I wish I could remember where I picked this bottle of Old Henry from Hobson's brewery up from but it's been sat in my cupboard a while. For those that are interested Hobson's Brewery is based in Cleobury Mortimer, which I gather is in Shropshire. They've got a reasonable range of beers plus some cider, some gin and some vodka for those of you who like less pleasant drinks. They produce a range of 8 proper cask beers and have been doing since 1993, but I think this is the first I've had and Old Henry is also the strongest they have to offer.
The beer comes in a very plain 500ml bottle which describes 'a rich auburn ale with complex malty flavours, balanced by a clean hoppy finish. A sensible yet stylish beer.' I guess what I have to ask myself is in this age of mad craft beer offerings do I really want a sensible beer? And the answer is yes from time to time I really do. Old Henry pours a slightly cloudy orange/chestnut colour with a decent white head which takes a few minutes to recede to lacing. Looking at the beer it certainly has the feel of something I'd order in a nice local old mans pub, so yea it looks sensible.
Old Henry has a fairly sweet, malty smell with some minor spices and maybe a little fruit, maybe cherries. It's certainly not an unpleasant smell but it's fairly faint and nondescript in all honesty. So far this really does have the feel of a beer that would do pretty well at a CAMRA beer festival, it's a proper drinkers pint and at 5.2% alcohol you'd put it just about in the top end of a session category. It certainly seems sensible, but is it stylish?
The beers texture isn't bad, it's probably just above medium bodied so it's quite drinkable, and the taste is exactly what you'd expect from the smell and description in that it's all very sensible, very safe, very traditional and a little bland. You'll find some mild fruity tastes, a fair level of hops, and some mild bitter malts, it's a perfectly acceptable cask bitter. I'm going to give Old Henry from Hobson's Brewery a respectable 6 out of 10. It's an old reliable, safe, sensible beer which wont let you down.
As someone who isn't a huge fan of spicy food I'm a little nervous about trying Choco Libre Nitro from from Brewdog, but the Europa League final is on TV and I really should have a beer. That said I love nitro beers and have gone so far as to say Jet Black Heart Nitro is possibly the best dark beer you can buy at the moment so I do have some hope for this. Just for the record a nitro beer has extra nitrogen and this makes the beer smoother, and I do like a good smooth beer. I expect you all know who Brewdog are by now and if you don't where have you been the last ten years?
Choco Libre comes in a 402ml pretty cool pink and light blue can declaring that this is a Mexican Hot Chocolate Stout which 'wrestles taste to the canvas.' I'm assuming when it says Mexican hot chocolate stout it means a spicy hot chocolate stout rather than a pleasant hot chocolate stout to match the warm hot chocolate beverage you might have before bed. The 8.2% alcohol content means that either way this beer really will have a kick. I once had a chili beer called Aztec in Leeds and it took 3 of us to finish the pint it was that hot so I'm hoping this version is a little more mild.
As you'd expect from a nitro beer Choco Libre pours deliciously. It's jet black with a gorgeous tan head which you can tell will last right through to the last sip, which is just how I like it. The aroma quickly dispels any idea that this will be a mild drink, the hot chili spices come through straight away, quickly followed by some rich dark chocolate notes and some coffee malts, it smells amazing. My only hesitation remains the memory of my last chili stout experience but I have faith that Brewdog wont let me down.
Again as expected from a nitro stout the texture of Choco Libre is really nice, thick and smooth while the taste hits you pretty hard. I'd say this beer is like a really good winter warmer on steroids. The chili dominates and will certainly warm you up nicely, but there's not so much that you want to drink a pint of water after each taste. After the taste buds recover from the initial shock the chocolate tastes come through to add an extra depth to what is already a pretty exciting beer. I genuinely think this is an exception beer, the only thing I would say is at 8.2% and with such a spicy feel you probably wont want more than one in a night and the taste is such it will interfere with subsequent drinks so maybe avoid having it on a session. I'm going to give Choco Libre from Brewdog 9 out of 10. In terms of pure taste, smell and texture it should be a 10 but because you probably wont want to drink more than one or two at a time I guess it can't quite get full marks.
I seem to be reviewing a lot of beers from around Leeds lately and I can assure you that's entirely coincidental. Wilde Child Brewing Co are another Leeds based brewery with only about 5 years experience but a pretty impressive selection on offer including 6 stouts, one of which is Explicit Emphasis and 5 porters, so they seem like a good brewery if you like your dark beers as much as I do. Don't worry though if you're a lighter drinker they also have a bunch of pale ales, IPA's and DIPA's for you to experiment with. I'm pretty sure I got this beer from Morrison's as part of a 4 for £6 deal so that's not bad.
Explicit Emphasis comes in a cool, colourful 440ml can which looks like it wouldn't be out of place in a modern art gallery. The beer is described as having 'more salted caramel than you can shake a stick at' with 'dark and roasted malts & a touch of lactose to create a truly thick and creamy beverage.' All of this sounds pretty good and at 5.9% alcohol Wilde Child are certainly putting together a beer that could pack a punch. I've decided to have this as a dessert on a Friday night as it has all the markings of a proper rich beer.
Explicit Emphasis pours a seriously dark black with a decent head. If the head lasted just a bit longer before fading to lacing I'd be really impressed but regardless it's a fairly good looking pint. The aroma is pretty impressive too. This certainly smells like a strong beer with lots of chocolate and caramel scents so I think I made the right choice having this as a dessert rather than as part of a session. What I would say though is that to me it smells much more of chocolate than salted caramel which is a bit of a surpise.
The beers texture is somewhere between medium and full bodied, I was expecting thicker if I'm honest but it's quite pleasant. Meanwhile the taste matches the aroma. It's a bit strange to be honest I love chocolate beers, but I'm slightly disappointed by how much chocolate is in Explicit Emphasis. Sure there's some salted caramel, but I really wanted that to be the driving force as lets face it there's dozens of good chocolate beers out there and it feels like this had a chance to stand out. Explicit Emphasis from Wilde Childe is a good tasty beer, but it doesn't do enough to stand out from the other chocolate beers out there. I'm going to give Explicit Emphasis 7.5 out of 10. It's a very good beer, it's just not an outstanding one.