Stout

Fundamentals #47 — Buxton X J. Wakefield Coral Castle Coconut Infused Imperial Stout

I haven’t forgiven Florida’s J. Wakefield Brewery for its use of what I feel was sexist branding on many of its labels, especially when its Gourdita pumpkin beer still does. So why am I reviewing Coral Castle, a coconut-infused imperial stout brewed in collaboration with Buxton, you may ask?

Perhaps it’s because I believe in second chances and the ability to move one’s position once presented with new information. And the brewery did apologise. Also, perhaps, there’s significance in that this US brewery has forged several deep friendships here in the UK, expressed through collabs with the likes of Cloudwater and Mondo, as well as Buxton. There’s a great deal you can learn through collaboration, and also if you’re not acting right, your friends should be the first to set you straight.

J. Wakefield isn’t off the hook for me yet, but Buxton deserves all the plaudits for its beers, and this one is outstanding. The condition I find myself in when drinking this beer, however, is a long way from that.

I was just in Denver for this year’s Craft Brewers Conference. While the days at CBC are filled with seminars and panel talks and looking at the canning lines whirring away in demo mode on the trade show floor, the evenings, well, they’re about studying the host city’s beer culture. It may not surprise to hear you that Denver has this in spades. And so I wake up the morning after the night before a little worse for wear, and the fear sets in. Have I missed my deadline? Is it today? Oh shit.

Thankfully I had the beer with me in my suitcase, with the intention of drinking it at a sensible time. But time, I thought, was out. So I did what any self-respecting beer writer would do, and poured the can out into one of the plastic cups in my motel room, and began making my tasting notes.

I wouldn’t normally recommend drinking an 8.5% ABV stout at 10.30am on a hangover. But with my palate morning-sharp (ish) and my other senses dulled by the previous night’s indulgence, this beer proved to be the perfect hair of the dog. It was rich, roasty and delicious, the ever-so-carefully adorned coconut adding just the right dose of playful flavour, almost vanilla and bourbon barrel-like in character.

After tasting, I grabbed my laptop to start typing up my notes, sending Hop Burns & Black’s Jen a panicked message that the copy would be with her shortly. “It doesn’t need to be in until Monday, Matt,” came the reply. Ah.

The lessons to take away from this experience are: to always write your deadlines down, that delicious beers do indeed taste delicious at any time of the day, coconut works beautifully in imperial stouts, and to never let those guilty of potentially marginalising behaviour off the hook, ever. Happy beer-drinking, everyone.

Matthew Curtis is a freelance writer, photographer and author of our award-winning Fundamentals column. He's written for publications including BEER, Ferment, Good Beer Hunting and Original Gravity. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @totalcurtis. We have a mere handful of Coral Castle cans left, pick one up while you can…

Fundamentals #45 — Unity x Deya 5º Of Separation Belgian Chocolate Stout

I’m going to assume if you’re reading this column that you’re pretty into beer already. If so then you’ve probably already heard of Cheltenham’s mighty DEYA. And if not, then what rock have you been hiding under?

DEYA’s flagship, Steady Rollin’ Man has become one of the most dependably consistent juicy pales on the market. It seldom disappoints. Plus it has that rare trait among foggy, yellow, hoppy beers: drinkability. Seldom do I see a keg tapped at one of my local haunts and witness all 30 litres last more than a couple of hours. Well done DEYA, you’ve created a modern classic and you should feel pretty damn smug about it.

However, you might not have heard of Southampton’s Unity Brewing Company. Like DEYA, it was founded in 2016. It brews well-hopped, opaque beers (albeit often with a Belgian inspired twist), packages them in delightfully labelled 440ml cans and has a popular, community-focused taproom. It has an ebullient, charming founder in the form of Jimmy Hatherley, something of a veteran of the London scene with stints at London Fields and Camden back in the day. He’s also a big fan of flannel shirts and math rock.

Unity also brews a killer, super smashable NEIPA called Collision. It hasn’t quite grabbed the beer-drinking public’s attention like Steady, but let me assure you it’s the kind of beer you should drink when you see it.

Imagine my delight, then, when I found out these two young stalwarts had produced a collaboration. Only, there’s no hop squash to be found here. The result of this union is a chocolate stout that draws heavily on Hatherley’s Belgian inspiration. This Pepsi-brown beer features additions of cacao nibs and black flame raisins adding further layers of complexity to the dark malts and Unity’s house strain of Belgian yeast.

However, it’s not the playful chocolate sweetness or the estery Belgique overtones that make this so satisfying. It’s the way these flavours build up steadily in unison before panning out into a dry, clean finish with just the right amount of focused hop bitterness. There’s no cloying aftertaste, there’s no volatility to the fermentation character, it’s just precise, satisfying flavour neatly wrapped up in a bow at the end. It’s a hallmark of Unity’s beers – they show off great complexity while still remaining balanced, and are always at the height of drinkability. Don’t let this Southampton brewery, or this beer, fly under your radar this year.

Matthew Curtis is a freelance writer, photographer and author of our award-winning Fundamentals column. He's written for publications including BEER, Ferment, Good Beer Hunting and Original Gravity. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @totalcurtis. Pick up a can of Unity x Deya 5º Of Separation Belgian Chocolate Stout while you can.

#HBBAdvent Beer 16: Lervig Konrad's Stout (Norway)

Lervig says: We’ve been producing this stout since 2010. We wanted to make a straightforward Imperial Stout with a Scandinavian touch to it, so we used a lot of dark malts and just the right water chemistry to give the beer a very soft mouth feel with coffee and Liquorice notes.

