Yes, our long awaited stout test is here. We’ve had a bottle of Hoxton Stout in the house for ages and this inspired us to do a small stout test, although we are not usually stout drinkers. As stout is not our habitual tipple, we were a little haphazard in our choices. We knew we had to try a Guinness and the only one we could find in a bottle was the Guinness Special Export Stout which was originally commissioned by a Belgian in the early 20th Century and has a special place in history as the first Guinness to be pasteurised. Fascinating. Jess has a long-standing obsession with the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot and as such when we discovered there was a Hercule Stout from Belgium that just had to be on the list. The lovely barmaid at the Post Office Vaults recommended an American Imperial Stout, the Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout. So we had four stouts, one each from England, Belgium, Ireland and the USA, we were ready for an international stout sensation. As we didn’t know any of the beers, there was no need for a double-blind test so we just went ahead and tasted.
Hoxton Stout by Redchurch Brewery (England)
The Hoxton was a deep red-black with a good tan head. It had a slightly smoky bouquet with rich, chocolate notes underneath. It was well-bittered, fruity, smoky and surprisingly light. We really enjoyed how refreshing it was for a stout, something that would be pleasant sip on a summer’s day while we sit in the garden and admire our roses.
Special Export Stout by Guinness (Ireland)
Black with deepest red notes, the Guinness had a massive tan-coloured head that was most impressive. The sweet and malty bouquet reminded us of black treacle. Incredibly sweet to taste, so much so that it reminded us of dark muscavado sugar, this stout had a medium body and was disappointingly one dimensional. It lacked the smoky or roasted flavour that we expected in a stout.
Hercule by Brasserie Ellezelloise (Belgium)
The Hercule deserves a special mention for coming in the funkiest bottle (and for having a picture of Poirot! – Jess) which we have carefully preserved for future bottling. A dark ruby coloured stout with a good pale head. It has a subtle bouquet, well-balanced with smoky, sweet and bitter notes. The first sip was sweet and fruity but we soon tasted the smoky and bitter flavours of the aftertaste. A well balanced but strong bodied stout that we enjoyed.
Black Chocolate Stout by Brooklyn
The darkest of the stouts we tried, it was so thick and black the light barely shone through it. The head was medium sized and dark brown. This had a rich, fruity bouquet that had almost a bready quality and a subtle smokiness. The taste was slightly coarse, it was thick and bitter with complex smoked aftertaste. This was the most hopped of all, and although it was a very interesting beer it was not quite to our taste.
We both had different favourites of the night, Gabriel choose the Hoxton stout for its refreshing qualities and Jess chose the Hercule for its complexity (and rocking picture of Belgium’s greatest sleuth).