One of the greater things about watching football in America is that most matches, especially those of the EPL, are early in the morning American time, giving people an excuse to daydrink. This is part of our series discussing exactly what to drink when you’re at the pub, presented by our resident homebrewer, Keith.
The Beer: Lump Of Coal Stout, Ridgeway Brewing, South Stoke, England, United Kingdom
The Pub: The Queen Vic, in Northeast DC
What you need to know: Ridgeway Brewing is a “gypsy brewery,” meaning that brewer Peter Scholey travels around to different breweries, uses their equipment, and then affixes the Ridgeway name and label on it. There are quite a few breweries that operate this way, and put out consistently good product. Stillwater Artisanal Ales, out of the Baltimore region, operates this way (though they just got a “permanent” space at the newly opened Of Love and Regret), as does Mikkeller out of Copenhagen.
The style, a Foreign Export Stout, is a “traveling” version of the classic stout. It’s typically bolder, roastier and more alcoholic, so to better survive long trips on cargo ships. It’s not as strong as the Imperial, but then again, it never had to satisfy Catherine the Great.
So, About this Beer: Pours a deep, clear ruby with a thin off white head. The aroma is a little mineraly and roasty. Initial biscuit flavor gives way to slight roast and very subtle clove impressions. As the beer warms, a really nice dark chocolate and nutty flavor emerges. The mouthfeel is somewhat smooth at first, though the effervescent carbonation thins it out a bit. Beautiful things, it seems, CAN come out of Stoke.
The Verdict: This was completely the opposite of what I expected. I was expecting, as you normally get in Christmas beers, something a little thicker, spicier and maltier. What I got was a simple, subtle spiced stout that was extremely light on the typical stout roastiness, and at times tasted like a red ale. Not that I’m complaining, as it’s a wonderful little beer. I would highly recommend seeking it out at your most Anglophile local/liquor store. It’s worth the quest.