Thursday, 13 April 2017

Middle Aged Spread

This was acquired through a beer swap with someone online and I am beyond excited. It is Maunday Thursday on the Easter calendar and the Last Supper is about to be held. Treachery threatens but, then, one could argue that the actions of Judas were necessary because of what had to happen next. Not a brave man nor a bad man, but a man, simple and nothing more or less. The blackness of the day that is to follow and the chasm that was opened, albeit briefly, was something borne of no more and no less than the actions of mankind. Much like this beer review and swap, which is far more edifying and cheerful. Perhaps a little too cheerful for the Easter story. No matter, I am very excited to try Appleby Brewery's Middle Aged Spread of a stout.

Allusions to Easter aside, would you like to know more?

Opening this produced no activity but the dry whisp of carbon dioxide in the neck of the bottle as dark a brown as they come. I had been warned that this came with the promise of misty evenings with brilliant sunsets in front of roaring fires in the autumn and I was not to be disappointed. A deep and dark pour with plenty of thickness, as a stout ought to be, reminiscent of the tramp of Roman feet upon the highways and byways of the Cumbrian verge. Sedge grass blew in the wind and the culews called from the coast and the Lakes as this one nestled into the bottom of the glass and slowly filled. A briefly beheld but no less powerful head forms, peaty and brown, with the abyssal blackness below calling like the bog itself, inviting and deadly.

Dry and chocolate on the nose, with a hint of coffee in the offing, warming and ready for the fire. Curl your legs beneath your body, pull your woollen cloak a little tighter and lean in to the campfire a little more so that all faces are lit with the flames. Feel the strength of the brew in your nostrils, punching well above the 5.2% ABV without that harsh tang of alcohol. Then take a sip of this and let it fall into your mouth, full and round, filling all available space. It isn't the sweet dessert of Billionaire (click this) nor the hoppy power of Black Christmas (see here) but it is the subtle roast of chocolate malt and barley, and I am minded of Scotch Broth in a large iron bowl over an open flame smelled once while visiting a living history encampment in a roundhouse. Thatch and pounded dry earth mingle and dance on it all as it comes in through the teeth and swirls into the sides and down toward the end of the taste. A bit of carbonation in the middle but then this is lost to the milky texture of the chocolate malt, more dark than milk, as it plunges into a roasted and welcome aftertaste.

If not a dessert then, this is a bready ale with some chocolate spread, tempered by the fact that there is a moisture to it - it's not as dry or chocolately as my earlier description may bring to mind. It's more like the West Indies Porter (see here) in that regard, in that though it is dry it is also an ale that will leave you feeling that you have had a drink rather than a dessert. And the darkness of this is unrelenting, I keep holding it up to the light to try and get a feel for any other colours in that dark black but all I get is Whitby jet, there's just no let up and no other coloration that shines through. The bottle explains there's a nuttiness and, yes, there is, a bit like the Nutty Black (see here) from years ago, in that it has something a bit woody about it that hangs around. Almost as though you could bite it as it passes through the mouth.

This is dangerous stuff. I have an urge to say something like "by the Lads" and follow it up with "that hit the spot" as if I'm in a flat cap in a workman's pub at the end of a shift. It is thick and satisfying, like stout ought to be, born of the darkness of the woods on the tops of the hills and fells bred carefully with the becks and granite of the riverbeds. It is, indeed, sunsets on misty autumnal days and sunrises in the crisp springtime before a fire or from the safety of a double-glazed window. No sharpness or tang to it, though there is a bit of something lurking just at the back of the throat after a mouthful, and the sort of colour that would imply an inky darkness that smothers all noises. It is definitely my kind of stout!

Enjoy this best as a reiver heading south for a meeting with some lances, bearing names like Ill-Drowned Wullie or Lang Meg, ensure your breastplate is black and pitted with the muck and grime of many a year and the leather undercoat worn with use. Stubble and barely shaven jowls show age and experience as you stop off a while near Simon's Seat to do table with a fellow traveller. Share the stout around, so as to avoid a turncoat in the night, and sleep with your dagger handy. With the right jokes and this stout, you shan't need it but for your own feeling of security. Aye, it hits the spot alright.

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