Friday, 16 December 2011

Beer Advent Calendar Day 15 and 16- Mikkeller Santa's Little Helper 2011 and Bristol Beer Factory Chili Choc Stout

Good evening all. Tonight finds me sitting at my desk in Devon after a nice journey back from Southampton. Whilst I was there I had dinner with some relatives, and brought along something quite special- Santa's Little Helper 2011 from the gypsy brewery Mikkeller. Unfortunately I didn't get a good glass/bottle photo and didn't get the opportunity to make extensive tasting notes between the roast beef and chocolate roulade, so another capsule review seems to be in order.

Appearance: dark brown, thick beige head with some lacing in the glass
Aroma: phenolic, sweet
Taste: cloves, bit of spice in the background, no significant bitterness
Conclusion: good Belgian strong dark ale, but could have done with more pronounced "Christmas" flavours and aromas. Got a couple of bottles of Santa 2009 aged in red wine barrels in the cellar, so we'll see how they compare!

Now onto the main event, Bristol Beer Factory's Chili Choc Stout....

Bristol Beer Factory decided, at the start of the year, to brew 12 stouts to form a collection referred to as "The 12 Stouts of Christmas". These will probably make up the remainder of the advent calendar posts for this year, but I'll also try to pad out the reviews with some other, more unusual beers (it's such a chore, I know, but someone has to do it!). All of the stouts are bottle conditioned and each one is incredibly unique. From barrel ageing in Glenlivet and Laphroaig casks to brewing with roasted hazelnuts and coffee, they've come up with an incredible lineup. Tonight's choice is 5.0% ABV and has been brewed with habanero chilies and chocolate. I've heard that these two work quite well together, so let's see what they're like in a drink.

The beer pours a deep black with a light brown head that dissolves to a prominent halo around the inside of the glass. The aroma is reminiscent of lighter stouts- chocolate and coffee notes predominate, with a slight sense of the chilies in the background. The taste is equally as subtle as the aroma- no particular flavour jumps out, but a small kick from the chilies is definitely present in the finish. Overall, a well-balanced stout with an interesting finish. I would've liked more spice and some more chocolate coming through in the aroma and the taste, but this would've no doubt enforced an ABV increase to balance the flavours effectively. If you're looking for something with a more pronounced kick, then I'd recommend Mikkeller's Texas Ranger or Dark Star's Winter Meltdown (the latter, whilst not a stout, has a warming, spicy finish reminiscent of mulled wine), but if you like your stouts and your chilies subdued, you'll enjoy this!

Tomorrow, more beer and dialogue. Until next time....

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