We say: Lervig Aktiebryggeri, from Stavanger in Norway, is brewing some of the greatest dark beers in Europe right now, whether they’re adjunct-rich pastry stouts, barrel-aged chocolate martini stouts or this bittersweet imperial stout. The malt base carries coffee, liquorice, dried fruit and berries perfect for in a cold dark sunday with a pre-Christmas cheese board (or if you're still craving pastry, a warm mince pie!). - Nathan, HB&B Deptford Manager

#HBBAdvent Beer 9: Canopy Amaretti Imperial Stout (London)

Canopy says: Some journeys are longer than others and our Amaretti Imperial Stout is there for the big ones, those hard fought slogs through the mud and dirt. This is a beer to be savoured and to reminisce over in front of a roaring log fire. Warm your toes and your heart; that’s well deserved. Rich and luscious, with hints of vanilla and almond biscuit.

We say: Canopy got its own canning line this year and its crisp Champion Kolsch and crushable Brockwell IPA are mainstays on our shelves, while its limited releases have truly come into their own. The Amaretti Imperial Stout represents the perfect bev to enjoy as the weather turns wintry. With its delectable creaminess and not too sweet amaretto, it fulfills the hankering we all get for dark beers around the advent season - Caleb, HB&B sales assistant, Peckham

Fundamentals #35: Hammerton Crunch Peanut Butter Milk Stout

Welcome back, to what is now the award-winning Fundamentals column. The judges at this year’s North American Guild of Beer Writers Awards saw fit to grant us a bronze medal in the Best Beer Review category. Specifically, for my piece on North Transmission, in which I attempted to compare New England IPA to post punk. All in all, it seems that was a successful analogy. Many thanks to the NAGBW for bestowing us with such an honour. Or should that be honor?

Today we’re tackling another emergent beer style that, like NEIPA, generates a serious amount of hyperbole – the Pastry Stout. It’s hard to identify exactly where or when exactly this trend emerged. Surely a stern finger should be wagged in the direction of the UK’s Buxton and Sweden’s Omnipollo, who released the collaborative Yellow Belly in 2014. In the wake of the popularity of this peanut butter and biscuit imperial stout, there have been countless breweries chucking ingredients such as cinnamon, vanilla, chocolate and more into the fermenter. Omnipollo is, in fact, a serial offender within the pastry stout category.

Perhaps though, the net of blame for the emergence of this style could be cast way back to the early 90s, when a young Goose Island released its Bourbon County stout. Now, of course, this liquid is now peddled by the evil, corporate world of Big Beer™ and as such should only be handled in full HazMat gear, while disposing of it carefully. Or, if you don’t have any protective clothing, you can dispose of it by sending to my address, below.

All jokes aside, stout, like many dark beers, struggles to find popularity when it’s out of season, and sells in far smaller quantities than its pale, hoppy brethren. The great thing about these modern pastry stouts is they’ve helped darker beers get a new wave of beer drinkers excited about these styles. Getting more folk into dark beers can only be a good thing.

When it comes to North London’s Hammerton Brewery, I’m a huge fan of the dry, slightly saline Pentonville Oyster Stout. Crunch is essentially the antithesis of this. By using lactose sugars and peanut, this beer tastes a little like a Reese’s cup, only one that’s been blended into a surprisingly drinkable dark beer. And what’s most surprising is that I don’t hate it. In fact, I quite like it, as despite its sweetness it retains that most important of qualities: drinkability.

Essentially, Crunch is pudding in a can. And one that’s worth skipping dessert for.

You can find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis as UK editor of Good Beer Hunting and on Twitter @totalcurtis. Pick up a Loka Polly Hallertau Blanc IPA in-store or online.

Fundamentals #24 — Pressure Drop x Lost & Grounded How We Roll Belgian Chocolate Stout

Every few months I try to slow down a little and take stock of where the beer industry is right now, and how far it’s come in the past few years. Its booming evolution still shows no sign of slowing down. And just thinking about this point alone can be exhausting - especially when, like me, you’re embroiled in the whirlwind that is Beer Twitter™. However, when you put your phone down, and open a bottle of beer from one of the UK’s finest small breweries, suddenly that whirlwind stops spinning and the beer world seems to slow down - for a while at least.

Over the past year or two, I’ve noticed how far the overall quality of British beer has improved, especially from breweries which emerged within the last few years. Modern breweries are learning to invest in process, equipment, sensory training and quality control to ensure the beer in your glass is tasting better than ever before. At more than 2,000, the UK now has more breweries than anywhere else in the world bar our friends in the United States, who boast more than 6,000.

Numbers alone don’t make up a great beer culture though. In order for the UK to continue to stand up and be counted as one of the world’s most important brewing nations, quality needs to keep improving, which from what I can see is happening all around us.

Two breweries leading the charge in this respect are Bristol’s Lost and Grounded and North London’s Pressure Drop. The former launched in summer 2016, boasting an impressive German-made brewhouse that allowed the brewery exacting control over the beers it produces, be it a modern IPA or German-inspired Pilsner. The latter started its journey in Hackney in 2012, eventually expanding to its current Tottenham home in 2017. Each makes excellent beers in their own right, so you know that any collaboration between them will likely tickle your fancy.

How We Roll - a Belgian Chocolate Stout - certainly tickled mine. The beer’s relative Belgian-ness is very understated, only really evident via its voracious carbonation and exceedingly dry finish, both of which seemingly serve to enhance both the beer's chocolate flavour and its overall drinkability. This beer also skillfully avoids being too astringent, dialling the roasted quality of the stout back to let the milk chocolate flavour really shine.

How We Roll is one of those beers that comes along once in a while that I expect to be good, but is so good that it almost takes me by surprise. It shouldn’t though - instead, like many beers, it should stand up as an example of how high the quality of many brewers’ output in the UK has become. Here’s to enjoying many more beers like this one.

