Showing posts with label samuel smith. Show all posts
Showing posts with label samuel smith. Show all posts

Friday, February 21, 2020

Classics Revisited: Samuel Smith's Imperial Stout

For reasons best known only to history and circumstance, I don't recall having had a Samuel Smith's beer when I lived in the UK. I am sure that my pre-Prague drinking life largely consisting of Guinness, Murphy's, Caffrey's, and John Smith's in pubs of varying amounts of Oirishness may have played a part.

My introduction to Samuel Smith's was, if memory and Blogger labels serves, in Bicester when visiting one of my brothers. I lugged a fairly impressive haul of British beers back from Oxfordshire to Prague, including their Taddy Porter, Oatmeal Stout, and the muse for today's classic revisit, Imperial Stout.


When you think about a brewery so steeped in nostalgia for the Victorian era, you'd kind of expect their Imperial Stout to have the kind of provenance and heritage that only the noblest of blue blooded families can claim. Alas, as I discovered doing some background reading for this post, the beer was apparently first brewed in the 1980s, originally for the American market. Even so, I still list it as a classic as I have heard plenty of craft brewers name check it as an inspiration for their own imperial stouts.

Let's get started then...


Yes, I am pouring an imperial stout into an imperial pint glass, even branded (yay Christmas mixed packs with glassware), but at 7% abv, this is not exactly rocket fuel when compared to the standard abv of most American craft beer. As you can see from the picture it had a massive head, a fact I put down to the traditional Victorian practice of etching the white Yorkshire rose onto the bottom of the glass. The head never really settles down when using my Sam Smith's glasses, so there was a lot of lacing left as I drank the inky obsidian liquid. There was actually enough foam in the bottom of the glass at the end to have a mouthful of the moussey goodness.

I am sure you can imagine that through such a dense head if was fairly tricky to pick out a lot of aromas, though definitely in there were licorice, a touch of coffee, a wallop of black treacle, and a kind of tobacco/herbal thing that I always associate with Fuggles. Tastewise, the black treacle character was very much to the fore as well as some bittersweet chocolate, think something north of 80% cocoa and from South America. There were also some light fruity esters, as well as those herbal hops coming through in the finish.

For an imperial stout that is on the lighter end of the abv spectrum, it most certainly doesn't feel as though it is lacking heft. The silky mouthfeel and full body are almost sensuous.

I am sure there are folks out there who would claim that this is really just an old school porter, especially because of the abv thing. I am not one to quibble with how a brewery wishes to brand their beer (unless they win awards for it in a different style than that market it), and can happily say this classic stands up to scrutiny as one of the best imperial stouts out there today.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Old Friends: Samuel Smiths Oatmeal Stout

We are on the cusp of a proper change in season here in central Virginia.

The threat of frost has receded, and most mornings when I walk Honza, our Cairn Terrier, it is a rather pleasant 55° Fahrenheit, that's about 13° Celsius for those of you that live in the 21st Century. With the warming days and shortening nights I tend to find that I am drawn to paler beers as my beloved porters, stouts, and dark lagers are banished for these painful weeks until the Summer Solstice has passed and I feel alive again - I am a winter soul through and through.

To wave farewell for a few months, I decided to do an Old Friends post on one of my absolute favourite beers, Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout.


Samuel Smiths' beers are probably the easiest British beers to get on this side of the Pond, and our local Wegmans carries most of their range, including the Organic Lager which may feature more regularly in the coming months' drinking.

Is there an Oatmeal Stout out there that is more closely associated with the style than Sam Smith's? I honestly can't think of one, it is as synonymous for me as Guinness is with Irish Stout, Sierra Nevada with Pale Ale, and ?ywiec with Baltic Porter. So how was this most famous, and august, brew?


As you would imagine it poured as black as India ink, and interestingly, just as lustrous. Having mastered the art of pouring into a nonic glass, there was a mere half inch cap of foam that lingered for the duration of the drinking, protecting the precious liquid below. I have given up drinking Sam Smiths beers from my Sam Smiths glasses due to the etching on the bottom of the glass that creates a massive head. The aromas were exactly what you expect from a stout, coffee, chocolate, you know the deal, though I always find with this one that a trace of pipe tobacco forces it's way through the head to make you think of Gandalf the Grey enjoying the finest pipeweed in all of The Shire.

