I was rather pleased to visit Matt Holmes of Ramsbottom Craft Brewery to brew a beer with him. Matt brews in a small but perfectly formed two barrel plant in the garage of his home in deepest Ramsbottom. It has everything you need from mash tun to hop store, all within easy reach and as a bonus he doesn't have to go far to work in the morning or home later.
The beer chosen was a Chocolate Chilli Stout. On the side I'm a bit of a stout fiend. The only other brew that I've had a recipe hand in was with Allgates of Wigan and that was a stout too - and a bloody successful one that has been brewed more than once. I see a pattern emerging. Now one thing I always think that stout should be is black. That means, to me at least, that it should have roast barley in it. I know you can piss about in other ways to replicate the colour without the "burnt" flavour, but then to me it isn't really a stout. I know in purist or historical terms that's not so, but if you want me to brew a stout, it will be between four and five percent, be black as the ace of spades and it will have a resinous hoppy finish and be a bit dry.
We decided that the chilli should just be a hint, so Matt prepared some fresh ones and we also had actual cocoa nibs too. I won't bore you with the brewing details, but while it was all boiling away we took the opportunity to sample some of Matt's bottles. They were good. A list can be found on his very informative website here. I can particularly recommend Oh Sunny Day and the wonderfully named Flaori Maori made with New Zealand hops as you have no doubt guessed. The Chocolate Chilli stout - which had to be re-chillied as we were determined not to overdo it - has just a prickle of heat and is otherwise a classic bitter stout. It was all sold out in advance as Matt's casks tend to and made its début at our CAMRA do referred to in this post. It was very well received on the night by the assembled
Stout. Mmm. Under-rated and yummy. We need more of it.
The fact that I had a hand in this beer has certainly influenced my views. Still a good beer mind. Of course it is greatly enhanced by perfect cask conditioning and a tight sparkler to produce a classic creamy white head. That and the fact that Matt knows his stuff. To labout the point, stout just isn't stout without that creamy head.