Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Special Brew

Anyone who is vaguely interested in Dark Star (which must include you, if you're reading this), will know we do monthly specials. First beer up in 2011 is one I've been looking forward to for quite some time.
A collaborative effort between myself and my friend, the beer writing, beer swilling, drink you under the table, fountain of knowledge, Melissa Cole.
This beer was originally down for brewing way back in May 2010 but due to some Dim Wittington in the brewery and a general Hophead thirst that needed quenching, it was put back a few months - which was probably a good thing.
Why good? Glad you asked. Although we were originally gonna brew in May 2010, we had been talking about it for longer and many different idea's had been bandied around. As our frequent pub meetings showed, this was a beer that was going to shape shift and evolve. By the time we had actually had a date set, the gestation period for when the beer would be let loose on the world, was a lot longer than a standard pregnancy. We, didn't know exactly what it would be like but were convinced, as all parents are, that our baby would be beautiful.
One thing we did know, is that we would brew a porter at 6.5% and one that we felt would bare more resemblance to traditional porters, whilst not shying away from a restrained use of old and new world hops.
Come the brew day, the brewery was filled with heady malt aroma's as we mashed in - anxious to see whether the selected 1.7 tonnes of malt would fit in the mash kettle.
Fortunately, it did and as the day progressed we were privileged to wort tastings, hop rubbings and infusings and general banter.
I know not everyone is a fan of collaboration brews but as a brewer, not only is great fun to do something different to the norm, it is also a way of learning, trying new styles and brewing techniques - sharing knowledge, whilst creating a fine pint. Working with Melissa was no different, whilst she is not a brewer per se, this lady does a lot to promote beer, runs tutored tastings, judges beer - the list goes on. As I said earlier, she is a fountain of knowledge and someone I have a lot of respect for (plus we are good verbal sparring partners!).
Which brings us back to the beer in question - holy mother of god it was a beast! Regular calls to Melissa to keep her informed of it's progression during fermentation and maturation usually ended with "You bastard, I want to be there tasting it!"
Our original plan (well, one of them), was to age the entire brew on oak chips, but in the end we felt the base beer was just too good. So rather than one beer, there would be three versions, the regular and then a small amount aged on vanilla toast oak chips and the same amount on mocha toasted oak chips.
This was totally unchartered territory and I was amazed to see how a small portion of things that would look more at home on the floor of a childrens playground would have such an amazing effect on our beer.
The original was a beautiful mahogany coloured brew with hints of blackberries, chocolate and a whisky like smokiness that would not be out of place in a gentlemans club, wearing a velvet smoking jacket with a reading briar pipe in hand. The version with the vanilla oak chips accentuated the whisky flavour beautifully, whilst the mocha version had a smooth lushious chocolate depth to it.
Trying the three side by side was fantastic and Melissa was determined it should not just be us who were privileged in this way.
Last Thursday, 20th January, a whistlestop tour of London was put into place. Four pubs were selected and each of them would have all three versions of M&M porter -  The Rake, The Euston Tap,  Cask Pub and Kitchen and finally The White Horse in Parsons Green. Originally we wanted to involve more pubs but due to time constraints were unable to (we also originally wanted to travel between them on Roman Chariots but that didn't happen either). The response was overwhelming and I was quite humbled by the sheer number of people who came out on a bleak January evening to try this beer. I would like to thank you all and would especially like to thank the pubs for taking part and making this such a great event.

Beer geeks of the world unite and take over.


  1. I've not had time to write my blog post yet but I want to echo Mark's thanks to everyone who came out, it was truly humbling, awesome and amazing the reception the beer got.

    I'd also just like to correct one thing, we weren't going to travel by chariot, it was originally supposed to be by litter, with people feeding us peeled grapes whilst we travelled - I do feel that would have added an extra gravitas to the evening!! : )

  2. I'd like to thank Mark for letting me try a sneak preview when I was down visiting them over the Christmas break, it was an intense complex beer that was perfectly suited to the winter months, can't quite have seen it working in May ;)

    Read my full "Baron on Tour: Dark Star" article here: