Thursday, 24 November 2016

Black Ram Stout

After a lovely day out to Crich Tramway Museum (well worth a visit) and some wintery weather where one could hear the leaves falling from the trees as we passed and I checked the pub there (why wouldn't you?) I am pleased to be home and having a stout. Indeed, of our day one might say: "that Wentwell" because I bought two bottles of their ale from the pub and brought them home. I think I may be addicted to buying, rather than drinking, ale. Tonight I am drinking the Black Ram Stout being, well, a stout from Wentwell Brewery. Dark evening, coolness on the air and a crisp edge that led to mist and fog across the region. Lovely. Even my car is charged.

New bulbs bought and a dark house with a hint of heating on, curses. Would you like to venture forth through the peaty darkness of the winter's night leering forth and stretching shadowy clawed hands into heart and hearth?

First thing to mention is the darkness of the brew, proper black like the hearts of men, at least the men who edit and maintain national newspapers, and with a large and no nonsense biscuit head as stouts should have. I was a little wary of the 4.1% ABV and the fact that it was warm to the touch when I bought it, and when I got home, as being indicative of something that called itself stout but wasn't. So far it has managed to avoid being disappointing! There's a good strong aroma of coffee and chocolate, I get a dark chocolate vibe from it but Willow says the coffee is stronger so who am I to argue? There's a dollop of something big and dark on this one, like the tales of Grendel spoken to music in the darkness of a great hall. Fires ought to be lit and crackling but, alas, we have no such recourse as yet, though a wood-burner will one day fill our fireplace. Outside there is the velvet blackness that comes from living in the part of the town where sodium lights have been replaced by LEDs reflected downward on the main road, leaving the garden sheathed in a dark bag, pinpricked with stars whirled in the sliver of silver river of the Milky Way.

Big chocolate and coffee on the taste, sucked in on the air like a juicy version of a chocolate bar or the deep warmth of a mocha from your favourite coffee shop. I use the second person here solely because I tend not to buy coffee from shops in that manner and prefer my cheap and nasty stuff. But, ooh, this is good. Heavy opening, as stated, and then big and sloppy on the middle. Hints of bubbles less like spears and more like toothpicks amid the mighty tones of the malt like the behemoth in the Bible, crafted well to stalk the land over the tongue, roiling briefly before slipping down like some great landslide that swallows up the landscape and spits it forth across the bottom of a wooded valley. This is dangerous stuff. Capricious, like nature, and untouched by the softer tones you may find lurking in other stouts. Like I have found in other stouts.

This is raw, powerful, a force for all stouts. I think I might like it. It fizzes at the edges, but remains creamy and deep across the middle of the tongue, fading very slowly, with multiple aftershocks, to a sort of feeling one gets with warmed milk or an oatmeal drink before bed. Heavy and thick, quieting the night and the end of a day. Coming soon after some sausage and chips with gravy for me, this does the job of burying it. It would bury anything. I could have this happily after a spicy meal and feel that it was done with. After a round of exam marking and thus wave goodbye to the memory. I could drink it early on a Christmas morning and feel festive or deep into the winter showers of February as the Atlantic Conveyor shuts down due to the ice-caps melting, plunging the UK into the sort of blizzards one sees in Canada and it would do the job of keeping me, at worst, sanguine.

Enjoy when the cold winds blow and when the dark draws close to your abode, striking frost deep into the floor coverings of your choice, wrap 'gainst the biting wind and the howls of wolves or worse carried on the wind. Talk in hushed tones if one talks at all and sup slowly and with due weight and consideration. Failing that, have a dark walk through the woodland in Crich Tramway Museum and then repair to the Red Lion as the lights go out across the valley, there to drink this stout in the lights and amid the close conditions. In fact, enjoy this pretty much anywhere but in the middle of a summer's day when the darkness of the stout would be probably wasted.


  1. In the bite of winter, no two words kindle hope in a Brit's chest more than "Red Lion".