Fundamentals #22 – Brick Brewery Kerala Stout

I love a good curry. The way the blend of spices mingle with the char of meat cooked in a Tandoori oven makes it one of my all time favourite dishes. These same ingredients in a beer? Not so much. At least that’s what I thought until I tried Kerala Stout, from Peckham’s Brick Brewery.

Brick has always been one of those London breweries that has so often flown under my radar. This might be something to do with me being a staunch North Londoner, seldom coming out of my quiet slice of urban suburbia, especially to venture south of the river (except to see my good pals at Hop Burns & Black of course). More’s the pity though, as South London has so much to offer. Not least pubs like Stormbird, The Old Nun’s Head and not forgetting Brick Brewery’s own taproom under the arches at Peckham Rye station. As a beer enthusiast you deserve giving yourself a chance to break habit once in a while, so do yourself a favour and head south once in a while.

Back to Kerala Stout then, which infuses a typically dry, dark and roasted stout with a mélange of spices and flavourings. These include cumin, cardamom, curry leaves, chillies and cinnamon. That level of spicing may sound a little overwhelming – but just like in a great curry the brewers at Brick have found a way to get these spices working together in harmony.

These flavours were a little muted when I first sipped at the beer, having just pulled the can from the fridge. Once the beer had been given a few minutes in the glass to warm, however, it really opened up. Notes of cumin and cardamom come to the fore, mingling with the cinnamon and sweetness from the darker malts to find balance, even adding a touch of what tastes like toasted coconut to the palate. At the finish is a gloriously satisfying touch of chilli burn – just the right amount so as not to overwhelm the beer.

This beer is great on its own but perhaps unsurprisingly, it really comes alive when paired with a similarly spiced dish. This is definitely a beer worth heading to South London for – don’t forget to pick up a curry while you’re there.

You can find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis as UK editor of Good Beer Hunting and on Twitter @totalcurtis. Pick up some Brick Kerala Stout while you still can in store or online.

The Beer Lover’s Table: Dark Chocolate Blueberry Truffles & Brick Brewery x Hop Burns & Black Black Blueberry & Vanilla Stout

As I write this, it's lightly snowing. For the first time in nearly five years, London has softened, stilled. There are many productive ways to spend such a rare, wintry Sunday; for my money, preparing chocolate truffles has to be one of the best.

Making ganache - the truffles’ base - is a sensory thing, almost overwhelmingly so. It’s good to do when everything else is cold and quiet, and the process can hold all of your focus - not because it’s especially difficult, but because it is enormously pleasurable.

You snap shards of chocolate and then watch them collapse into velvet darkness. Every spatula swirl sends up perfume. You mix the melted chocolate with warm cream and let the mixture gloss and chill until it's firm enough to work with (maybe you even squidge the bowl directly into a bit of slushy snow outside so it sets more quickly). Then you scoop out teaspoons of the set ganache and roll it into spheres, quickly, between your warming palms. To finish, you can dust your proto-truffles with cocoa powder, or dip them into a bath of melted chocolate to coat - or you can use both methods, as I did.

These truffles were inspired by Black: one of three fantastic collaboration beers made in honour of Hop Burns & Black’s third birthday. This one, brewed with Peckham's Brick Brewery, is a beautiful, inky stout. Additions of blueberry, vanilla, and lactose have all added to its dessert-like profile, though its roasty, bitter finish makes it moreish rather than cloying. To match it, the truffles are infused with blueberry jam, a dash of cinnamon and vanilla.

This recipe makes enough truffles so that you might make gifts of them and still have a plate left to yourself. I’d recommend ferrying it to the cosiest corner of your flat, cracking open a fresh can of Black and watching the snow come down.

Dark Chocolate Blueberry Truffles, Two Ways
Makes approximately 25 truffles

For the ganache:
150g blueberry jam (I used Bonne Maman Wild Blueberry Conserve)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
250g high-quality 70% dark chocolate (I used Lindt)
250ml double cream
50g light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste

For the truffles:
150g high-quality 70% dark chocolate
50g cocoa powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

First, place the blueberry jam in a small saucepan. Heat over medium-low heat until it is warm and mostly liquid. Add the cinnamon and stir well to combine. Remove from heat and let cool for 30 seconds; blend, using an immersion blender or a regular blender, to break down any whole berries in the jam. Set aside.

In a saucepan, add the double cream and the light brown sugar and warm over medium-high heat. Stir well to combine and bring the mixture to a gentle boil. Boil for approximately one minute, stirring frequently so it doesn't scorch on the bottom. Remove from heat and let stand for one minute. Add the vanilla bean paste and stir to combine.

In a large, heatproof bowl, break up the dark chocolate into small pieces. Pour over the double cream and the liquefied blueberry jam (note: you may need to return the jam to the stove on low heat for a minute so that it's pourable, as it will quickly solidify). Stir well until the chocolate is all melted. Whisk to remove any lumps. Cover and chill for at least two hours, or until the ganache has set.

Once the ganache is firm enough to work with, start to roll your truffles. With a teaspoon, scoop out a small amount of ganache and delicately and quickly roll between your palms until it forms an even sphere. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and repeat. You'll want to do this as quickly as possible so the ganache doesn't soften too much; it may start melting in your hands, in which case you should pause to wash and dry them well. 

Once the ganache balls have all been rolled, cover loosely with cling-film and chill again
for another 30 minutes to help set.

