The brewery at Hook Norton is a classic example of a local English brewer. Situated in the beautiful rolling Cotswold Hills to the west of London, the brewery is one of 32 independent family-run breweries, and is run by James Clarke, the great, great, grandson of the brewery’s founder John Harris.
Hook Norton are passionate about their English heritage, and for April have announced a special brew ‘303 AD’ to commemorate St George’s Day. You might recall that 303 AD was the year of the execution of St George on The Brew Club’s post announcing April as English Ale Month.
In the absence of being able to find a pint of 303 AD I will have to content myself with a bottle of the brewery’s well regarded Hook Norton Double Stout – hardly a hardship! The term ‘double stout’ refers to the use of two different malts in the brewing process, much like ‘imperial’ stouts. In the case of this one it’s a blend of Black Malt for colour and ‘toast’ flavour and Brown Malt for dryness and based on a recipe that’s said to be over 100 years old, although it wasn’t brewed for a number of years, being revived in 1996 after a break of 79 years.
This pours with a generous, foaming, coffee coloured head that takes a while to subside and leaves a hefty lacing down the glass. Holding this dark ale to the light reveals that this comes into Scott’s ‘liquid night’ classification, not even a halogen light shines though!
The nose is a potent shot of espresso, and the coffee flavours come through. I don’t detect much in the way of toast, but there’s a subtle maltiness hiding in the background, and not much in the way of hops. What’s perhaps surprising is that this isn’t as full bodied as I expected, not as ‘chewy’ as Guinness or a Porter, but that’s not so bad. At 4.8% ABV it’s almost a session beer, and I could see myself enjoying a few of these, in the right circumstances.