Tasting Notes - The Durham Brewery White Stout

Words & Photos - Matthew Curtis

Social networking is a wonderful thing when used properly and The Durham Brewery along with a savvy bunch of beer bloggers did an exceptional job of promoting White Stout a few weeks ago. The premise was simple, keen drinkers would all procure a bottle of the beer in question and then crack the top at the same time on the same day and through twitter and the hashtag #whitestout would simultaneously share their first taste of this enigmatic brew.

It was a slice of marketing brilliance that got the blogging community wagging their tongues about this beer and thanks to the way twitter connects people it significantly raised the visibility level of both the brewery and White Stout. Every beer blogger involved loved it and if you remember I had neither the beer nor the time to get involved with this event and in my envy turned to a bottle of Thornbridge Bracia which subdued any jealousy I may have felt towards my fellow drinkers. I didn’t see a single bad comment about White Stout, in fact people were gushing about how wonderful it was and so I had to obtain some, in fact having never sampled a brew by The Durham Brewery before I felt that if this beer was so good then surely the rest of the range was worth sampling too. After the seemingly eternal wait for pay day I placed an order with the fantastic guys at beerritz.co.uk and along with some other boozy delights I had a quadruplet of ales crafted by the Durham Brewery; St. Cuthbert and Bombay 106 IPA, Temptation Imperial Stout (which I’m saving for another similar event, more on which a little later) and of course, White Stout.

Frustratingly shortly after this box of joy was delivered I was struck down with a suspected stomach ulcer, nightmare. Either way I was sworn of the booze for a week by a medical professional and with my trip to the States looming on the horizon I wanted to be in peak drinking condition so I did heed her warning, the beer went untouched and the hype monster began to grow.

Eventually the day came when my beer shackles were removed and the White Stout was freed from its chilly white prison, I’d already tried the St. Cuthbert the day before and was incredibly impressed at the bottle conditioning. It tasted as authentic as if it had come straight from a cask, no mean feat and so I knew the guys at the Durham Brewery knew what they were doing. As I let the beer get towards the suggested temperature of ten degrees centigrade I decided to look a little deeper into where the name white stout comes from. This isn’t what you would consider a stout per say but the Durham Brewery allege that before the porter brewers of London slapped the term ‘stout’ onto a strong porter it could refer to any strong or robust beer, hence ‘white stout’.

You're looking a little pale dear...

I take a look at the label before I pour the contents into my glass, it’s stuffy and old school, not to my tastes and I muse that if it wasn’t for the twitter campaign it’s unlikely I would have picked this off a shelf. A lot of the beer I drink uses very modern branding and excellent graphic design and I’m easily wooed by bright colours and a snazzy typeface.

Also as I mostly drink beer by myself at home I prefer smaller 330ml bottles as it’s a better size if you want to try a few brews in one evening but if I have to work my way through 500ml then so be it. Despite this a book should never be judged by its cover and I carefully pour the very lively amber contents of the bottle into a glass, as with the St. Cuthbert I could immediately tell that the bottle conditioning was once again excellent.

Being so lively the White Stout produced a very large bubbly, off white head and was fizzing away furiously in the glass. The nose was subtle but gave off hints of elderflower and bittersweet apples, in fact the nose was very light and did not prepare me for the wallop I was about to receive. This beer tastes huge and is most definitely robust enough to be called a stout. Bitter, spicy flavours of black pepper and grapefruit dance on the tongue backed up by an almost smoky and not at all sweet malt platform. My brain was doing somersaults desperately trying to work out this beer, it was incredibly fizzy at first and the finish was dry and almost herbal not leaving much trace on the tongue as it made its way down my gullet.

I must confess that I was so eager to get into this beer that I probably, no definitely didn’t let it warm up enough before I started drinking it but I took plenty of time over it so it was good to see it evolve as its temperature gradually increased. As it warmed it became less effervescent and developed the smooth, creamy mouthfeel that I found with the St. Cuthbert IPA, it genuinely tasted like it could have been pulled from a cask, impressive stuff. With the warmth came more booziness, a slight sweetness and a little more fruit but it still retained that dry herbal finish and left me longing for a bit more sweetness and a bit more bitterness to hide the heavy taste of alcohol.

As this was so different to what I was used to I really twisted my noggin trying to work this beer out and decided that although it was undoubtedly brilliant, it wasn’t for me. Perhaps my taste for heavily dry hopped beers has dulled my senses a little but I just found myself wanting a little more from this beer and although I thoroughly enjoyed every drop it’s not something I would rush out and buy again because it didn’t appeal to my personal tastes. That’s one wonderful thing about beer though, everyone tastes differently and with such a wide range of beers being brewed out there at the moment there is something to suit everyone’s palate. I would definitely implore fellow beer geeks to give White Stout a go because it really is something quite different and I’ve seen many of you fall head over heels in love with this brew and I’m sure many more will!

The good folk at The Durham Brewery along with the equally good folk at the Campaign for Really Good Beer have seen fit to team up and do another twitter based drinking event along the lines of #whitestout but this time called #impoff. The idea is that we hoard a load of imperial stouts before the 31st of March and then on that day at 8pm we start by cracking open a bottle of Durham Brewery Temptation and then move on to sample a plethora of beers from the Imperial Stout genre. This seems as good excuse as any to drink a load of great beer and crack open my last bottle of Magic Rock Bearded Lady, I’ll be getting involved and I hope you will be too, don’t forget to use the hashtag #impoff.