All those hippies out there bang on about Woodstock, given half a chance they will regale you with boring stories and try to convince you that it was the highlight of their mud splattered, endless rooting, constantly high lives. Even normally right minded people like Rolling Stone have claimed it’s a moment that changed the world.
Well I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to travel to upstate New York with thousands of unwashed long haired music lovers to have a bit of a life changing experience. All myself and Jord needed to do was sit around our kitchen table with multiple wine glasses and some dark beer.
That’s right welcome to StoutStock 2011.
The three contenders are;
The Red Hill Imperial Stout – a hearty little stout weighing in at 8.1% ABV from down on the Mornington Peninsula. It promises coffee and mocha tones with caramel and a hint of smokiness all with a silky mouthfeel.
The Abbotsford Invalid Stout – is our concession to the mainstream. It comes from the Carlton and United breweries stable and being a mainstream beer it tells me absolutely nothing on the label. Type the name into the google machine and the first CUB site is about ninth listing, this will tell you the following “Designed to appeal to both beer and stout drinkers.” I thought stout was beer, but surely CUB know more than I do. Oh and being mainstream this is 5.6% ABV, big for a mainstream, small in this company.
Murrays Heart of Darkness – The awesomely named Belgian stout from my favourite north of the Murray brewery. This promises to be big and bold, and made for sipping, and at 9.6% ABV, sipping would make sense.
So now that we have the contenders lets get this show on the road.
All of these beers are black, really black. The Red Hill has the biggest head, which is a dark brown colour. The Invalid stout has a tea coloured rocky head which disappears quickly. The Heart of Darkness has a thin head, very dark and sticky.
Proving how awesomely evil and hardcore the Heart of Darkness was the wispy little head formed itself into a scary looking ghost, check it out below.
The Red Hill had this big alcoholy smell, like rum with a hint of chocolate. The Invalid stout smelt a little funky, almost grainy, I found it odd. The Heart of Darkness was the strangest though, There was alcohol, and spiciness and chocolate, and I’m going to say it is very complex (which is code for I don’t know enough about beer to explain this probably)
The Red Hill is not as strong as I was expecting, it does have a silky mouthfeel, There are hints of roasted coffee and some mocha, but I have to admit the smokiness didn’t seem to make an appearance. As it warmed up a little it got slightly more bitter, particularly in the mid sip.
The Invalid Stout is thin in the mouth, very thin, I wasn’t really getting any of the complexity of the others, rather it felt a little bit more like a dark ale than a true stout.
The Heart of Darkness was a knock our socks off experience, it caused both of us to sit back in our chairs and consider what we were tasting. It really felt amazing, sliky, almost thick. It certainly was big with flavours of chocolate and sweetened fruit. it felt like we were sipping a liqueur rather than a beer – just exceptional.
The Super Beer Test
Now that everything was tasted. It was time to mix them together a see what happened. Short answer, it was brilliant. It had all the complexity of the Red Hill and the Heart of Darkness, but was just dialled back a bit, which actually helped some of the flavours to shine through the alcohol. It was smooth a rich and with a great chocolate aftertaste. It made me think I should mix more beers together to see what I get.
The Chocolate Crackle Test
People will always tell you to drink stouts and porters with chocolates, but we didn’t have any chocolate in the house, the closest we had was the favourite dessert of kids everywhere the chocolate crackle. So which beer suits this? The Invalid stout. For some reason I don’t understand it seemed to make the Red Hill and Heart of Darkness more bitter, whereas it added to the body of the Invalid stout and gave it just a touch of sweetness.
Rankings: Bringing up the rear is the Invalid stout, I’m sure this is not a surprise to anyone. The Invalid Stout is not a bad beer, and a reasonable inoffensive entry point to stouts, but it’s not in the league of the Red Hill or the Murrays. Personally I think the Heart of Darkness is just a shade better than the Red Hill, but really they are both very good beers.
Abbotsford Invalid Stout – Schooner
Red Hill Imperial Stout – Pint
Murray’s Heart of Darkness – Jug