We’ve all seen chilli beers, I guess most of us have given them a try; for the most part they’re flaccid lagers with a jalapeno pepper mouldering inside. I’ve yet to try one I enjoyed.
I suppose I should declare an interest here, I’m a chilli fan. I love growing and trying new chilli varieties, and am not afraid to navigate the upper reaches of the Scoville Scale – Habenero, Bhut Jolokia, Trinidad Scorpion – bring ‘em on!
So, when I learned of a chilli flavoured Imperial Stout, I thought ‘this could be worth investigating’.
Some background – Durham is a city in the north-east of England, to the south of Newcastle upon Tyne and on the banks of the river Wear. The city was, founded, according to legend, in 995AD when St Cuthbert’s funeral procession – on its way to the holy island of Lindisfarne – came to an inexplicable halt, and only moved after the spirit of St Cuthbert himself appeared to a monk with instructions on the route his coffin should take.
The Durham Brewery was launched in August 1994 at the Durham CAMRA Beer Festival and has continued to brew well respected brews since then, I confess they’re new to me.
‘Hellfire’ was their 2012 Christmas beer, described as the ‘ultimate winter warmer’.
It pours midnight black, with a full, foaming, tan head that fades gently.
The nose is dark roast coffee, really dark, we’re talking Colombian espresso and burnt toast.
But it’s the flavour that really gets you, the first hit is the rich, Imperial Stout with deep, dark, mellow coffee notes, not as ‘in your face’ as that nose would have led you to expect.
Then you get the warming heat of that 10% alcohol, smooth and comforting. Then the chilli kicks in, this is a full-on birds-eye chilli with none of the namby-pamby fruit notes of a Jalapeno.
It’s something approaching the warmth of Tabasco sauce, but without the acid-vinegar notes.
It’s buffalo-wings, lip tingling heat, but couched in the deep velvet smoothness of that strong, Imperial Stout.
This is truly a majestic beer, and the more I sipped it the higher its rating went.
As I savoured the last few drops, I couldn’t see myself giving it anything less than five stars.
Sadly, this was limited to just 1000 bottles, and at close to ten bucks a bottle it was not a cheap drink, but when I went back for another, Beermoth had sold out. Oh well, let’s hope they brew something similar this year