Now, you’re ready to finish preparing your truffles. To make the truffles that are coated in a dark chocolate shell, you'll need a thermometer to ensure the melted chocolate is properly tempered (otherwise, it will turn blotchy or chalky as it cools). First, prepare a double boiler: heat a saucepan of water until simmering and place a second bowl on top of the pan (it should fit neatly, so there are no gaps, but its bottom should not touch the water). 

Add two-thirds of your chocolate and stir constantly until it's completely melted. Remove the bowl from the pot of water. Add the rest of the chocolate and stir until melted. Check the melted chocolate from time to time with a thermometer; you want to let it cool until it reaches 31-32 degrees C (88-90 degrees F)—mine took approximately 10 minutes to drop to the right temperature. Once it is at temperature, add one ganache ball and toss quickly with a fork until evenly coated in chocolate; remove to a plate lined with parchment paper. Repeat until roughly half of your truffles have been coated with chocolate (if the temperature of the melted chocolate drops too much, you may need to quickly reheat it).

Leave your truffles to set for 10-15 minutes. 

To make the truffles that are coated in cocoa powder, put the cocoa powder and cinnamon in a small bowl. With a fork, add one ganache ball at a time, tossing lightly, until evenly coated in the cocoa powder mixture. Set aside, shaking off any excess, and repeat until all have been coated. If you want to use one method over the other, simply double the quantity of the chocolate or the cocoa powder and cinnamon, respectively.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and an all-around lover of tasty things. Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen, and pick up a can or two of Brick x HB&B Black while you still can.

#HBBAdvent Beer 10: Kernel Dry Stout (SE London)

The Kernel says: Nothing. The Kernel lets the beer do the talking.

We say: The following extract is taken from a short story inspired by the namesake and the wonderful, complex flavours of The Kernel Dry Stout Galaxy. I’ll stop drinking it when they stop brewing it.

The sound of a car backfiring woke him from a rough sleep. How long had he been out for? It didn’t matter now, Marcus and the others would be gone and there would be no way of tracking them. Getting out of the chair his joints made crackles like burning kindling. He looked around the room and tried to discern where they had left him. It was a rundown box apartment with several foldouts and no communicator, a work hostel no doubt. This meant he was either in one of the palisades or the bad part of the Garment district. The mixed smells of burning leather and coal fire made him bet on the latter. From the counter by the door his radio sounded, strange that Marcus hadn’t taken it along with his gun.

‘4.3 what is your location? 4.3 state location, you’re off grid. 4.3?’

‘I’m here.’

‘And where is here 4.3?’

‘Sal?’

‘4.3 confirm badge number and then give me your location.’

‘Piss off Sal.’

‘Fuck happened?

‘They got me as I came out of the station, Marcus and four others, one of them was the runner.’

‘Where are you at now? What did they get?’

‘Some box in the Garment district. They’re all gone, took my gun and they found my tracer. They’re gone, that’s it.’

‘Not it 4.3. Got one.’

‘Who!? How did you find them?’

‘No ID yet. And we didn’t. Two of them tried to stick up a taxi rank on 357th street, went for credits and two ships. One gets out and then the old girl behind the desk decides to reach for her purse. Lands two in the chest before she got clipped in the arm. Get over to the rank and then down to district hospital to get what you can from the woman, maybe she can do your job for you some more.’

‘Anything else Sal?’

‘Yeah 4.3, try to buy some Listerine syrup. You sound like your tongue’s growing mushrooms.’

‘Love you too Sal.’

Will Marcus and the others escape? Will there ever be a more sessionable and well balanced stout brewed? I doubt it. - Lewis

#HBBAdvent Beer 3: Siren Rum Coffee Broken Dream Stout (Finchamstead)

Siren says: The next iteration of our barrel aged coffee project is another special version of Broken Dream Breakfast Stout. We've aged green beans sourced by Tamp Culture and aged them in rum barrels for around six months. The barrel aged coffee has then replaced the usual Sumatran we use in the beer. 

We say: Siren Craft Brew has been brewing quality beer since 2012 and right now we reckon this Berkshire brewery is at the top of their game. This year has seen so many amazing beers coming out of the Siren stable, several of which we've included in our All Killer No Filler subscription boxes, so we knew we had to include a cracker in this Christmas box.

Think decadent flavours, subtle rum and, OK, probably a wee bit too much coffee for a Sunday night (sorry about that). Cheers Siren!

The Beer Lover’s Table: Caramelised White Chocolate Mousse and Partizan’s Imperial White Russian Stout

Most people’s bucket lists comprise the exotic destinations they want to visit before they die. Mine, on the other hand, lists all the recipes I want to cook while I’ve still got the chance.

I mention this only because caramelised white chocolate has been on the top of that list for a long time. The concept is simple enough: place white chocolate on a baking sheet, bake it at a low temperature, remove it from the oven, and stir at frequent intervals until it’s gone the colour of toasted almonds or deep, burnished toffee. After caramelising, the chocolate is blended with cream; the result is like dulce de leche or salted butter caramel, plus a whisper of cocoa. Needless to say, it’s pretty phenomenal—and, as I’ve discovered, well worth the effort of preparing from scratch.

Once it’s made, you can store a jar of your caramelised white chocolate and use it however you’d like (I’d recommend pouring it over ice cream, spreading it on toast, or using it to top Belgian-style waffles). You can also sub it in for regular chocolate in a range of recipes—including this mousse, which I like to serve alongside Partizan’s Imperial White Russian Stout.

I think there are two different kinds of (successful) food and beer pairings: those which pair perfectly complementary flavours, and those which feature contrasting flavours which, when combined, can delight and surprise.

