2 years ago my view on dark beers was simple; I didn't drink them. The reasoning for this was twofold. Firstly, in an average pub there is generally very little presence of dark beers and so I was never really exposed to them. At best you might get Guinness and one other darker beer. Secondly, I think that my palette just hadn't developed enough to appreciate them. Now I would have to say that dark beers are now my favourite style. While I still thoroughly enjoy a good, hoppy IPA at this time of year nothing tastes better than a smooth, silky malty beer. I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Bricklayer's Arms Yorkshire Beer Festival this week and I was overjoyed upon perusing the beer list to see a good range of stouts and porters available for quaffing.
Despite living in west London for the last 4 years this was the first time I'd attended one of the Bricklayer's Arms beer festivals. Shamefull I know. Even as a solid supporter of Manchester and Lancashire brewing, having grown up there, I have to say I was extremely impressed with the beers from Yorkshire. Which is a good sign as I'll be moving there in 6 months or so. Notable beers were the Thriller in Vanilla from Brown Cow, a 5.1% porter which had been made with real vanilla, and the Saltaire Triple Chocoholic, a 4.8% porter with chocolate malt, real chocolate and chocolate syrup added.
The Triple Chocoholic was a rich, chocolaty beer (unsurprisingly) that is exactly the kind of beer I've grown to love over the last few months. The Thriller in Vanilla was sublime. There were huge flavours of chocolate and coffee with a delicious overtone of vanilla to the whole thing. However special mention does have to go to Wentworth and their Chilli Chocolate Stout which without a doubt was the best beer I had all evening. The beer itself was a lovely rich stout and the addition of the chilli added a whole new dimension to the experience. At 4.8% it wasn't as strong as some stouts, but it was absolutely yummy.
After all this it got me thinking as to the reasons why a lot of pubs, even ones with a reasonable range of ales, don't have any dark beers on regularly. The flavour you can get in the darker beers is amazing and I think a lot of people who don't normally drink ales would be most surprised to realise that you can get such different flavours in beer. I can only assume that the landlords don't think they'll sell or that they in fact don't sell. In that case I think there's a huge case for pubs and staff to educate the drinker into the range of beers available.