Friday, 14 April 2017

Red 'n' Black

I know, I know, it's Good Friday now and it's all darkness and mourning and sorrow. Dulled gongs, bells with no ringers and what have you. It is fitting therefore, I think, to review a porter (being a dark ale) from a brewery that is craft-ish without being a full craft brewery. I speak of course of the Red'n'Black limited edition porter from Robinson's from whom I've yet to have a clanger. I picked up this bottle from the local low-cost supermarket on offer, and it is the limited edition, not even a bad batch. I'm not complaining, they did me the Mocha too and that still ranks as one of the best ales I've had.

So, to remember the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross (or just to celebrate the fact that there are chocolate eggs over the weekend), would you join me in the review of this version of a porter?

This pours well and thickly with an instant aroma of raspberries on the air, tart and with a sort of candied afterward. Good head and a good deep blackness to it, with the trumpeted red aspect when held to the light and there is a touch of licorice there too, but nothing like the Eldon in that department. This is a good little porter with plenty of recommend it on the pouring. I especially like the fact that it looks so smoky and then has nothing of that in a rather rich bouquet, so that it defies, and also clears the bar of, expectations. I have to say that I was dubious about this one but my misgivings were misplaced. It accompanies something by Laibach well, methinks, like Eurovision or Across the Universe.

Onto the tongue and there is a richness too, like a good cake with plenty of cream, but here it is more honeyed, much like you were promised on the label, and with a more insistent and increasing licorice note. This is eldritch and dark, slithering across the tongue like something cruel and ancient. Leathery wings beat on the sides of the taste with a tang of something lighter at the edges, blotted out by the silhouette of a great flying beast covering the sky with a great shadow and leaving astonished onlookers beneath the pneumbra. Roasted and licorice notes cascade into the centre of the taste, hot and fanning like flames from the mouth of an impossibly old dragon, and then it slips back down to the back of the throat, skittering in places with chittering like an Ancient One making its way to ruin the sanity of investigators. Still that lip-smacking sensation at the front of the mouth that belies the almost brimstone feeling at the back of the throat. Not so much roasted as having been burnt, the charcoal-like taste of burned rice or over-done toast. And yet this is not off-putting, no. It is seductive and wants to pull you further down into it.

The licorice grows as the honey wanes in the aftertaste, like the dying embers of the day being smothered 'neath the cloying malt. Streetlamps burn in the night-time but can't quite shake the not-quite-fully blackness of the encroaching night after the day. So it was and so it is with the porter that manages to deliver the 6.8% ABV punch to the gut without ever feeling that the alcohol is overdone. It does not feature strongly in the taste, leaving that to the honey and licorice that I can't seem to stop mentioning like some ever-present mantra. Dark and dangerous with plenty of character and the sort of mono-flavour that is saved by being so different and distinctive. Like I say, I was dubious, but I am not now. I am, however, slightly chilled at what they've done here and how easy it was to drink. I may get more of this in after all, I had been assuming I would not enjoy it and thus ignoring it, but I actually rather think this is worthwhile.

I'm not sure I can offer a best place to enjoy this. It is not the sort of ale that one 'enjoys' so much as endures. And I say that as a compliment. You will want to endure this again. It is, surprisingly perhaps, a proper ale and it does the job well to cover this most black of days in the religious calendar. I can recommend it. And I wasn't expecting to say that.

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