The aromatic themes, as is so often the case with stouts, carry on into the flavour department, think a slice of grannies bestest chocolate cake, served with a fine Italian espresso, then add in the silken mouthfeel of the oats and you have a luscious pint of dessert. Having, as is my wont, let the beer come up to cellar temperature, the carbonation was unobtrusive, just enough to clean the palette and leave you wanting more.

What a simply glorious way to bid farewell to the colder days of winter and early spring, though admitted I am already looking ahead to autumn's return.

Friday, February 10, 2012

IPA = I Prefer Anglo

Last night as Mrs V and I sat watching White Collar, I had a craving for a beer. With the Netflix paused I ventured out to the storage room, which doubles up as my beer cellar, and wandered back in with a few bottles, including one of Samuel Smith's India Ale. The India Ale was part of a gift pack of 3 Sam Smith's brews, a few beer mats and a fine looking pint glass, a proper pint that is. The pack was part of my Christmas gift from Mrs V's parents.


As I sat with this glass of rich amber nectar, I tweeted the following:

"you know, I do actually like IPA, proper IPA that is, as in British IPA. Bitter AND Balanced!"


I realise there is a very strong possibility that I am biased, and I say this in full awareness that there are America style IPAs that I like on occasion, but I simply find a hoppy pale ale brewed with the likes of Challenger, Fuggles and Goldings far more palatable than some Pacific North West enamel stripper. Perhaps it has something to do with the extra malt body and sweetness that a lot of British IPAs have, making them less like sucking a lemon and more like a hoppy marmelade?

Over Christmas when I had Durham's delicious Bombay 106 and the inestimable Worthington White Shield, I had the same reaction, bitter yes, but nicely balanced and drinkable. Speaking about White Shield, I have it on good authority that those evil magnates that allow great beer to be brewed on their premises (I mean, really how dare they!), MolsonCoors, will be exporting it to American shores in the early summer. Keep an eye out for it!

BTW - the bag in the background has the malts for my brewday tomorrow, Bohemian Pilsner, Munich, White Wheat, Special Roast and Aromatic, to be hopped with Chinook, spiced with coriander and grapefruit peel and fermented with Wyeast Belgian Abbey II. Kind of a spiced Belgo-American Amber Ale, kind of.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Come Autumn Come...

It's one of the those days here in Charlottesville, warm, cloudy and wet. It isn't actually raining at the moment, more that a damp murk has been drawn over the city. If it were about 30 degrees Fahrenheit cooler I would be sat here thinking about it being the kind of weather I grew up with in Scotland, and would be as happy as a pig in clover. I like cool, damp and dark weather you see, it is perfect pub weather - honestly, can you think of any place better to be during a downpour, or more likely back home, a steady soaking of drizzle, than a comfy pub with a pint of something good in your hand?

The problem though with such weather is that when you add in the extra heat and attendant humidity, my brain just turns to mush and I have problems deciding on what to write about. But as the weather has put me in mind of autumn and its delights, I have of late started stocking up the cellar with beers for the coming dark months - winter being my favourite season of all. As such, the following beers have been added to the cellar in preparation.



Ok, so a lot of people think of K?lsch as more of a summer beer, but in my experience it has a malty sweetness which lends itself just as much to supping as the leaves change to amber as it does to refreshing yourself in the heat of a German biergarten. Doppelsticke is an extra powerful Altbier from the Uerige Brewery and Alt is again one of my favourite styles, and I love that bottle. Rauchweizen I have discussed at length elsewhere and the bottle of G?se is there because I want to try and get more of a handle on that style, which uses salt and coriander.

These bottles are just the beginnings of the dark nights cellar, sure there will be plenty of homebrew being stocked up, my imperial stout and spiced Belgian amber ale will make appearances, and come Thanksgiving the first of my 1 year in the bottle barleywine will be cracked open. Another batch of the peat smoked Mild previously known as Experimental Dark Matter will be in the works soon, renamed as Machair Mild.

Sure, there are plenty of sunny days to enjoy, but it is the dark and cool of a winter's beer that I am looking forward to.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Why Bother?

I was well prepared for a week of limited drinking when in Florida last week, not just because previous experiences with Floridian beer had been so comically bad but because I find that I don't drink much beer when it is hot. Of course I had a couple of 6 packs of Boston Lager in the fridge for evenings, and later on in the week I picked up a case of Honey Porter, also from Samuel Adams, which was a decent enough beer. One thing I wasn't prepared for though was a trip to the Daytona location of the .

