First up was the Carlsberg Sverige Carnegie Porter. A typically thick black pour gave a medium off-white head, while the aroma was not as big as I had anticipated but nicely balanced nonetheless with a malty dark chocolate and raisin combination with a slight booziness. On the palate there is an immediate red fruit sweetness, not overbearing but very noticeable. The mouthfeel is very full with a rather oily texture. The overall taste is quite malty, small hints of liquorice and a very slight smokiness in the throat. I like this beer rather more than I was expecting actually; it's pretty light in aroma and flavour for a porter, to be honest I was expecting a bit more from it, but at a modest 5.5% it is entirely drinkable and sinks a bit like a mild! Good stuff.
The Guinness Special Export followed. I wasn't sure what to expect from this, as I'm a massive fan of their Foreign Extra, but I knew that being a Belgian style beer, this would be a very different beast. With a black pour, lightly carbonated off-white head, it already creates certain preconceptions. And they were not wrong. As soon as this hit my nose my first thought was "Belgium". There is a slight spiciness in the aroma with some chocolates. On the palate the beer presents a medium carbonation with a complexity of flavours. Coffee, chocolates, biscuit and raisin all dance together on a medium bodied, smooth mouthfeel. A dark chocolate aftertaste resolves in a lingering roasted bitterness. Interestingly, the aroma seems to become somewhat more sour as the glass reaches the bottom, however this doesn't have a noticeable effect on the taste, although the chocolate aftertaste does linger for longer as the beer develops. This is a nice drop at 8%, but given the choice I'd still go for the Foreign Extra!
Then out came the big guns. I've really been getting into stouts recently, and Ghostie had promised me the world with this one. The Harveys Imperial Extra Double Stout (what a name!) produced a black (you know, REALLY black) pour with a large brown head. The photo doesn't really do it justice, but the head was pretty much cocoa-coloured. A massive aroma bombarded me with treacle, liquorice, dark berries and dark malts. There is a soft carbonation on the palate; brown sugar is there, milk chocolate turns into dark chocolate balanced with dark berries, and ghostly hints of liquorice and caramel peep through. Leave it in the mouth for a few seconds to get an incredible juiciness that just engulfs your tongue and slips nicely down the throat. At 9%, the alcohol content is masked well, making it a nicely balanced, very drinkable beer. There is a punch of sweetness in the swallow followed by a smokey chocolatiness up the throat. Overall, though I have been exploring dark beers a lot recently, I am still not the hugest fan of the more intense ones; however, this beer is something else. Ghostie was right! This one has a nice lingering aftertaste that makes you want another, and a real kick as it warms up - the further down the glass you get, the more you will notice a massive booziness developing. Awesome stuff. London Imperial - king of the stouts?!