Stout. It's a strong word in craft brewing I tell you that. Dry, chocolatey, velvety, grainy, leather, vanilla, fruity, boozy, pithy, sweet, imperial, smooth, with oysters or just straight bitter. Stout is a world in itself and to the inventive minded brewer the basic stout recipe can be thought of as a platform for an almost endless number of tweaks, variations and speciality ingredients. As versatile as your plain bagel you could say, yet many of the greatest stouts I've ever tried have been just that.
In recent times the North East's reviving beer scene has had a good go at tinkering with the style, Tyne Bank's rich cherry oatmeal stout and Durham Brewery's rogue geuze meets imperial stout offering Diabolus are two examples. Yet even previous to that the region hosted a good number of quality stouts. Allendale Brewery's Tar Barl and McConnells from Jarrow are two quality straight down the middle dry Irish-style stouts. Mordue's All Hallows is a bit of an all rounder (look out for it this Autumn) and Durham's Black Velvet is pretty much self explanatory. Then you can't forget the charms of Big Lamp's Summerhill Stout.
Yet apart from Durham's Imperial 10% Temptation the region has had little to offer in the way of real heavyweight stouts. However, since last week Anarchy Brew Co of Morpeth has released not just a heavyweight stout but a bold form of the style that has never been brewed in the region.
The viscous black liquid was in short a big bold burly complex epic of a stout that's sublime but too well held together to call chaotic. Think silky, oily, viscous, full-on oats countering husky, bitter grain and liquorice. Some heavy hop resins and viscous alcohols erupt in the middle and build into dark winter fruit-like overtones whilst the coffee infusion creates a prolonged note of rich coffee that's almost a constant. I was surprised to hear from Simon how much coffee was used in making this and despite how obvious the coffee is it never seems to dominate but just add to the whole experience.
Being a big fan of oatmeal in brewing and more recently real coffee (very helpful to new parents) has probably made me all the more biased. Like a good mild ale, oatmeal stouts are a weakness of mine. My advice, seek this one out.