For me, this pairing falls in the latter category. Normally, pairing a sweet and creamy dessert with a less sweet beer can be problematic. But in this case, the mousse draws out the beer’s coffee notes and heightens its bitterness. In this way, an intense, 9% ABV imperial stout becomes an unexpectedly refreshing foil, contrasting the richness and sugar with each moreish sip. The effect is something like an affogato: the first shock of bitterness and sweetness together, the beauty of the way they meld together into a finishing harmony.

Caramelised White Chocolate Mousse
Serves 4

For the caramelised white chocolate:
200g high-quality white chocolate (containing at least 30% cocoa solids)
150ml double cream
1 pinch Maldon sea salt

Preheat your oven to 120 degrees C. If you’re using fèves or other small pieces of white chocolate, pour them in a single layer onto a clean baking sheet or Pyrex tray. If you’re using a bar of chocolate, chop it roughly into small pieces using a serrated knife, and pour onto your prepared tray.

Place in the pre-heated oven and cook for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, remove from the oven and stir the chocolate with a dry spatula; the chocolate will be beginning to melt and clump. Spread it in as even a layer as possible, and cook again for 10 minutes, before removing from the oven and stirring with a clean spatula again.

Repeat these steps until the chocolate has baked for between 50-60 minutes total. By the end, it should smell nutty and caramelised, and its colour should be a deep toffee brown. Depending on the brand of chocolate you use, it may melt fully or may resemble drier crumbles; both work just fine, so don’t worry if the appearance is a little surprising.

Once the chocolate has finished baking, add it to a food processor, along with 150ml of double cream (ideally warmed to room temperature) and a generous pinch of Maldon sea salt. Blend for at least 3-4 minutes, pausing to scrape down the sides of the food processor with a spatula, or until the mixture is thick and entirely smooth with no clumps. When finished, it should look like dulce de leche and taste absolutely divine.

For the mousse:
Caramelised white chocolate
2 large egg yolks
2 tbs caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
450ml double cream, divided (70ml, 230ml and 150ml)

Place the prepared caramelised white chocolate in a large bowl and set aside.

In a small bowl, add the egg yolks and the caster sugar, and whisk until the mixture is smooth and light yellow.

In a small saucepan, heat the vanilla and 70ml of double cream over medium-low heat until the mixture is simmering. Remove from the heat. Pour over the egg yolk and sugar mixture in a very slow but steady stream, whisking constantly, to temper the eggs.

When the egg mixture is fully incorporated, pour back into the saucepan and stir, over low heat, until it’s thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat. Place a fine-meshed sieve over the bowl of caramelised white chocolate, and pour the warm egg mixture over it. Stir until the mix is completely blended.

In a large bowl, add 230ml of double cream. Using an electric mixer, whisk until it has formed not-quite- stiff peaks. Fold half the whipped cream gently into the chocolate mixture until smooth; fold the remaining cream in until smooth.

Divide the mixture among four ramekins. Cover and chill for at least two hours, or until completely set.

When ready to serve, whisk the remaining 150ml of double cream with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Top each ramekin with a dollop of whipped cream for good measure.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and all-around lover of tasty things. When she's not cracking open a cold one, she's probably cooking up roasted lamb with hummus. Or chicken laksa. Or pumpkin bread. You can follow her at @clairembullen. Pick up Partizan's Imperial White Russian Stout while stocks last in store or at our online shop

Fundamentals #7 – Omnipollo/Dugges Anagram Blueberry Cheesecake Stout

I’m sure you’re already well aware of what make up the core ingredients within a beer: water, malt, yeast and hops. As part of Fundamentals the aim is to explore those and other, perhaps less thought of ingredients, such as the oak of a barrel, the addition of fruit juice or zest, or even harnessing wild bacteria for natural fermentation. In beer, for me at least, a fundamental can be any one of those things and more.

However, I’m curious. Can the design that sits on a bottle or can itself be considered as one of the fundamentals of beer? Of course it can. In fact I would argue that the way a beer presents itself on the shelf is as crucial as the malt bill or hop additions.

Sweden’s Omnipollo has made a point of striving for uniqueness in the beer aisle on every bottle it produces. It should come as no surprise that Karl Grandin, Omnipollo’s co-founder, is an illustrator and graphic designer who also helped to set up the Cheap Monday fashion brand. In fact when the Omnipollo and Cheap Monday brands are placed side by side, the similarities between the two are immediately obvious.

Although the brewery is officially based in Stockholm, Omnipollo is a nomadic brewery, much like Denmark’s Mikkeller, and brews in various locations, including at the UK’s Buxton Brewery.

Omnipollo has garnered a reputation for producing some pretty outrageous beers. Its Yellow Belly peanut butter stout – a collaboration with the aforementioned Buxton – is a great example of this. Anagram is another collaboration, this time with Dugges Brewery, fellow Swedes based near the city of Gothenburg.

Anagram is an imperial stout that weighs in at a hefty 12% ABV and tastes exactly as it says on the bottle: of rich, sweet and sticky blueberry cheesecake. It’s heavy going but every sip is laced with fun and the Omnipollo team are masters of making beers that make your palate laugh with joy.

I’ll be honest here, the reason I won’t tell you what makes it taste of blueberry cheesecake is that you probably don’t want to know. Just take my advice and maybe stick to salads or do some light exercise before you drink one.

As bonkers as the taste of this beer is though, it’s Grandin’s designs that lure you in. The label on this bottle tells you nothing of the beers style, it’s just a clever mesh of both Omnipollo’s and Dugges branding, artfully screen-printed in “millennial pink”. The design is so striking that it ends up piquing that curiosity reflex in your brain before you’ve even turned the bottle around to find out what the beer tastes like.

