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.