Might make you “love” a horse: Green Jack Ales – Baltic Trader Export Stout

Baltic-TraderImperial/Export Stout is one of those styles that I’ve always been seduced by, I mean there’s so much history, flavour and strength in every interpretation.  Catherine the Great of Russia was a big fan of the style, after her husband Peter (another “the Great”) discovered the joy of British beers whilst on tour over here.  Unfortunately History doesn’t record the name of his band – mores the pity.  If I were him I would have just called my band “The Greats”.  The Greats: Greatest hits.  Does that work?


Anyway: Well done Green Jack Ales – this is a nice interpretation, albeit drunk on the rather young side.

Let’s face it: you don’t normally get much head on an strong stout like this, but you get a jolly bit of carbonation – which I wasn’t necessarily expecting, but it fitted OK.  The colour is gloriously dark, but not impenetrable, darkest garnet is discernible around the edges when held up to the light.

The taste is all heavy dark malt, with very significant alcohol and vinosity, there’s also wood, roastiness, black treacle and darkly-dark dried fruits. Sweetly malty with some rumminess, Christmas cake, spices and just the gentlest of bitter-citrussy orange in the background.

It’s very sweet for a day-to-day beer, but probably about right for an imperial stout of this size, style and age.

This is a complex drop.  The bottle that Peter and I shared – not Peter the Great, but Peter the father-in-law, who’s obviously still great…  (my knees are all blood, he forked out for this bottle) – was brewed 18th July 2013 and bottled nearly two months later so it’s still VERY young in Imperial/Export Stout terms.

I was also happy to see that there was no best before date – meaning that that this bottle could well be laid down for a lot longer – which would probably allow it to dry out a bit, become less sweet and become even more complex.  I reckon a year would be good for starters. (That’s “laid down” metaphorically speaking: it’s got a sediment, so for god’s sake, keep it up upright)

At 10.5% it’s dangerously drinkable, ruinously strong and – happy days – comes in a 750ml bottle.

http://www.green-jack.com/our-real-ales/   Look at all their other beers.  Don’t they look tempting.?


(Catherine the Great was proud that she could drink as much high-strength Imported Stout as any Englishman; which might have contributed to her alleged penchance for horse-based sexual shenanigans – a predilection that purportedly sealed her demise: being supposedly crushed to death under the sweating, heaving flanks of an equine partner…)

North Coast Brewing: Old Rasputin Imperial Stout


Now I’m approaching the end of my US visit I knew there were a couple of things that I needed to do: One was go to Wal-Mart – just to go and see if it’s as bad as everyone says* and the other was to try as many beers as I could that I just can’t get at home.

(*it wasn’t.  I’m sure I’ve seen worse at home…but some US colleagues told me I should have gone on food stamps day as it’s like a zoo then.  Still, I managed to load up on Jerky, so all is good.)

One style of beer that we just don’t get at home – despite bloody inventing it – is Imperial Stout.  I’m not going to go into the whole story of Imperial stout: suffice to say that England used to ship it to the court of Catherine The Great in Russia, and as we all know shipping beer about in the mid 1700s meant big alcohol and hops in order to preserve it.

Old Rasputin looked to fit the bill exactly and I, for some reason, decided to try and enjoy a bottle of this after a US-sized Chinese meal; which, on reflection, wasn’t the best idea in the world.

This beer pours a solid black.  Blacker than ink.  I swore it landed with a thump into the glass.  An epic, solid, tan head of foam appeared that would have easily won a fight with me should I have decided to pick one.

Aroma was literally streaming out of the glass: intense dark malts, an undercurrent of chocolate and spiciness. all backed up by warming alcohol notes from the extraordinary 9% strength.

There was an absolute landslide of flavour: huge dark malt, an iron fist of alcoholic strength softened by a velvet glove of malt and hops that helped to blunt the background bitterness; dark bitter chocolate and roast barley were easily the most assertive flavours.  The mouth-feel was gigantic, seeming to double as all of these massive flavours stomped all over my taste buds

Lets face it, this is a gigantic, beautiful, over-the-top beer and I can see that it would be something really special when drunk out of doors, winter fishing, or watching fireworks on bonfire night, or at Christmas or anything like that…just not on a warm Dayton evening after a gigantic Chinese meal…