This has the colour of a reddish bronze warrior, but then in a different light it looks stygian, as dark as the Styx (and who shall pay the ferryman?); it’s a colour contrast that draws the drinker in, crooked finger beckoning. A thin collar of foam on the top, not as thickly daubed as you would find with an espresso, more like thin ghosts wafting through an arena of the unwell. Cherry, wood and alcohol major on the nose for me; while the palate features a big Brian Blessed kind of bear-hug of different flavours with more cherry, the warmth of booziness, a whisper of woodiness, the big fat embrace of malted barley (a real come hither sort of character), the tightly corseted sweetness always found in this strength of beer, a nuttiness that reminds me of Bakewell tart and a general lush richness that has the sheen of a oily, buttery Oloroso. I tried it with an unpasteurized Red Leicester and it dovetailed perfectly with the salt and buttery creaminess of the cheese (it is the sort of cheese that has an austerity of flavour and earthiness yet there’s also a bosomy, dirndl-wearing creaminess that wouldn’t be amiss in a Munchen beerhall). In other words, this is a magnificent beer.
This is part of the Sharp’s Connoisseur’s Choice that Stuart Howe was kind enough to send me.