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Go to the 'dark side' this winter, advises René van den Oort of Beautiful Beers in Bury St Edmunds

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I don’t know about you but as I fire up the central heating system and don a warm jumper, I also long for more wholesome food and drink. The vegetable patch in the garden has been cleared of their juicy tomatoes, fresh salad greens and baby potatoes. We’re now satisfying our tastebuds with richer, warmer flavours such as a nice dumpling stew or wholesome roast dinner.

So too is the enjoyment of richer, darker beers. Maybe a classic English Porter or dark Mild? Perhaps an Irish Stout or even a Belgian Dubbel? All these beers have this warming, rich and smooth malty flavour that is so satisfying at this time of year. Their flavour profile often resembles chocolate, be it creamy milk or rich dark chocolate, coffee, caramel, brown bread and, in some cases, a warming, smoky wood fire.

There are now so many variations on the more traditional styles of beer that the options are endless. Whatever you fancy or whichever mood you’re in, even what food you have, there’s a beer that will match the situation. New, young up-and-coming breweries have realised these styles of beer, which have fallen out of favour with the bigger breweries, are again very popular with a new generation of beer drinkers who have not had the opportunity to sample these beers in the past. And with a greater demand for variety, these new breweries are keen to fill the gap left by the big boys. I mean, when did you last see a Smoked Porter or a Baltic Stout on tap in a pub? Those are very few a far between; in fact any dark beers on tap is pretty much a rarity in the tied pub trade.

Dark beer (20555164)
Dark beer (20555164)

But fear not, these wonderful rarities are available in all their unpasteurised and unfiltered glory in either bottles or cans. Now I hear you say: “Cans? Really?” but beer in cans have come a long way. No longer suffering from a strange metal taste and being cheaper to produce and recycle, this is likely to gain more and more support. So here I’ve listed a few of my recent favourites that have seen me move to the Dark Side, be it only temporarily during the colder months of the year:

Westmalle Dubbel (7% abv). One of my all time favourites and the one that got me into Belgian Trappist Ales.

Elmtree Dark Horse Stout (5% abv). A cracking Norfolk Stout from Snetterton.

Kees & Marble Brewery Lapsang Souchong Smoked Altbier (6% abv) is a Dutch/English collaboration. Think open wood fire and cigars.

Left Handed Giant Deeper Water Milk Stout (5.1% abv). Milk chocolate stout in a can from this great new brewery in Bristol.

Tynt Meadow English Trappist Ale (7.4% abv). Dates, plums and chocolate flavours with a glorious smooth finish. Leicestershire UK.

Star Wing Stain Glass Blue Robust Porter (5.4% abv). A classic rich Porter style beer from Redgrave, Suffolk.

Remember, enjoy the Dark Side but enjoy it sensibly. . .


René van den Oort is owner of Beautiful Beers

1b St John’s Street, Bury St Edmunds

01284 767205