The fundamentals of beer are anything that makes up the sum of a beer’s parts. Water, barley, wheat, oats, sugars, yeast, bacteria and even adjuncts such as fruit or maize are all fundamental parts of what make up our favourite beers. You can find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis at his excellent beer blog Total AlesGood Beer Hunting and on Twitter @totalcurtis. Pick up a bottle of Omnipollo/Dugges Anagram in store or online now.

Fundamentals #3 – Marble Brewery Lost Your Marbles Red Wine B.A. Forest Fruits Imperial Stout

It really feels like Manchester’s Marble Brewery has reasserted itself as one of the nation's most relevant breweries over the past few months. Not that there should ever have been any doubt.

Under the watchful eye of head brewer James Kemp and his team, Marble has refined its core range, introduced a breathtaking new range of hop forward beers under its “Metal Series” label and released a series of complex and accomplished barrel aged beers. There was a small blip when they decided to discontinue the transcendent Dobber, one of the most important beers in my personal drinking history, but that’s OK because I’m heading to Manchester to brew it with Marble as part of its 20th anniversary celebrations later this year.

Lost Your Marbles has been released as two iterations – one barrel aged with Brettanomyces and this one, which has been aged in Pinot Noir barrels along with an addition of cherries, blackberries, blackcurrants, raspberries and redcurrants. It’s a collaboration between returning Marble brewer Joe Ince (who until recently was brewing at Magic Rock) and Dan Whitehead de Bechevel, who has recently left Marble to start his own brewery: the imaginatively named Dan’s Brewery.”

The fundamental that fascinates me in this particular beer is not the fruit but the barrels itself. None other than winemaker Andrew Nielsen of Le Grappin sourced the French Pinot Noir barrels that this beer was aged in. You might not have heard Nielsen’s name before but it's one you should learn because he has provided several other breweries, including Redchurch, Wild Beer Co and Burning Sky with wine barrels of their own. [ED: As well as making awesome wine of his own!]

I contacted Marble’s Joe Ince to ask why he selected these barrels in particular for ageing this beer. “I wanted the barrels to help mellow the stock beer, allow for longer term ageing without adding too much tannin, something I'm very wary of with wood,” he says. “I was also hoping they would add a little funk and help the fruit really come through, which I think they did. Although not a wine drinker I quite like Pinot Noir as it always presents with cherry and raspberry to me.”

The resulting beer is velveteen in texture, with a lusciously smooth carbonation. Ince has certainly achieved the low tannin and high fruit flavour content he desired. The rich chocolate malts are met by the tartness of black cherries and raspberries, producing a flavour not unlike black forest gateau, which also happens to have been the brewers' end goal with this beer.

It definitely benefits from being allowed to warm in the glass a little first and I reckon that a few months longer in the bottle wouldn’t do it any harm either – especially if you want those funky, tart flavours to come to the fore. Don’t hang about though - only 1200 bottles have been produced and based on this tasting they won’t be about for long.

The fundamentals of beer are anything that makes up the sum of a beer’s parts. Water, barley, wheat, oats, sugars, yeast, bacteria and even adjuncts such as fruit or maize are all fundamental parts of what make up our favourite beers. You can find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis at his excellent beer blog Total AlesGood Beer Hunting and on Twitter @totalcurtis. And pick up a bottle of Marble's exceptional Lost Your Marbles Red Wine BA Forest Fruits in store or online now.

No More Heroes XXXIV – Hop Federation Coffee Stout

I’m writing this week’s penultimate episode of No More Heroes from New Zealand, so it’s apt that this week’s beer is of Kiwi origin. I say penultimate because we’ve decided to rest this column in favour of something fresh, new and “educational” that’ll be arriving on your in front of your faces in just a few weeks' time.

Coffee is becoming an increasingly prevalent adjunct in craft beer and not just in the more obvious coffee-infused dark beers like the one I’m reviewing today. It’s also ably used in pale ales, red ales and even dry-hopped sour beers. As an ingredient, coffee can be as versatile as malt or hops, with the ability to impart flavours on a spectrum that ranges from roasted and chocolate through to floral and even herbal.

But just like hops, coffee is an extremely volatile ingredient, with the flavours it imparts dissipating quickly. So unless you’re not particularly fond of coffee, don’t hang on to beers that use it, drink them quickly before that flavour disappears.

Hop Federation, which is based in Riwaka at the top of the South Island (also in New Zealand’s famous hop growing region), uses coffee in one of the most obvious senses in this stout. It adds a serious amount of roast and poke to the herbaceous, gooseberry-tinged notes provided by the hops. This combination of ingredients binds to form a robustly satisfying and moreish beer that drinks easy despite its weighty 7% ABV.

The good news is that, thanks to the folks at Hop Burns & Black shipping it over to the UK, you don’t have to travel to New Zealand like I did to enjoy it yourself. Just make sure you drink it fresh.

Music Pairing: The Fall – Totally Wired
As well as cramming in heaps of flavour (Christ, I’ve been here 5 minutes and I’m already using the lingo), the Hop Federation Coffee Stout packs in a serious amount of caffeine. These days I’m as a much a third-wave coffee junkie as I am a craft beer enthusiast and I’m confident in my ability to chain several strong coffees in the morning. In fact, it’s a necessity.

However after 500ml of this particular beer I was buzzing. In fact you could say I was totally wired, which is as good an excuse as any to bring out this absolute belter of a record from Mark. E. Smith and the gang. Just remember: You don’t have to be weird to be wired (although take it from me, it helps).

Find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis at his excellent beer blog, Total AlesGood Beer Hunting and on Twitter @totalcurtis. You can find the roasty, toasty glory that is the Hop Federation Coffee Stout and more from the Hop Federation range exclusive at HB&B - get it in store or head online to get it delivered to your door.

