Imperial stout and Sherlock Holmes

A poster for Mann's starring Sherlock HolmesWe were feeling a little fragile on Friday night after heavy weeks at work and decided to spend the evening in with a game of Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective and a couple of suitably Victorian gothic beers.

Marble Decadence (8.7%) was pleasing in every way; large gulps were a mindblowing treat for the senses, but delicate sipping worked too, giving us chance to enjoy the  chocolate, vanilla, cherry and raisin flavours which emerged in the mouth one after another over the course of several minutes. A bit of a Heston Blumenthal beer, this one — there’s surely some alchemy at work in its brewing.

Brodie’s Romanov Empress Stout was a freebie and even heavier at a whopping 12.1%. It gave Boak an instant headache (lots of alcohol, lots of sugar) but Bailey enjoyed the almost chewy texture and complex, Harvey’s-like sourness and hints of coal-tar. Enthusiastic conditioning meant that the carpet enjoyed most of it, sadly, but then a full 500ml would have probably done for us.

We solved the case fairly easily. The lion tamer’s brother did it.

Sour Stout in a Victorian Pub

In search of Fullers London Porter, and following a tip from reader Ant, we found ourselves back at the Royal Oak in Borough, south of London Bridge. The Porter was great, as always, if a little flat. Harvey’s Old Ale (4.3%) had rich fruit cake flavours and reminded us of Adnams Broadside. It was also a little sour, which made us wonder if they really do add some aged beer to new to make it, or just a happy accident.

The highlight, though, was the Imperial Stout (9%). The cheery barman was delighted when we asked if they had any and bounced off to get a bottle. He apologised profusely for the fact that it no longer comes in a corked bottle and presented it with some pride in a big wine glass.  We’ve had before but fairly early on in our beer drinking adventures, when our tastebuds were less mature, and then found it too intensely flavoured to actually finish. This time, it was love at first sight. There is something very sexy about a dark beer with a brown, caramel-coloured head. The smell was pure Cantillon — sour, sweet, and (bear with us) bordering on manure. The flavours exploded with every sip: blackberry, chocolate, tobacco (never thought we’d enjoy that), leather… we could go on. Astounding, in short, and now in our top 10.

As we drank, it began to snow outside. A Victorian pub, snow and black beer: it couldn’t have been more Christmassy.

NB – Fuller’s London Porter is also on at the Mad Bishop and Bear in Paddington Station, in cracking form.

A merry Christmas to all our readers – we’ll be back in a couple of days.