Words & Photos - Matthew Curtis
A short while ago I wrote about fledgling Yorkshire brewery Northern Monk's inaugural brew New World IPA which I enjoyed but it lacked the bold, juicy citrus blast I look for in my IPA. Despite my slight misgivings the kind folks at Northern Monk saw fit to send me a bottle of their sophomore beer, Strannik which is an Imperial Stout that weighs in at a decent 9% ABV.
In my first post about this brewery I enthused about how I had enjoyed watching avid home brewer David Bishop's transition to the world of the professional zymurgist. However I recently learned that due to family and work commitments (David was working a full time job and brewing on the side) he's decided to call it a day for now. I know all too well that life, more often than not, gets in the way of ambition and although I'm sorry to see that this has happened I'm sure that David will make that step again when he is good and ready. Before he called it a day though, David managed to give Northern Monk one last gift in the shape of this quite remarkable stout.
The label is the first thing that excites me, it's a beautiful piece of design in elegant black and silver, it's classy and enticing. The dark brown liquid slides into my glass with some viscosity and produces a tight, tan hued head of foam. The edges of the glass produce a slight ruby tinge as I hold it up to the light, there's not much on the nose, perhaps a bit of molasses and a touch of freshly ground coffee. That's where the subtleties of this beer end because this is a flavour bomb that's waiting to explode. It starts with a spoonful of demerara sugar and this is joined by some molasses. It then rapidly develops a freshly ground coffee bitterness and some meaty umami as if there's a dash of soy sauce in there. This tri-force of flavour is beautifully balanced, nothing is out of place, it's not too sweet, not too bitter and certainly not heavy handed with the soy. This is no mean feat as these flavours are HUGE, this is a really big beer but it's never overbearing, it's a perfect late evening/early morning sipper.
As it slides down it leaves a trace of warming alcohol in the back of my throat and an aftertaste that's slightly reminiscent of tobacco which a hint of leather. This brings with it that vital note of dryness that leaves you wanting for more and I do want more so despite it's high strength I find myself emptying my glass much faster than I had anticipated. New World IPA felt like a work in progress, like this was a brewery that was yet to find its feat. Strannik has its head screwed on and its feet planted firmly on the ground, seek it out if you can.
Thanks to the guys at Northern Monk Brew Co for this bottle.