Beer critic

A surprise in the mail

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There are some beers that I figure I’ll never get to try.

That would include pretty much every single beer in the United States. Especially Samuel Adams Infinium.Crown Ambassador is another one of them, largely because I reckon I’ve made far too much fun of Crown Lager to ever see a review bottle of the pricey Ambassador turn up in my morning mail at work.

Yet another is the Clout Stout, the Russian imperial stout, from Western Australia’s Nail Brewing. Smart people out there will have noted a similarity with these beers – they’re quite pricey. And me being a cheap bastard. I’m still not over the mental hurdle of spending $50 or more on a beer. (Yeah, just one beer. Crazy!).

So stoked doesn’t even begin to describe how I was when I got an SMS from John Stallwood at Nail Brewing asking for a mailing address so he could send me a bottle of Clout Stout. I know that sounds like he picked me at random, but really, he got my contact details from his east coast marketing guy.

Random or not, it’s still a great text message to get. The Clout Stout can be viewed as the Grange Hermitage of the Australian beer world. It’s a big beer (11 per cent), a pricey beer ($75 a pop) and a rare beer (only 800 numbered bottles are released). The last two factors are why I figured I’d be destined never to try this beer.

But John, bless his heart, sent me a bottle (no 623 if you’re interested) and I got to find out if it lived up to the hype.
And my word it did (don’t you just love it when a beer does that). It’s a big, thick beer, both with regard to that alcohol content but also its viscous nature. It looks a little syrupy as it pours. What you get is a black beer with a crema-coloured head. The aromas are distinctly of chocolate and roast coffee.

That syrupy nature makes for a wonderfully luxurious mouthfeel and the flavours are of cherries, rum, raisins – kind of Christmas pudding-like in a way. And that alcohol does show up at the back end with a bit of a burn but nowhere near what you’d expect from an 11 per cent beer.

Of course, that alcohol content means this isn’t a beer you can knock back quickly and go back for another one. Best to sip and savour it – which also helps deal with that 11 per cent when it hits you.

Here’s a tip for those of you who buy a bottle but have a partner who hates dark beers. Those of you like me, in other words. A champagne stopper comes in handy to keep the beer carbonated so you can have another glass the following night.

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