I was well prepared, notebook, pen, phone camera all sorted, I even remembered to save the pictures I took of the beers in the sample flight, the plan was to write a "
7 Beers, 21 Phrases" type post. I scrapped that plan, evidently, sometime between finishing the sample flight and getting tucked into a cheeseburger. Why scrap the plan? Were the beers bad? Were the pictures hilariously awful?

Well, no, the pictures are ok, nothing special mind. The beers were generally alright, nothing beyond alright that is, and in the case of the Tatonka Stout and the PM Porter barely scraping into the alright status which is of course a mere one step above "meh". Of the seven beers on the flight, just one was decent enough to order a pint of, though I didn't bother. The Brewhouse Blonde is a smooth K?lsch style beer which was nice in the Florida heat. As someone who is not an avowed hop head, I was left wanting more hops in most of the beers available, and in the case of the porter and imperial stout, I wanted more body and oomph as well.

So the beer was uninspiring, that's not a crime at all - after all I am sure that we all know places where the beer doesn't do anything for us. However, I have never before been in a brewpub which sold beer other than it's own, and personally I find that a little disconcerting. Walking into the restaurant, the first thing I noticed was not a set of nice shiny tanks, no copper brewing kettle or any other brewpubesque things you expect to see. The first thing in your line of sight is a bank of tap handles, tap handles for various breweries from around the US.

Perhaps I am just being a little idealistic, but if I owned a brewpub which brewed beer that has won a raft of awards, I wouldn 't be selling mass produced beers at the same time, especially not Bud Light, which I saw a couple of people drinking. From my exceedingly unscientific review of what people were drinking in the vicinity, only 4 or 5 people from about 50 were drinking beer at all. 2 were the Bud Light drinkers, 2 were myself and Mrs Velkyal, while the final drinker was supping on something pale golden. Every one else was drinking soda of some definition, and the place was full, full of fizzy pop drinkers - real fizzy pop that is, not piss poor lager.

This all got me to thinking, a dangerous habit for sure. The food was ok, nothing spectacular, and I can think of several better places in Daytona for food. Why then go to a brewhouse restaurant if you are not going to drink beer? Could it be that going to a brewhouse is the cool thing to do these days, so people go despite not having any intention to try the beer? If that is the case, what does it say about the "craft beer industry" in the US as it becomes more and more mainstream? I left BJ's very disappointed, not because of the beer, but because so few people were actually even trying it, and it seemed as though the restaurant gave patrons as many opportunities not to bother as possible.

Thankfully we stopped in St Augustine on the way back to South Carolina, and as usual we went to Rendezvous for a beer, or two. We discovered that Mrs Velkyal's mother likes raspberry lambic, that Left Hand Milk Stout is pretty damned nice, and that Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ale is everything Newkie Brown can but dream about. Back in Columbia itself naturally meant a trip to the Flying Saucer, and yes it is as good as always, and in Amanda, we had an excellent waitress, and revelation beyond revelation, I finally found a pilsner worthy of the name - Victory Braumeister Pils - Saaz.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Dark Month Quick Review

So November is all but over, and with it my month of drinking predominantly dark beers. I haven't written about everything I have tried this month, so here is a random collection of thoughts on the various brews I have tried:

Most drunk in the month: Primátor Stout, yes it is very nice, and no I am not on a stipend from Pivovar Náchod.

Most enjoyed of the month: O'Hara's Stout from the Carlow Brewing Company, from the bottle that is, the remaining bottle I have in the cellar may be opened tonight in celebration.

Discovery of the month: Hukvaldy 14° amber lager, pure nectar.

Over-hyped beer of the month: Porterhouse Oyster Stout, it isn't bad, just not as good as I expected, even then it is streets behind Wrasslers XXXX.

Confusion of the month: Samuel Smith's Taddy Porter and Oatmeal Stout, are they supposed to have a slightly soapy taste to them? Someone help me with that.

I am sure this weekend will see several more darks enjoyed, though I may not write about them all, but I do have a special treat planned for Sunday, which is St Andrew's Day. I will be opening one of my bottles of BrewDog Paradox Smokehead in celebration.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Things filed under Misc

So many things have been sitting in the back of my mind lately, muttering "when are you go to write about ME?" - thankfully not literally otherwise I would be very worried.



