I stumbled across Lump of Coal Dark Holiday Stout recently at the excellent UTO Beer stall in Borough Market, London. The Brew Club was working its way through exotic Christmas Ales, so I figured I’d try an American import. As Jack Slater would put it – “Big Mistake!”
This particular ‘American’ Import was actually brewed in the UK by the Ridgeway Brewery Company for the US market. Although since the Ridgeway Brewery Company don’t have any brewing facilities, this is contract brewed for them by the Hepworth Brewing Company in Surrey.
I’ve met Andy Hepworth, the brewery’s founder, he was formerly head brewer at the well respected King & Barnes brewery; although when I met Andy I recalled that I’d tasted one of his beers, only to recall that it was the Curious Brut that I’d only rated as a one star. Whoops!
Andy’s a nice guy and his brewery brews some well regarded ales in their own name, but I guess can’t be held responsible for the demands of their contract brew customers.
Anyway, to this particular Holiday Stout, the label promises much:
“Looking forward to a depressing holiday? Here is liquid consolation. This 8% bittersweet chocolate stout is the best you could hope for in these dark times. Actually, come to think of it, considering how bad you’ve been, this little coal-black gem is more than you deserve for Christmas this year.”
I know what I was expecting, dark, rich, full bodied with hints of espresso and dark chocolate… but having tasted it, I’ve been much better than they imply and I know I deserve much, much better.
Lump of Coal pours with a foaming head, the colour of dark coffee, and that’s about as far as it goes. The head vanishes faster than a car dealer’s smile and you’re left with a flat, dark liquid that glowers darkly at you from its glass. The nose is of bacon bits, you know, the pink plastic bits that you see on salad bars ? The bits that might just have been within a hundred miles of a pig?
The mouth feel is unpleasant, almost oily, and the flavour is sweet, smokey and sickly. The 8% ABV alcohol is very well hidden in this, although to be honest I couldn’t bring myself to finish it to confirm any after effects.
I was looking forward to trying this, and was bitterly disappointed. And slightly ashamed that this travesty is shipped to the US as a premium product.