I am very rarely genuinely surprised by beer any more. I’ve drunk more than my fair share of beers, ales, lagers and stouts over the years of my long and distinguished career as a human being and very little now makes me stop and think “Holy Cow”. Unfortunately not much makes me think more than “ooh…” these days and I may be becoming more reactionary as I age. But I did have a “Wow” moment this week.
On the World Fancyapint Tour of places you might otherwise not have visited we took in Stockport, Sandbach (services not town) and Stoke on Trent. Not quite the Riviera but equally not quite Warrington. And this visit threw up the most delightful surprise that I’ve had for some time.
Titanic Brewery’s Cappuccino Stout. At 4.5% ABV it had the exact balance of flavour to alcohol, the right velvety texture versus harshness from the strong malt/chocolate notes. I could have downed a gallon – but an incredibly early start coupled with a looming afternoon meeting meant that we had to abandon the boozing 7 pints short of where we wanted to be.
It then raised a question that has been intriguing me for some time though – which is why Dark Beers don’t sell as well as their lighter cousins? I am a self-confessed Dark-ophile – I appreciate the lighter more amber beers, but give me a heavy stout or a gravity laden Best any day of the week – but am I in a shrinking minority? I once had a conversation with a brewer at a beer festival and he received all manner of gongs for his beers (indeed being awarded the champion gong of all gongs for just such a dark beer as I adore) but the chat with him at the festival concerned, as I remember it, went something like:
“Your Best is superb”
“But I can’t take more than one pint”
“Yeah, that happens a lot with our beers”
“Do you sell much?”
“Er…not as much as we’d like and not as much as everyone thinks we do.”
So wither Dark Beers? The Cappuccino from Titanic is only a “Titanic Occasional Brew” http://www.titanicbrewery.co.uk/c/our-beers/titanic-occasional-specials/ And other than Guinness I can’t think of a terrifically flavour-packed dark beer that sells by the bucket load – don’t you dare even whisper ‘John Smith’s’. And yet just a short time ago Dark was all there was.
Time and time again in my career I have seen a dark brew launched alongside a lighter sibling and they always are the first to come off the bar – Budvar Dark, Sagres Bohemia to name just two [As an aside here - if you ever get the chance - try Sagres Preta, which has to be one of the most incredible dark lagers you'll come across]. And I am puzzled.
Can Cappuccino and other brews like it lead a renaissance? I for one shall, like some fatty Darth Vader, be leading the fight to champion the Dark Side. Who’s with me?