First published in BEER July 2008 as part of a piece on beers recently converted to bottle conditioning. For more similar beers see previous post.
Top Tastings 2008. A shorter version appeared on facebook January 2009.
ABV: 4.8 per cent
Origin: Hook Norton, Oxfordshire
A steam-driven Victorian tower brewery on the edge of the Cotswolds still owned by descendants of the man who founded it in 1849, Hook Norton is one of our remaining treasured independents and a source of excellent cask beers like Old Hooky. Double Stout is also much appreciated as a fine example of a traditional dry stout that can claim a history almost as old as the brewery itself, although it took an extended rest from the portfolio for most of the 20th century before being relaunched in 1996. It now appears on cask as a winter seasonal and has been available all year round in a filtered bottled version which was already pleasant enough. I almost yelped with excitement when I heard this was being replaced by a bottle conditioned version.
A grist of Maris Otter pale, mild, brown and black malts, sugar and Challenger, Fuggles and Goldings hops creates a near-black beer at a relatively modest gravity – as in Belgium, the term “double” doesn’t mean twice the alcohol but reflects the old practice of marking a certain number of crosses on a cask to indicate strength. A rich, straightforward malt and roast aroma has chocolate and slight spice notes.
On the palate the beer is smooth, malty and chocolatey with a pleasant light sparkle, with autumn fruit and acidity emerging over a slick of roast malt with mineral and lead pencil flavours. It turns lightly spicy on the swallow, with a roast coffee finish giving way to chewy, tangy fruit and late blackcurrant and liquorice. You’ll certainly taste the roast, but an exquisite smoothness ensures this remains a drinkable, refreshing bottleful. A minor world classic.
NOTE: This was the last review I wrote for the monthly tabloid BEER. From August 2008, the title became a quarterly in glossy magazine format, and my column changed to including five much briefer reviews on a theme.
Read more about this beer at ratebeer.com: http://www.ratebeer.com/beer/hook-norton-double-stout-cask-bottle-conditioned/44769/