Arbor Breakfast Stout and Oyster Stout
Bristol’s Arbor are one of the wealth of new breweries that have sprung up around England in the last decade or so. Equally happy brewing traditional English styles as they are brewing American craft beer styles (or English styles with an American craft inspired twist), their output is mostly cask supported by kegs and bottles here and there. I have two of their brews to share with you awesome and sexyfull Tumblroo’s this fine, breezy, and sun dappled evening, and both are stouts. No need to thank me, I can feel the adoration radiation from my laptop screen.
First up, Arbor Breakfast Stout, 7.4% abv. Based on an imperial stout, it’s loaded with oats, has a small amount of smoked malt and speciality German grains, and has locally roasted Brazilian Santos coffee beans and organic cacao nibs added to the boil. This particular beer also has a little drool added after the pour… *ahem*
The burned caramel coloured head hides a hypnotising, void like darkness. Aromas of intense espresso and burned malts invade my nose holes and do terrible, unspeakable things to the roots of my braintree. I may have begun dancing. I brave the drool drizzled head and take a glug, it seems the nasal abuse was but the first stage in a pincer movement. Minions sculpted from dark roast coffee, cocoa, caramel, fig, and licorice are now swinging from my braintree’s branches, hootin’ an’ hollerin’ and waving burning torches. My dancing has now reached fever pitch, my feet whirligigging round the room full-on Northern Soul style. My surrender is unconditional to this full, rich, roasty, smooth as you like beer with a dry, bitter finish. Jeepers creepers, this is good.
Once I’ve recovered it’s time to attempt the next one, Arbor Oyster Stout, 4.6% abv. Back in the olden days of merry ol’ England, when vision worked in black and white and men dueled with their razor sharp waxed moustaches for the right to wear the tallest top hat, stout was consumed by the gallon in pubs across the land. Oysters were a favoured snack at these watering holes, and their briny goodness was a perfect pairing with the roasty black liquid. Some point later on a bonafide genius decided to put actual oysters in the brew itself, they were rewarded with a lovely new bright red bicycle (colour vision had been invented by now) by powers unknown and a sub-style was born. After falling out of favour in the latter part of the last century the oyster stout is back, and Arbour chuck loads of the delicious little things into the boil of their oatmeal stout. Just to watch them die. Or maybe ‘cause they they taste good. Nine different grains and Fuggles hops also feature, sounds good.
The pour is black, the head latte, and this time drool free. Masses of cocoa and heavily roasted malty aromas waft up from my weirdly jug like glass. A sip. Suddenly I’m a deep sea diver from times past sitting in my open bottom diving bell. Before a dive I like to relax with a nice stout, most of us daring divers do, dontcha know. The smooth, roasty ale’s chocolate and coffee flavours are there as you’d expect, but the lightless salt water below infuses the senses with a brininess that blends into the stouts initial taste. The roast soon begins to overpower this and is joined by slightly spicy, earthy notes before the moderately bitter finish brings the brine back. Damn good stuff.
I gotta say, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed these West Country stouts. The Oyster Stout is a really good example of the style, slightly briny at the beginning and end, luscious, roasty stout goodness throughout. It is, however, the Breakfast Stout that’s won my heart. Intense, rich, decadent, bittersweet, and downright delicious. Now if you’ll excuse me, my dancin’ shoes are callin. Cheers!