Big Smoke

No More Heroes XXVI – Big Smoke Brew Co. Underworld Milk Stout

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.

New stuff in store, 15 October

The best new beers! The best new hot sauces! The best old records! Who loves ya, baby? Here's what's new on the shelves this week...


  • New breweries alert! We welcome Surbiton's Big Smoke Brew Co to our London shelves. These guys are making some cracking beers, of which we've got three: Medicine Man IPAElectric Eye Pale Ale and Dark Wave Porter.
  • We've also got double can action from Leeds brewery Northern Monk, another new entrant to the HB&B shelves. We've got their terrific New World IPA as well as It's A Trap, a collab Belgian IPA with our friends at Yeastie Boys.
  • Plus after winning all the plaudits on flagon-fill, we've got Mad Hatter Brewing's Toxteth IPA in bottles, as well as Fear Of Eating Words, a hoppy bretted Trappist-style ale.  Get in!
  • From Pressure Drop, we've got the gloriously named and designed Alligator Tugboat IPA, as well as the welcome return of (the equally well-named) Strictly Roots, a beautiful earthy porter made with foraged dandelion and burdock.
  • Buxton Yellow Belly makes its somewhat sinister debut. This beer was one of the hits of last year's Rainbow Project - a peanut butter biscuit imperial stout made with Swedish superstars Omnipollo. (FYI the provocative packaging is the breweries' protest against racists, the most yellow-bellied of them all.)
  • You can't drink enough Arbor Ales it seems, so we've got another one to add to the line-up - Half Day IPA, a super-tasty American Pale Ale from our Bristol buddies.
  • Our first-ever French beers hit the European section - Brasserie du Quercorb is run by former Dulwich residents Jayne and Paul, and they're making some terrific brews. PS - we're the only place you'll find these in London, so drink these and feel special...
  • And as always, phenomenal new beers coming up on flagon-fill...


  • We had a great day on Saturday with Harry from GingerBeard's Craft Preserves and Justin from Moor Beer in the house, launching their new collab sauce, Ghost Pepper Fusion 2015. All of Harry's sauces incorporate beers from Bristol breweries - i.e. practically made for HB&B - so we took the liberty of relieving him of all his stock before he went back home. Choose from Ultimate Stout BBQ Sauce (made with Bristol Beer Factory's Ultimate Stout), Moor Amoor Chipotle Ketchup (made with Moor's Amoor Porter) or the insanely good Beer Bacon & Chilli Jam (made with Arbor's Smokescreen Porter).
  • We've also got two more local sauces lining up on the chilli wall - Vicky's Kitchen Caribbean Pepper Sauce, straight outta West Norwood, and Dalston Chillies' delicious fruity new Bajan Sauce.


  • Cheers to customer Ian, who brought in a gold mine haul of eclecticness including Roxy Music, Motorhead, Aphex Twin, Black Sabbath, Bikini Kill and an original pressing of Pulp's Different Class with all six inserts... Get in to trawl the bins before Saturday when we're hauling them down to the New Cross Oxjam festival for the day. (Catch us at the Job Centre in Deptford and pick up some sauce and records while you catch loads of awesome bands.)