The Malty Falcon

Cherrywood Smoked Rye Baltic Porter

Dainton Brewery

The can was pretty, and it knew it, too. Royal metallic blue on matte royal blue, the colour of her eyes, all covered in a tessellating pattern of crosses. Double crosses. This beer was gonna be rich, I thought. And it was. I knew this one would be trouble the minute it rolled out of my fridge. All malt and smoke and complex esters. I motioned to pour the drink, it didn’t stop me. It poured hard and black, the colour of coffee after 3AM, inky and impossible to see through with a burnt umber head and legs that went all the way up. That shoulda been a warning.

                I never saw a hand go for a cigarette, but there was smoke there, front and centre. But it was… subtle is the wrong word. It was present, front and centre, but it doesn’t put you in mind of fake bacon or tire fires. Classy. Restrained. A feature, not the overwhelming, smothering presence of some of the others. Without warning, it leaned in for a sip. The full, rich mouthfeel has something like sweetness, but it isn’t sweet. Like bitter caramel, that left me with a lingering note of liquorice.

                How to describe it? It was dark, chocolatey, bold and a little spicy. It was bitter, but not like your usual beer bitterness, oh no. This came from the smoke and the roasted malts, not a hop in sight. It was toasty and a little savoury, almost tangy – from the way it carried itself you could just tell it had done a little time on wood. The liquor was there, maybe a liqueur, just lingering on the front palate. It was all front palate, almost lacqueringly so, but the back palate was squeaky clean – like I said, it was smart enough to know to leave the hops out.

                “Alright, I’ll bite” I said. “What kinda figures are we talking here? What’s my percentage?”

                “8.8%, but don’t you worry about that” it purred. “You’ll barely feel a thing”

                Like fun. There was a lingering boozy heat between us, but as I drank I could feel it being pulled in every which way, absorbed into all the other elements of this byzantine brew. The dance of flavours – smoke into resiny sweetness, into malty bitterness makes it hard to focus on any one flavour at a time. It leaned back onto the table. It was lively for so big a beer. It drank well. It wasn’t tarry like its type could be. It was too rich to be dry, but the rye added a nicely wry characteristic to its personality.

                “Alright. I’ll take the case. But there’s just one more thing I want to know – where do you get this implication of fruitiness from? The berries? Do you have adjuncts?” It shrugged its shoulders eloquently as it sashayed out of my glass. “Probably just the lagering. You know how to lager a beer, don’t you? You just pinch the dial and turn to… low.”

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