One such thing has been Mrs Velkyal and I's alcoholic experiments, of which there were three:

Of the three projects only one can be regarded as a success, the dandelion wine. As I commented a few months ago, it already tasted great when we bottled it. However, the recipe we used said that it needed to be left to age for 3 months, which was the first weekend in November. We actually opened our little taster bottle during last week, to discover that it tasted even better! Having just the tiniest of sips - we are taking it to France for Christmas - it is full of citrus flavours, is very sweet, and very, very alcoholic! As we don't have the equipment to gauge the ABV, I am guessing here when I say it is at least 25%. It actually has a similar effect as a nice single malt whisky in that it radiates heat through your body only when it gets into your chest! Yes it is lovely stuff, and something we will be making again.


As for the other two projects, both were failures, and in the case of the mead an unmitigated disaster. The mead actually tasted awful, was thin and acrid, so all 3 litres were poured down the lav - I will however try again to make mead, but this time I will use a different recipe, and I will use a different yeast.


The beer hacking was a case of plenty of fizz bang excitement followed by a damp squib. My intention to infuse the stout with cinnamon and clove flavours certainly worked a treat as the nose of the previously unadorned Kelt was now laden with traditional Christmas scents, unfortunately it tasted dull and lifeless - the beer was flat and so another litre of booze went the way of the U-bend.



Another thing that needed attending to was the growing collection of Primátor beers in my fridge, in particular the Premium which I had never tried before. What a lovely lager this is. As you can see from the picture it pours a dark golden colour with a rocky white head, the nose is full of the classic Czech Saaz floral notes. The beer itself was crisp, I would eve say it was slightly tart with a nicely rounded body, a very refreshing lager, which could quite easily become a regular in the fridge - if only my local Billa sold it!



The third thing that needed seeing to was making a start on the dark beers in my cellar which form the core of my Dark Month, so it was that on Monday night I agonised over which one to open first - the winner being Samuel Smith's Taddy Porter, which is pictured above. This one is a wonderful deep ruby colour, bordering on black, and the head was a frothy dark tan. The nose was really interesting as the first thing that hit me was soy sauce, which brought to mind the Pardubicky Porter, however there were also light coffee hints and eventually something which brought to mind the kelp beds on the beaches back at home, which I am assuming was from the seaweed finings used in production. The pre-dominant flavour though was of caramelised bananas, one of my favourite desserts, as well as dark chocolate and a light coffee taste. This was a very smooth beer and one which I enjoyed sipping whilst watching the Daleks and Cybermen try to take over the world!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Pack Yer Bags

Sunday morning was perhaps the most challenging time of my trip to Oxford, not because I was hugely hungover - quite worryingly I wasn't. When Mrs Velkyal's conference had finished we headed back up to Bicester for dinner, which my brother cooked - all the men in my family, all 5 of us (dad and 4 boys), love to cook.



So while Scott was making dinner, I decided to try a couple of beers that I had bought in the shop, first up was the Triple B from Bicester's local microbrewery, Oxfordshire Ales. The picture above is the same beer, but on draught from the King's Arms. This is a very nice ale, beautifully hoppy and smooth in the mouth. at only 3.7% ABV, this is a dream of a session beer. Next I upped the ante by opening one of my bottles of , which is 6.3% ABV and matured for 100 days. This is a BIG beer, a seriously fruity, full bodied beer which is far smoother than a beer of this strength has any right to be.

After dinner we headed off to the
Oxford Arms in the village of Kidlington for a last couple of pints. The Oxford Arms is a lovely country pub, which keeps the finest traditions of a British style coaching inn - bare walls, roaring fire and an eclectic group of drinkers, from across the social strata enjoying a well poured pint in their local. Next time I go to visit my brother I hope to visit the Oxford Arms again and write up a full and proper review. I was intriqued though that they had Staropramen on tap, and was very tempted to try a pint but given my experience with heads over the last few days I decided to stick with the ale.

Over the few days I was in the UK, I had picked up various bottles for my little cellar, mostly stouts which I got in the Bicester branch of S.H. Jones, including several from the Samuel Smith Brewery in Tadcaster and three bottles of Punk IPA from BrewDog. I was worried about getting all of the bottles home to Prague without breaking, so they were all rolled up into t-shirts and jumpers and laid in my rucksack, which thankfully worked and I managed to completely re-stock my gap behind the wall with a load of, hopefully, superb beers. The stouts will be kept for my stout tasting that I plan to do sometime after I get back from Ireland in November.

Beyond January

Dry January is over, but my beer fast continues. Well, it continues until Friday. As a general rule I only drink at the weekend, thus my win...

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