Black Sheep: Riggwelter (England: English Strong Ale: 5.7% ABV)

Visual: Light chestnut brown coloured body with reddened hues. Middling sized brown froth head. Still.

Nose: Milky chocolate. Cocoa dust. Lightly earthy. Crushed peanuts. Light caramel. Raisins.

Body: Liquorice. Lightly earthy. Cake sponge. Milk texture. Light ginger bread. Light prickling. Greenery. Malt chocolate. Raisins. Light charring.

Finish: Gingerbread. Earthy bitterness. Greenery. Nutty. Bitter chocolate dust. Light milk. Bitter coffee remains. Peppery. Dry treacle.

Conclusion:This shows how earthy hop flavours, and even liquorice notes, both of which are so often a weakness in badly made beers, can be used in satisfying and robust ways.

I think a lot of it comes from the balance of the weight of the beer to its drinkability. This is weighty with a slight milky, creamy grip and thickness at the core but around that is a dry general bitter like feel. The slight dryness is what makes it easy to drink, the thickness adds enough to make the earthier bitter notes more manageable and less wearing that they can be in lighter beers.

There is a gingerbread and peppery spice throughout it – a savoury tingling set of flavours that complement the solid earthy bitterness well without contradicting them too much. It is a very traditional set of bitter notes but behind that the extra malt weight gives hints of dark fruit, raisins, and even manages to make that hint of liquorice feel like a welcome release rather than an off note. It makes for very much the heavier take on the traditional earthy British bitter.

If that earthy bitterness, even a strong ale take on such, does not appeal to you then this will probably not be one you find to your tastes. If, however it does not put you off then you may find, like I do, that this stands on the ideal point between a weightier ale, and a drinkable bitter. Old school but done right.

Background: When the parents came down to visit, as well as the beer from Christmas I mentioned in some previous notes, they also brought a box of Black Sheep beers for me. Many thanks again! Black Sheep are good brewery up north, named after the creator who was the black sheep that left the Theakston brewery to set up his own. Which makes sense. Anyway, this is one I had many times back in the old days, but had not revisited recently, so was looking forwards to trying it again. Went with Jack Off Jill again as backing music, Sexless Demons and Scars this time.