I do love unexpected discoveries. Where a mini raid in a supermarket or beer shop unearths something of a hidden gem. I made a trip to my nearest Waitrose a couple of weeks back - not entirely on a whim, but because Andy has one close to him in Helensburgh that has been pretty fruitful. Anyone reading regularly on here (I hope that accounts for all of you) will have read several fanboy posts from Andy in regards his love for AND Union beers. Well, Waitrose was typically his go to place for this and I've never seen it anywhere so I thought at the very least I could go get one to try for myself. Which, before I wander off topic, the AND Union Sunday Pale Ale was excellent but I think Andy has all review bases covered on that respect. My nearest was about 15miles away in Newton Mearns but a nice wee jaunt nonetheless. It's always good to see how the other half live.
The beer selection in Newton Mearns didn't match the one Andy sees in Helensburgh unfortunately but as I said I got one of the AND Union ones and picked up a couple of randoms. One of those random picks turned out to be the Valente's Double Espresso. I love all things coffee and chocolate, especially when it comes to beers, see last year's beer of the year winner Samuel Smiths Organic Chocolate Stout, so I had to have this. The thing is, I didn't really know what it was. It doesn't say that it was a porter or stout or other - just Premio Café Birra. Otherwise loosely translated as: Top Notch Coffee Beer. Cool, I'm happy with that. What I didn't expect though was just how good this would be.
"Premio Café Birra - roughly translated as Top Notch Coffee Beer."
1st thing I'd say though is this really was a bit of a Wolf in Sheep's clothing so to speak - yup, corny. I know. I hadn't for one second spotted that this was Black Wolf. Given the classic Black with Gold foil print design and the Italian wording I had just logged this in my head as being, well, Italian. It wasn't until I checked it into Untappd that I got a Highlander Badge and realised it must be Scottish. Having another look at the bottle I realised it was Black Wolf Brewery who are based just along the road in Stirling. Fantastic. You cannot beat a gem of a brewery right on your doorstep. Looking onto their website I realised quickly I'd previously had some of their collection such as Rok and Lomond Gold, so they hadn't entirely escaped my attention. They have broken their beers into 3 categories as far as I can see; Heritage, Craft & Premium. Valente's falls under the Premium header and boy is it!!!
Now, I may have overlooked the Brewery on the label, but you can't overlook the big gold stamp next to the name declaring the beer as Winner of World's Best Flavoured Beer 2012 from the World Beer Awards. On top of that, in 2011 it won Gold in the Scottish Regional Beer Competition. Certainly paving the way for a fair amount of expectation from a chance find. Now normally when I review a beer I quickly cover the aroma and maybe the colour/how it pours before moving onto details on the taste profile which typically ranks above all. Not in this case, in this case things are turned upside down. The aroma on this beer is simply intoxicating. Now, rather strangely I don't mean that in the alcoholic sense of the word, I mean it in every way towards sensory overload. The aroma off of this beer is simply divine. It is the biggest coffee hit I've ever had off a beer. Just sweet, rich, and strong with chocolate hints throughout. It reminded me of Cadbury's Roses Coffee Crémes. I was 100% certain it was Quality Street that had these but apparently that wasn't the case according to their wiki section on discontinued varieties. Either way - I was instantly transported back to rifling through the chocolate tin at Christmas looking for the coffee ones. Luckily, there was always a love / hate relationship with the coffee créme ones in my house, so I quite often got them all to myself. It's not often a beer has that level of impact just from the 1st whiff. In fact, it never happens. This beer is simply unique, and for all the choc/coffee varieties I have had this one is in a league all of its own. Simply outstanding.
"Winner of World's Best Flavoured Beer 2012 from the World Beer Awards and it won Gold in the Scottish Regional Beer Competition, 2011."
As you'd expect it pours a nice silky smooth chocolatey black. There's a touch of a caramel coloured head to top it off, fine and short lived. But who cares, we aren't in this one for the good head. This is all about luxury. Thankfully, after the introduction the smell gave, the flavour does not fall short. It matches it very well indeed. The coffee flavour is superb here, a really generous hit of a rich roasted bean with that nice bitter bite. This is nicely offset by the chocolate and almost toffee like sweetness, with maybe a hint of hazelnut or suchlike. Either way, it keeps going back to the coffee... the coffee... the coffee. Which I imagine might be an issue for anyone that doesn't like coffee. But then, who even are these people. Clearly not people who are up at 6:30am on a Monday morning for work, clinging to one like a life raft. God I love and need coffee in equal measures. The balance between the bitter and sweet is just perfect, and you can taste why it won that 2012 award. As for the beer underlying it all, well it almost takes a backseat to all this other goodness. It is hard to pick out fully as it is being overshadowed by such bold flavour and aromas. Checking my notes I really didn't write much else about it other than I'd drink a bucket of the stuff.
Really hats off to the Black Wolf guys. Given this beast has been about several years it still stands out so well in amongst oodles of craft variations. Which is why they were absolutely spot on to be categorising this one as Premium. It feels like luxury. It seems expensive. The Wolf in Sheep's clothing it absolutely is then. Once it is out of the bottle it is unstoppable. I will 100% be making another trip to pick up a few more of these. Was also nice to see my Untappd check-in getting posted on their website via my Twitter feed, and the guys at @BlackWolfBeers were nice enough to drop in a wee comment and a retweet. Cheers guys.
So, if you are a lover of coffee, or just in the mood for something different, or maybe looking for a compliment to a sweet decadent desert (as per their Food Pairing) - then look no further. This is a must try. You won't regret it.