Strawberries, cherries and an angels kiss in spring

When Ed from the Old Dairy Brew­ery noticed us get­ting excit­ed about the return of Courage Impe­r­i­al Stout, he dropped us a line ask­ing if we’d be inter­est­ed in try­ing his inter­pre­ta­tion of the same recipe. The answer, of course, was yes.

That’s how we end­ed up with a bot­tle of Tsar Top and (as a bonus) two bot­tles of AK 1911, brewed to a recipe unearthed by Ron Pat­tin­son.

The AK is an inter­est­ing beer in its own right: amber-brown, fair­ly bit­ter, and just a touch tart, with some­thing of the rich tea bis­cuit snap about it. Along with Fuller’s Ben­gal Lancer, it is one of the most con­vinc­ing impres­sions of a cask ale we’ve yet had from a bot­tle.

But, the main event? Wow. We’re devo­tees of Harvey’s Impe­r­i­al Stout and once tried a well aged 1983 bot­tle of Courage. This beer stands up well to both of them. We wouldn’t hes­i­tate to describe it as flaw­less — that is to say there were no ifs and buts; no hints of Mar­mite or mar­garine; or of any­thing to make us wrin­kle our noses and say: “Good effort, but…”

How did it taste? Well, let’s have a dror­ing first. There are a stock selec­tion of words trot­ted out for strong stouts and here’s where Tsar Top sits (in our view) in rela­tion to some of those, along­side oth­er sim­i­lar

A chart comparing flavour profiles of Imperial Stouts.

Note that it’s not as big a beer as the ’83 Courage or Harvey’s IS, but is well bal­anced, and makes Sam Smith’s inter­pre­ta­tion look a bit puny. It is a beer full of berries and cher­ries, rather than cof­fee or choco­late. The alco­hol (all 10% of it) seems to hov­er over the sur­face, tick­ling the nose with­out burn­ing. The after­taste lasts for­ev­er, as does the stur­dy milky-cof­fee coloured head. Bret­tanomyces is used in a sec­ondary fer­men­ta­tion, we are told, though there are no obvi­ous (off­putting) ‘barn­yard’ aro­mas as yet. Per­haps anoth­er year’s age­ing would bring those out?

In short, when Ed brews anoth­er batch, we’ll be order­ing a case.

Reg­is­ter of mem­bers’ inter­ests: we got four pack­ages of free beer last year. One lot was ter­ri­ble and we wrote direct­ly to the brew­ery with our opin­ions. Two oth­er batch­es were nice enough (some Brew­dog Punk IPA and some St Ste­fanus) but didn’t pro­voke any thoughts that would war­rant a blog post. This is the first one that’s moved us to enthuse.

3 thoughts on “Strawberries, cherries and an angels kiss in spring”

    1. Yes, and yes­ter­day we quot­ed the same book that Tan­dle­man based his entire post on. I won­der what tomorrow’s coin­ci­dence will be?

  1. Excel­lent, spi­der dia­gram and every­thing. Many thanks for your kind words.

    Shame we’re out of both AK 1911 and Tsar Top at the moment! I’ll keep you post­ed when we’ve made some more.

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