Booze Reviews: Stone Levitation, Great Divide Belgica, Young’s Chocolate Stout

by Steve

Men raising steins of beerInspired by the good work/beer evangelism of the ever-readable Builder of Coalitions, among others, I’ve been trying some different beers, and thought I’d treat you lucky things to some quick and dirty beer reviews. There are so many good beers out there, so I figured I ought to join in the conversation and get beer-blogging again.

Stone Levitation Ale

Label/pump clip aesthetic

Stone’s bottles seem to be pretty mean and moody, all dark glass and gargoyles. I’m never that convinced by fantasy-themed beer design, as it seems to kind of live up to all those horrible beardy beer enthusiast stereotypes of men drinking real ale whilst playing Warhammer or planning their next medieval enactment. It just doesn’t seem that inclusive. But, to be fair, this bottle isn’t too goofy or cartoony. It also had a large blurb on the bottle, that I couldn’t make head nor tail of. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Beer appearance

I’m a classy guy, so I didn’t drink it straight out the bottle. Poured into the glass it looked a kind of deep, deep red. It looked pretty appealing.

Beer taste

Much like many other US craft beers I’ve tried, it tasted like beer, but more concentrated. While it isn’t significantly stronger than UK beer, it feels like there is a whole lot going on in one hit – honey, malty notes, ever-so-slightly boozy (but not dominated by the taste of alcohol, which is a good thing in my book). There wasn’t much of an aftertaste. It was all a little direct, like the beer barges its way up to you, shakes your hand vigorously, and then walks off before you have the chance to say hello. If that makes sense, which I doubt it does.

Longevity

I doubt I’d choose this for a whole evening’s drinking, but I can’t see why I wouldn’t pick one up again. It certainly piqued my interest in checking out more Stone brews, and seeing if they have others that are more subtle, or have more going on in the aftertaste.

I guess it could be paired with food, I could imagine me drinking it with ribs or something else doused in barbecue sauce, or I suppose any food that cries out for a no-nonsense beer.

Conclusion

A pretty good introduction to Stone, and a pretty good example of standard US craft beer – kind of like a beefed-up Sam Adams or Brooklyn Beer.

Great Divide Belgica

Label/pump clip aesthetic

Now this is more like it. I’m always drawn to the Great Divide beers as I love the design. It is clear, employs strong colours and has nifty fonts. There is something vaguely retro about them, without them looking like some fake-heritage nonsense. It is like they have arrived from some cool beer-y beatnik alternative past. Or something.

Beer appearance

This beer had a lovely golden colouring, but what was really striking was the aroma. Wow. This beer smells good. Floral, citrusy, and wholly approachable. This didn’t look, or smell, like a 7.2% effort. But I guess that is the beauty (and danger) of Belgian (style) brews.

Beer taste

This was really very, very drinkable. I picked up some citrus notes, and a vague sourness that was moreish rather than off-putting. There was hardly any alcohol-taste pushing through, but a wealth of sharp and sweet tastes to enjoy.

Longevity

I’ll definitely be picking this beer up again. Considering its strength, I’d probably stick to one or two on any given night, but there is enough complexity in the beer that I’d want to savour it rather than throw it down my throat anyway. And my, oh my, the hit of the aroma of the beer when you open the bottle! Wonderful!

The bottle recommends pairing the beer with Thai curry mussels, crab cakes, roast turkey or pheasant, Taleggio or Epoisses cheese. As someone used to pairing beer with a packet of crisps this seems awfully fancy. I can see how it would work with seafood or mildly spiced dishes though.

Conclusion

I loved this beer. Could you tell?

Young’s Double Chocolate Stout

Label/pump clip aesthetic

I had this in a pub (the previous two were drunk at home, for those keeping score), from a tap rather than from a cask, so I only had a small label to go on. It was purple, so it reminded me of Cadbury’s chocolate. That’s probably the point. The pub had labels hanging from each tap with tasting notes. This was handy for the more obscure beers, but a little comical when it came to Fosters, what with it being one of the world’s worst beers, with very little taste to actually comment on.

Beer appearance

Dark and thick and chocolate-y. As you might expect.

Beer taste

This beer has a pretty even chocolate to stout flavour ratio. This was better than the Brooklyn Chocolate Stout I had a while back that tasted of alcohol and burnt stuff, so had really failed to live up to its name. Young’s beer was much more approachable and easy to drink. Perhaps a little too easy, as at times it tasted more like a chocolate drink than beer.

Longevity

While it is pretty moreish, after a pint of it I felt it had got a little too sickly, and so moved onto something else. Still, it is a fun beer to have as part of an evening’s festivities. I guess this is obvious, but it would work well with a dessert, and would make a nice finish to a meal, perhaps as just a half-pint.

Conclusion

Not a bad example of a chocolate stout. I think Meantime’s version is better, but this would make a fine substitute if one was in the mood jointly for beer and chocolate-y goodness.

Main image from the US National Archives, via Flickr

I really should have taken some photos of the beers, as I can’t find any copyright-free/creative commons pictures of them (not that I tried that hard), and I’m aware that makes the whole aesthetic stuff not only a little pretentious, but a bit pointless if you, dear reader, can’t see the bottle/pump clip. So…I guess you’ll just have to click through each time for a peek of the beer. Which is no bad thing, right?

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