#HBBAdvent Beer 18: Panhead Black Top Oat Stout (New Zealand) / Weird Beard Black Christmas Cranberry Stout (London)

Such was the demand for this year's #HBBAdvent calendar that we completely failed to anticipate demand - three cases of Panhead Black Top Oat Stout was nowhere near enough! Thus, quite a few of you will find Weird Beard Black Christmas in your box - an enviable substitute.

Panhead Custom Ales says: As self-confessed bogans we have a natural attraction to black, preferably matte, so Blacktop Oatmeal is close to our hearts. The key to creating a silky death metal monster like this is the caramelised Golden Naked Oats we’ve built it around. Sophisticates will detect the chocolate and coffee notes of creamy tiramisu. The rest of us will note that it matches our jeans.

Weird Beard says: A festive stout with subtle roast character that plays well with fruity and slightly tart notes from the cranberry. Sorachi Ace hops, which there are plenty of in this beer, gives hints of vanilla and coconut.

We say: Two beers, two of our favourite breweries. We wanted to go to the dark side for the Sunday before Christmas (nothing sinister, just that the last few advent beers were pales so it was time for some stouty goodness). One beer channels the spirit of the Antipodean Westie (aka the hard rock-loving, car-obsessed bogan of Kiwi lore), the other channels the spirit of West London. Both perfect for Sunday night sipping. - Jen

Each night, we'll reveal the day's hand-picked beer from our Big Beery Advent Calendar. Feel free to comment below or have your say on Twitter or Instagram (#HBBAdvent). Find Weird Beard Black Christmas and the Panhead range (exclusive to HB&B) in store or via our online shop while stocks last.

#HBBAdvent Beer 5: Siren Craft Brew/Garage Project Blacklight Banana Imperial Stout (Finchamstead/New Zealand)

Siren/Garage Project says: For this year’s Rainbow Project collaboration with Garage Project we drew the colour indigo. After much research on both sides the idea that excited us all most was that of the Blacklight Banana. Ripe bananas uniquely glow bright indigo under UV lights, one possible reason for this being that it identifies them as a food source for animals that see in the UV range, like bats. Molasses, caramelised bananas, banana purée and bourbon barrel aged coffee beans elevate this beer to something special.

We say: We always look forward to Rainbow Day, where the collaborative efforts of the seven participating UK breweries and their international counterparts are released. The 2016 project had special interest to us as it featured seven (or six, as it transpired this year) New Zealand breweries, including Garage Project, probably the most hyped Kiwi brewery never to make it to UK shelves. Jos and his team are doing exceptional things in the Aro Valley, as we discovered during an infamous 22-beer tasting session when we were back in January, and we can't wait until they decide to export over here. In the meantime, this lush impy stout, brewed with Siren, helps to ease the pain of Garage Project's absence. And who said you can't drink a 9.2% stout on a Monday? You've earned this. - Jen

Each night, we'll reveal the day's hand-picked beer from our Big Beery Advent Calendar. Feel free to comment below or have your say on Twitter or Instagram (#HBBAdvent). Find Blacklight Banana in store or via our online shop.

No More Heroes XXI – Townshend’s Flemish Stout

The first thing I remember about my early beer experiences in New Zealand is the ubiquitous New Zealand Draught. This solid, yet simple variety of draught beer from brands such as Tui, Speight’s and Lion is the first thing folks might think of when it comes to NZ beer. However, it didn’t take me long to discover that there’s much more to Kiwi beer than NZ draught. In fact, New Zealand is home to one of the most eclectic and accomplished craft brewing communities in the world.

If you’re into your Kiwi craft beer you might have heard of brands such as Tuatara, Yeastie Boys and Garage Project, perhaps even some exciting up and coming brewers (and one of my personal favourites) such as Liberty Brew Co. Today’s beer is from one of what I would call a lesser known NZ brewer, but he’s certainly no less accomplished than the ones I’ve already mentioned.

Martin Townshend founded the brewery that shares his name back in 2005, right in the heart of NZ hop country, near the town of Nelson, at the northernmost tip of the South Island. Townshend’s Flemish Stout is a limited release beer and combines the malty girth of an imperial stout, all dark chocolate and roasted coffee, with the tangy, lactic acidity of a Flemish Red such as Rodenbach Grand Cru.

It might sound a little bonkers, but that’s because it is and perhaps the most remarkable thing is that the gentle acidity does an admirable job of disguising the 9% ABV. It’s a beer to be taken in small sips, accompanied by giant slabs of strong cheese. Hop Burns and Black might well be carrying the best range of NZ beers in the UK at the moment, and this is one that’s not to be missed.

Music Pairing: Plastic Bertrand, Ca Plane Pour Moi
It would’ve been easy to recommend some excellent Kiwi music to pair with this excellent Kiwi beer, but we picked NZ band Th’ Dudes in our previous installment, so that would hardly be fair. Instead why not enjoy this bonkers sour stout with a Belgian twist by listening to a frankly bonkers Belgian. Ladies and gentlemen, Plastic Bertrand.

You can find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis at his excellent beer blog, Total Ales, and Good Beer Hunting, and on Twitter @totalcurtis. And you can get Townshend's Flemish Stout exclusively in the UK from HB&B, delivered to your door via our online shop.

The Beer Lover’s Table: Three Beer Floats

It’s almost July, but you haven’t seen the sun for three weeks. The next bank holiday isn’t for two more months. And “apocalyptic” might be a generous way of describing our current political situation. But… have you considered putting ice cream in beer?

Sure, beer floats aren’t going to heal everything that ails you. But the simple magic of adding a cold scoop of ice cream to a frosty beer is one very reliable, gently decadent way of making your day a little brighter (and, if you can manage to find a window of sunshine and a patch of grass, all the better).

