Sunday, 15 January 2017

Dark Arts

What better meal is there to have on a Sunday than leftovers? Specifically, the kind of leftovers that you can monkey around with and add different herbs and spices to in order to make something quite lip-smackingly good. And, of course, what better accompaniment in the depths of January when trying out new brewers than some stout from a can? There is no answer because there is nothing better. As a consequence I should like to introduce you to tonight's delectable offering, admittedly drunk around lunchtime, from Magic Rock Brewing Co. about whom I have heard nothing but good things.

I refer, of course, to their rather nice looking can of Dark Arts, a 'Surreal Stout' in their words, and in a frightfully clever black and silver can. It seems like the sort of thing to suit a mainly cold set of days and the treadmill of getting through coursework and mock marking whilst having rushed to complete reports.

Enough about the context, we want to be getting on to the ale itself. Would you like to know more?

I was quite surprised when I opened this with the rather predictable lack of any great heft, it being a stout and having had experience of other canned ales of this variety, but then it promptly went a bit mad in the glass. Now, truth is that the glass comes with those bits in the bottom designed to create a head but I really wasn't expecting a stout to react that way. However, it did and it looked very much like the kind of thing I see a lot on my online travels when salivating over and being jealous of other people's ales. That large biscuit coloured head took a while to clear but the black depth of the ale itself seemed inviting and ageless. There was a quality of space about it, like I was looking into the very ends of the Universe and that there were secrets lurking within that could explain a unified theory of everything if only one looked hard enough.

The smell had a burned and raw edge to it, putting me in mind of a coffee house that traded more in caramel than coffee, but not quite enough for me to confidently say whether it were coffee or chocolate in nature. However, I can say that it was mostly neither of these influences and that despite the burned edge it had a softness that was beguiling. The sort of aroma that I imagine one would discern from the thrusters of a moon landing craft on take-off if there were atmosphere but to carry it and an observer but to smell it. Maybe not the moon, no, maybe something a bit more arid and soft and malty. Perhaps our metaphorical landing craft is ejecting itself from a barn of malt extract and setting light to the wood as it goes with some puzzled cows in the distance and a farmer sleeping soundly in his bed before getting enraged that the local kids have pulled some arson on his land.

On the tongue the softness of this ale does not disappoint, with the bubbles carrying that burning wood sensation amid the velvet softness of the dark depths of the stout. Here the shine of the metal of the super-futuristic space voyager flashes like a nail in the night, lighting up the spikes of the biscuit and yeast parts of the flavour, briefly accompanied by the heat of the hops before being lost in that vast emptiness of inter-planetary space cool and harsh across the middle of the mouthful. Slowly, like a vast sliding craft orbiting some far off gas giant to the strains of the Blue Danube, the taste slides to the back of the throat, cooling the heat from the large rockets strapped to the sides almost instantly - calming the fact I added tabasco sauce to the leftovers - and leaving behind a satisfying feeling of soft malt and biscuit as though one had had a particularly pleasing cheesecake topped with essence of lemon and vanilla. Further sips are similarly rewarding and make for a pleasant break between marking and planning around a lunchtime.

As befits a brewery about which I have heard so much good this is a stately brew and will not be rushed. At 6% ABV you will be rewarded for taking it slowly like constructing a vast space station in orbit. Simple subtle sips like the nudges of ion thrusters pushing vast structures with constant acceleration in the void so that each and every mouthful remains satisfying and finely balanced. Never quite allowing me to accurately identify that not caramel, not coffee, not toffee and not entirely malt experience. The website suggests liquorice and blackberries and figs: it doesn't seem to be far off. Once I read that I could certainly grasp those figs on the crest of the middle as it spills into the aftertaste with a liquorice opening on the tip of the tongue. Not sure about the blackberries, but there is a tartness to the whole affair that could reasonably be placed there, I stick with my lemon and vanilla cheesecake sensation personally.

I think, in short, it could be safe to say that I enjoy this brew and am glad that I finally caved and bought it from my local bottle shop in Ilson - the Crafty One Bottle Shop and Tasting Room on South Street. Well worth a visit and with 20% off throughout January. You can't go wrong really. And no, I wish I were getting paid for this but it's all because I like the place.

Enjoy best when coming out of cryogenic hibernation on some vast and extensive colony ship in a distant star system, the alien vista beyond the viewing ports displaying the strangely familiar world that you have come to live out the rest of your days. Slowly you feel the pull of the gravity and observe the local star's light obscure the pinpricks of distant spinning suns, around one of which Earth rotates far removed, and settle into a jumpsuit awaiting the rest of your comrades to begin a new life. Crack open the can, inhale the memory of the malts and hops from home, and resolve to enjoy this brew long enough to lay in the next generation of stout brewing on a new planet.

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