I must admit that, although I try to champion dark beers year-round, this year my efforts have been a little lacklustre. The problem I have is that there are just so many good pale and golden beers in circulation, that over the warmer months anything darker than a reddish-shade of amber hasn’t got much of a look in. This needs to change.
And so I find myself with a bottle of Underworld Milk Stout from Big Smoke Brew Co., who brew at The Antelope in Surbiton, Surrey. Like dark beer, I’ve not really given Big Smoke a great deal of attention since their launch in 2014 and I’m regretting that while I’m a couple of sips into Underworld, their milk stout.
I already felt enamored with this beer before I’d even cracked the cap. I’m a sucker for great branding and this is great branding. It’s distinctive, thoughtful, engaging and tells me everything I need to know about this beer. But does the quality of the package reflect the product within?
The pour and appearance is everything you’d expect from a milk stout. This dark brown beer has a pleasing translucency. It shines russet red around the edges when held up to some light and the off-white head is tight and creamy. Both of these factors indicate that I shouldn’t expect a beer that’s too heavy, and that’s exactly what I find in my glass.
To taste it has all the roasted coffee and bitter dark chocolate notes I look for in a stout, without ever being too complex. The finish is nice and dry with a slight herbaceous, bitter note from the hops. My only complaint is that if you’re going to chuck lactose in a stout then make sure that sweetness comes through. In this beer it’s a little too muted for my personal tastes, but as a stout, milk or otherwise, Underworld really shines.
Music Pairing: Millionaire – Body Experience Revue
A good Milk Stout is all about the balance between the sweetness from the lactose and the robustness of roasted malt but still having the drinkability that comes with being a sub 5% beer. This track from Millionaire, a band fronted by Belgian wunderkind Tim Vanhamel, formerly of Deus, has similar qualities. Sure its got some searingly heavy guitars, but without the carefully thought out synth lines and Prince-tight rhythm section it would all feel a little flabby. The combination of this criminally underrated tracks tight beats and loose riffs is ideal listening, as we officially enter stout-season.
As always, you can find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis at the excellent beer blog, Total Ales, and Good Beer Hunting, and on Twitter @totalcurtis. Find Big Smoke Underworld Milk Stout in store or at our online shop to get it delivered to your door.