Words & Photos - Matthew Curtis
It gives me great pleasure being able to enjoy and write about beer that is brewed less than 10 miles away from my home in North London. I've already reviewed such local delights as Redchurch Old Ford Export Stout and Rocky Head Pale Ale and now I am turning my attention to another of London's 30 plus beer innovators, Hackney's London Fields Brewery.
London Fields Brewery was created in August 2011 by founder Jules Whiteway and is part of a growing collective of craft breweries in the trendy borough of Hackney. Their Hackney Hopster is a real treat of a session beer, full of juicy hops and super quaffable, I always order one when I see it but today I'm going to have a go on their new(ish) stout, Black Frost.
The first thing that strikes me about this bottle of Black Frost Stout is how elegantly packaged it is. When I first saw it in the fridges of my local Oddbins it practically leapt off the shelf and into my open arms. Instead of your bog standard label on a bottle affair, Black Frost is neatly wrapped up in brown paper in a style not dissimilar to the Bacchus fruit beers with an attractive purple sticker holding the whole thing together. I'm assuming that the snowflakes on the label indicate that this is a winter seasonal but I have no other proof to back up this fact so don't hold me to that statement.
The bottle I've decided to review has been sitting in my cupboard for a few weeks as the first bottle I tried was a little flat and probably needed a little longer in the bottle to generate some extra carbonation. Black Frost pours a rich, dark brown with a little light creeping through the ruby red tinge at the edge of the glass. A small beige head forms atop the thick, dark liquid but this dissipates pretty swiftly, however I still manage to get a small head after giving the glass a good swirl. The aroma is big, bold and packed full of redcurrants, blackberries, molasses and black treacle but these aromas are not alone, there's also a mild note of lactic sourness on the nose, not an unpleasant one but it's definitely there.
Delving into this beer is a delight, the rich forest fruits and bittersweet black treacle flavours are big and very well balanced but that small hint of lactic sourness doesn't escape me. It's not very prevalent but it was in both bottles I've tried and was definitely there when I also tried it on cask, I'm not sure if it's a mistake or if it's deliberate but I actually think that it's a positive quality in this particular beer. The finish is very dry and the little sour elderberry note at the end leaves you puckering up for more, if this was intentional then I think it's a very clever indeed. As it warms I detect some grassy, earthy hops which leave a pleasant lingering bitterness and despite it still being a little under carbonated it's a delicious and very drinkable beer.
Sadly, when I went back to the shop for more it was gone so it looks likely that it is a seasonal brew but that just means it's something I can look forward to getting my hands on again when this year nears it's end. I'd love to hear any other opinions and experiences you lot have had with this beer, did you notice a mild note of lactic sourness or am I having my tongue pulled by Black Frost?