Halloween, my favourite holiday, looms. Usually around this time, Mr. Malting will dust off his extensive collection of Vampire Disco on vinyl and I bust out my Ben Nye “contusion” greasepaint color assortment and it’s a party. Luckily, I have just the beers to kick off the season while I fine tune my skull face.
The fantastic folks at Cumbrian Legendary Ales have sent me a bottle of their 8% doppelbock named after a Cumbrian vampire legend from the 17th century: two red lights from yonder graveyard come forward and move around the house. Something unpicks the lead of the glass in the window and then a corpse-like hand reaches in….
The Munich malt really dominates in the nose and centrally on the palate. It has a nice red-amber tinge suitable for something named after a blood sucking fiend, and there’s an alcohol warming, though for such a strong beer it’s very easy to drink. There’s a pleasant cereal-candy aspect to this that’s just sweet enough to remind me of a childhood treat hoard.
The next beer is the limited-edition Bashah, another version of the Brewdog-Stone collaboration, the original Bashah, which was dry hopped with Amarillo (my favourite hop) as well as the new-to-me hop, Hercules. The beer was then aged in whisky casks with 30 kilos of tayberries in one and black raspberries in the other. (I’ve already had the Tayberry one last week, and enjoyed it in a totally non-verbal way, taking no tasting notes and just relishing the experience.) I’m a huge fan of Bashah and when I saw that Johanna was doing the labels for these, I was smitten all over again with what Brewdog can do. The labels are about as goth as one can get, with the Stone gargoyle crouching amdist skulls and brambles where an owl perches and bats fly out over a full moon. It’s the kind of beer label you’d want as a tattoo. Or maybe that’s just me.
On uncorking the bottle the whole room is filled with the scent of chocolate raspberries. The nose is powerfully boozy, with a note of sweet musk, like a heady perfume. The tall, dense head soon wanes, lacing the glass with a delicate foam and the beer itself is an opaque black. The raspberry version is more complex than the Tayberry, which was sweeter– a simple fruity chocolate delight. But this has a lot going on– it is very similar to the Rake Raspberry Brewdog made a few years ago, but this is more balanced and smoother. Vanilla and intense alcohol warming hit you first. Then, big, bitter chocolate follows and of course the mineral tang of earthy raspberry. It’s only at the very end that I can taste the hops, though no doubt they are tempering the sweetness of the chocolate malt as well as drying out some of the fruits. This is a very special beer, and I only wish I had another bottle to drink on Halloween.