concerned too - thought maybe he'd had a sudden change of lifestyle and decided to go sober and vegan, shave and start listening to Little Mix. Thankfully, I think, none of that, except possibly the latter will come to pass. Armageddon is not upon us.
As these things sometimes manage to align themselves, I found myself left with 3 beers in the fridge this week. All of which were stouts from what I'd consider opposing positions - can you have 3 opposites? Either way that's where I ended up. Firstly I have Van Vollenhoven & Co's Extra Stout which was the last of the Beer52 Amsterdam case I got at the start of the month. I also had a good friend leave me with a bottle of Guinness Foreign Extra Stout after a drink and catch up session at my gaff last week. People leaving beer in the fridge after a get together is one of life's little bonus moments. Finally, and almost inexplicably, another friend who claims to have 'too many beers' at the moment brought me in a couple of Bath Ales he got in a set including their Dark Side stout. Now, I'm mostly going to gloss over the 'Too Much Beer' situation as I'm not one to look a gift horse in the mouth as they say. But, I hope I never end up in a position where I have too much. That being said, I am as always eternally grateful for the donation and always happy to accept.
Now, going back to my 3 opposites comment from before. The reason I say that about these beers is more from a brewer perspective. Guinness is a giant, an undeniable superpower in the stout world and in beer generally given their recent branching out. It is a brand that simply oozes prestige and is revered from all corners. Bath Ales on the other hand are a relative newcomer being not much over 20years old and I don't think I'd be unkind in saying many folk may not have come across them before but they have a decent presence including John Lewis stocking them as a gift set range. Something I have to admit almost puts me off a bit. But in this case we'll not hold it against them. Van Vollenhoven though being the outsider here - none of my associates on Untappd had checked it in before me and at only 3.4k check-ins was half that of Dark Side and less than a tenth of the Guinness one. But, let's not judge a book by a cover, but rather how it tastes.
As I said though, I'm only reviewing 2 of the 3 on this occasion. I'm doing this for 2 reasons, 1. I haven't actually cracked the Guinness one although I have had it before, almost a year ago. 2. I did review it previously for Instagram prior to starting the site and my Untappd profile. So I'm not going to go over old ground on this occasion. So... Let's get started.
The Dutch contender. Van Vollenhoven & Co's (don't try to say after a few jars) Extra Stout. Now, I'm a huge fan of stouts and porters and all things dark and monstrous. Often my most favourable reviews have been of Stouts/Porters - you only have to look at Beer of the Year winner Samuel Smith's Organic Chocolate Stout for proof of that. So, there is a pretty high bar set. VV absolutely smash this one out the park though. In terms of the Beer52 case I didn't half leave the best to last. I'd been slightly ambivalent at the Amsterdam offerings finding them a bit bland. But, in true Corleone fashion - Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in! This is gorgeous stuff. Pours absolutely pitch black into the glass and develops a nice caramel coloured bubbly head. The aroma gives you the malt and toffee preview of the flavours soon to follow. It has a very rich, chocolate and coffee body that explodes in your mouth, more lively than expected from a stout. Slight bitterness but just divine. It should be noted that this is the 2017- release rather than it's rather poorly received predecessor. The 2013-2014 edition received a rather unanimous panning online. There does look to be a change of Brewery in the interim which may have contributed to the change in fortunes or possibly the recipe was tweaked. Either way, whatever they done, it's hit the nail on the head and they have themselves a winner.
And... Breathe... All good? Great... lets crack on...
So, we have arrived at Bath Ales... and no, before you think that's a brilliant idea, these are NOT beers specifically designed to be drank while in the bath, or in Bath. As previously noted this was given to me as it was somehow surplus to requirements. Something of an oxymoron surely as Beer is always required and should be an effective solution to most of life's problems. One of which will not be, I have too much beer. BK. Just saying.
Dark Side is tagged by Bath Ales as being- "Our Superbly Smooth Stout". Well alright then. Sign me up. We are on a roll anyway. As I said early on, the fact this has made it onto the John Lewis shelves in the gift pack made me a little uneasy and sceptical about this one. I tend to, probably incorrectly, assume that it means someone somewhere sold their soul and that of their first born to the retail giants in order to get themselves that high end spot. I feel uncomfortable with it. I don't know why. But, Dark Side more than delivers on its promise. It pours thinner than I expected but it is by no means watery - just not quite as heavy a body as either Irish or the Dutch contingent. It also sports a decent creamy head although a little short-lived I'd say. Similarly a rich choc/coffee body but not as intense or punchy - you accept that though especially given it is only 4% versus the 7.1% VV. But it is very smooth. I also left the beer for a while about half way through... running about after a 2 years old causing Tasmanian Devil like chaos - and returned to it in a room temperature state. Now, we all know there are varying levels of ideal temp for different beers. I do prefer straight from the fridge for the most part but I'll let certain ones come up a few degrees - such as stouts and porters. On this occasion that turned out to be a pretty favourable set of circumstances as the last half of the generous 500ml bottle went down like silk.
So there we have it. Two stouts showing how it should be done. Excuse the lack of real detail in there as I never actually took much in the way of notes for either. So to compensate, I'll leave you with a cool little thought for the day. Scientists from the European Beer and Health Group (yeah that's a thing) say: - "Beer contains carbohydrates, sodium and fluid, which are important in recovering after physical exercise". This is off the back of some reports of German athletes turning up to the Olympics with over 90 litres each of Beer as recommended by the Team Doctor. Now I'm not one for arguing with Science and Medicine and Ze Germans are pretty good at working out the most efficient way to doing things (VW scandal aside Ahem). I'm sure the Russians have access to this data as well but they'll be too busy round the back of the arenas snorting ket and dropping various other PEDs. I am of course completely overlooking the fact that the recommendation is low or even alcohol-free variants so as not to dehydrate but that doesn't suit my agenda. If the Olympic athletes can consume up to 90 litres of beer in under 3 weeks I think we should all strive to emulate the accomplishments of these remarkable individuals.