As an American, adding ice cream to something fizzy was never a weird thing for me. Root beer floats, baby! In my early twenties, I graduated towards frosty pint glasses of Southern Tier’s super-sweet Crème Brûlée Stout, which was almost a dessert in itself, and therefore even better when served a la mode. And while the classic sweet stout and vanilla ice cream pairing is always reliable – here, I’ve opted to use Wild Beer Co’s Millionaire, which is made with lactose, cacao nibs and caramel – there are more ways to play with the beer float format.

Try sours, for starters. For my other two floats, I’ve gone for Moa Cherry Sour, straight from New Zealand, and Mikkeller’s jolly can of Hallo Ich Bin Berliner Weisse Peach. These two work really well, as both are softly sour, and full of lots of bright fruit flavours. The Moa Cherry Sour is excellent when topped with chocolate ice cream (think German black forest cake), and for the Berliner Weisse, you can go full retro peach melba with the addition of raspberry sorbet. The former is decadent and desserty, while the latter is a sweet, refreshing fruit-bomb that would be perfect for a picnic.

A bit of further guidance if you’re looking to invent a beer float of your own: any beer that skews too hop-forward and bitter will likely clash with all of that sweet dairy, so approach with caution (although a super juicy pale ale just might work). Witbiers and hefeweizens also offer some pairing possibilities; if I were you, I’d look to the sorbet section. Beyond sorbets, if you’re dairy-free, coconut ice cream would be a dream with richer stouts or fruitier brews. I’d also avoid any sour beers that are on the funky, brett-y end of the spectrum.

And finally, if you’re a purist who thinks adding ice cream to beer is sacrilege: please withhold judgment until you try. If liquid, boozy ice cream doesn’t make you happy – or help you temporarily forget that Boris Johnson exists – then nothing will.

Three Beer Floats

Float 1
Wild Beer Co Millionaire
Vanilla ice cream

Float 2
Moa Cherry Sour
Chocolate ice cream

Float 3
Mikkeller Hallo Ich Bin Berliner Weisse Peach
Raspberry sorbet

For your respective float, first find a sizeable glass that can comfortably hold a good few scoops of ice cream or sorbet (you don’t want to be skimping, here). Add 2-3 scoops to the empty glass and top up with your beer – the mix should foam up quite aggressively. Let rest for a few minutes before topping up with more beer and crowning with an additional scoop or two. Grab a spoon and a straw and go to town.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and all-around lover of tasty things. When she's not cracking open a cold one, she's probably cooking up roasted lamb with hummus. Or chicken laksa. Or pumpkin bread. You can follow her at @clairembullen. And why not grab all those glorious beers at our online shop?

Big Beery Advent Calendar - Beer 4: Brewdog Hinterland, 9% (Scotland)

Each night at 8pm, we'll post a blog about the day's hand-picked beer in our Big Beery Advent Calendar - why we love the brewery, why we've chosen the beer, why we think you'll love it too. Feel free to comment below or have your say on Twitter.

Brewdog says: "A 9% abv oatmeal milk stout brewed with vanilla pods and cocoa, it is a eulogy to the depths of the imagination – and what dwells therein. On the aroma, deep reverberating roasty bitterness and sweet dark chocolate. Also in evidence, woodsmoke, rich vanilla, mocha and marzipan. When tasting, Hinterland reveals itself as the beer moves from cellar temperature to something warmer, yielding all of the above plus dried fruit, rich ganache and ending on a resoundingly warming finish redolent of chocolate liqueur or plum brandy."

We say: People are quick to diss Brewdog, with its ill-advised PR stunts and seeming ubiquity. But we’ll have no truck with Tall Poppy Syndrome here. At the end of the day, Brewdog continues to make some of the tastiest beers in the country and this limited edition stout is one of our favourites of 2015. A treat to look at, with its intricate label designed by artist Johanna Basford, this feels like a treat when you drink it too. And we all need to treat ourselves sometimes. (Ed: often.)

Matthew Curtis's No More Heroes VII – Redchurch Hoxton Stout

Dark beer has had me vexed recently. Or rather, the lack of dark beer I’ve seen on tap in my favourite bars has. I’m not just talking about stouts either. I’m witnessing a complete lack of stouts, dunkelweizens, doppelbocks, brown ales and extra special bitters. The pale and the hoppy seem to be dominating beer menus wherever I go.

Not that this is a huge problem, I like pale and hoppy beer an awful lot but I like a wide breadth of choice even more. What’s perplexing is that right now brewers are knocking out more variations of styles than ever before, so why is there this lack of stouts? Well it’s simple, we’re just not drinking enough of them and pubs don’t like to stock beer that doesn't sell quickly. So I implore you, the drinker, to rediscover great dark beer this winter.

One of my very favourite stouts is being brewed right here in London by Bethnal Green’s Redchurch Brewery. Of course you might know Redchurch better for their superb Great Eastern IPA or perhaps Paradise Pale Ale. You might even know them for their innovative sour beers. Truth is their stouts, such as their flagship Hoxton Stout, blow these beers out of the water.

Hoxton Stout walks the line between being rich and satisfying to being uncomplicated and refreshing. This is what makes it a great stout. You can sit and sip at this beer, dwelling on the dark chocolate and heavily roasted coffee notes before marvelling at the blast of Simcoe hops in the finish. Or you can simply knock back a pint and let it chase the winter out of your system. We desperately need to see more stouts of this quality pouring in our pubs, so we’d better drink as much as possible in order to convince our landlords that it’s worth it.

You can find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis at his excellent beer blog, Total Ales, and Good Beer Hunting, and on Twitter@totalcurtis.