As summer fades and the nights draw in I, like many of you I’m sure, begin to crave darker beers again. There’s something about the bite of a northerly breeze on your cheekbones and the crunch of dead leaves underfoot that makes me long for a bar to sit at, a log fire, and a pint laced with the myriad flavours that roasted barley can provide. Bitter chocolate, roasted coffee, sweet molasses… there are certain boxes that can only be ticked by a dark, rich stout.
Last year’s Dark City beer festival in Leeds - the brainchild of Northern Monk Brewery and Richard and Bryony Brownhill of Little Leeds Beer House - was a perfect celebration of these beers. So it’s fitting as we cascade towards the winter months that the event has returned and takes place at Northern Monk’s original brewery and taproom this weekend.
My experience of last year’s event was a highly enjoyable one. The Refectory, as Northern Monk’s taproom is known, is a wonderful space to hold an event such as this, taking place over two floors within the three-storey former linen mill, around a mile from Leeds city centre.
Being presented with the darker and typically stronger beers presents you with an interesting perspective when compared to other festivals of this ilk. Instead of rushing from bar to bar, eager to try as many small pours from as many breweries as possible, I found myself taking more time with each sip, appreciating the nuance of each beer as I ambled around the venue.
To mark this years event, Northern Monk has teamed up with Norway’s Lervig Aktiebryggeri to bring you Dark City Devil’s Delight Imperial Stout. And if that sounds like a mouthful then it’s with good reason. The unctuous beer weighs in at 9% ABV and features additions of crème du cacao, vanilla, oats, dextrose and lactose, all shoring up the already hefty blow dealt by the malted barley, hops and yeast.
Initial fears that this beer would be too sweet for my own palate (which typically prefers beers on the dry and bitter side of things) were soon put aside. Yes, there’s plenty of thick, sweet flavours that aren’t unlike chugging condensed milk straight from the tin, but these are balanced by a snap of dark chocolate and a faintly bitter hop twang, bringing balance to the intensity. My only complaint is perhaps the serving size. This is a big beer to be crammed inside a relatively large 440ml can, so I advise finding a pal to split it with. I can guarantee with certainty that they’ll appreciate the gesture.
Find our beer writer Matthew Curtis on Twitter @totalcurtis.