Day Four - The Kernel Imperial Brown Stout (UK, 9.6%)
There are few safer bets in beer than something dark from The Kernel. Their stouts and porters, based on historical recipes from London's illustrious brewing past, are always good. Come to think of it, their paler beers aren't too shabby either, but you take my point.
It's a lovely pour - near black with a tan coloured head, and a huge aroma hits you instantly. There's a lot of booze on the nose, along with some brown sugar, and the combined effect suggests dark rum. There's some cocoa powder in there too, and on tasting this evolves into something more like chocolate milk - chocolatey, but in a very smooth, easy-going way. The more conventional bitter edge of dark chocolate is present in the finish, joined by some liquorice and an espresso note which is rich without being especially roasty.
There's a certain mustiness in the finish too, which is hard to write about without it sounding disgusting. Michael Jackson sometimes described beers as having a "cellar character", and this is the kind of flavour I think he's talking about. It adds complexity and increases the perception that you're drinking something special, decadent and sophisticated, like a prized bottle of dusty wine. The sweet dulce de leche flavours that increase as the beer warms enhance this effect, too. It's another beer that isn't specifically designed for the festive period, but works brilliantly for Christmas - next year, I'll consider procuring a bottle for after-dinner sipping.