After the success of the Old Tom with ginger earlier in the week (see here) it seemed somewhat churlish not to try the stable mate with whom it was bought. Still no review of the original, but perhaps I can rectify this in the year ahead, maybe not. In the meantime, it is clearly time to sample another ale in my garden. This, of course, makes perfect sense as the summer slowly dies and is replaced by the cold winds of the winter that threatens... no, wait, it's just more sunshine. Who ordered this autumn?
I'm not complaining, it means I get more shots of the garden in its glory with an ale in the foreground and that is good enough for me. Makes me look like a proper photographer even though I am plainly not one. Yes, it is the turn of Old Tom with chocolate and can you tell that I am rather looking forward to this one? There's something about chocolate ales that seems to draw me to them like a moth to the light.
So, why not rest your weary bones as you settle back on the wooden chairs near the lawn (I still haven't cut it) and let me regale you with my thoughts on the ale before us. Excited? Well, let's go then!
Much like the last brew, this snicks with carbonation and rapidly lets you know about itself. Straight away there is a strong scent of chocolate on the nose as you open and pour, there's a lot less fizz this time around and the head obligingly sticks around a little longer than it did in the last effort. This time the colour is closer to ruby than dark, despite it being the same underlying ale with additives. I'm not complaining because it does seem rather nice all things considered. However, by the time I got round to taking a picture the head had vanished and for that you can blame the fact that I am still a bit useless at having the camera ready to record things - I'll confess that I was desperately typing up first impressions when I ought to have been making with the photo!
That chocolate aroma isn't a proper chocolate though, it lacks the true punch and thickness of, say, Mocha (find that one here) or Montezuma's Chocolate Lager (here) but I can't really fault it for that. Both of the competitors here used chocolate from the very beginning and thus were always going to have a better showing of the aroma than something where it has been added to an existing beer recipe and without the long brewing time. That said, the taste is dominated from the beginning by a rampant chocolate, rearing like a particularly unwieldy and untrained horse over the top of the cowering malt. There are hops here, but they flee in terror from the masked chocolate rider with his massive spiked ball of a weapon that runs wild in the centre of the melee. It's not a bad mouthfeel, there's plenty of action to fill in the gaps and it feels less thin than the last offering that I tried.
Don't get me wrong, this is still thinner than you might expect from an ale that is billing itself on having chocolate in the process, almost as though that chocolate rider is putting on a show and masquerading as an entire phalanx of knights in the darkness of the early evening whilst still being a single rider. Mind you, it's thicker than the ginger version was so whatever it was they used to imbue this one with the chocolate flavouring was significantly thicker and more viscous than the ginger they added. However, overall this fails to truly lift my spirits enough for me to recommend this without some reservations. It's nice, but not quite nice enough. I have two of these two, and they are the same in terms of strength at 6% ABV, but this just doesn't do for me what the ginger version did. Of the two, it is the one with ginger that I must hold up as the better example. And that's why I went out and bought two more of the ginger version and not two more of the chocolate one earlier today!
Enjoy this as a dessert ale, coupled with something stodgy like spotted dick and custard or sticky toffee pudding. Not the sort you make yourself, no, that would overshadow the ale and make it cheap by comparison. No this is an ale to be coupled with something you've had to throw in a microwave, there's nothing wrong with either the pudding or the ale, but they would match each other better. If you want an ale to truly delight the senses then, much like with puddings, you really need something that is a bit more carefully made and balanced. This is for the rush job, the unexpected visitors that you wish to impress with culinary excellence without use of half the kitchen because that's where you threw all the stuff that was lying around the house to try and look presentable. In other words, an ale that knows its place and uses the tradesman's entrance.