My intention this week was to review a beer that was extreme when it came to malts and with no hoppiness. I’m not sure the Aro Noir will be that, but it looked to interesting to pass by. Its a beer brewed by Garage Project, another Wellington based brewery, and I always find it hard to pass by a Garage Project beer once I read the label. GP started small but is now one of New Zealand’s favourite craft breweries. They make some of the most interesting and unusual beers I’ve tasted. We'll still have a chat about malts though and then see what happens.
What are malts? Malts are the end product of processed cereal grains. Cereal grains, most commonly barley, are allowed to start germinating (through soaking in water) but then have the germination process halted when the grain is removed from water and oven dried or roasted. Malting the grains turns the cereal starch into sugar, which in the fermentation process then becomes alcohol.
Most of the colour in beer comes from the malts. Lightly roasted malts produce a beer that is more pale in colour, while malts that have been roasted longer produce darker beers. We'll look more at this next Friday. Many beers are brewed with multiple malts, each varying in colour and flavour profile which influences the final product. Most beers seek to balance the sweetness of malt with the bitterness of hops. Obviously though, there are no shortage of possible combinations, and this no shortage of beer possibilities. As you move from light beers (lightly roasted malts) to dark beers (more heavily roasted malts) its normal to note flavours such as caramel, toffy, marmite, chocolate, coffee, burnt sugar, and even blackberry begin to take over.
Dark beers tend to be a hearty drink that is savoured while golden beers tend to be lighter and more thirst quenching. Traditionally then, dark beers like stouts and porters, tend to appeal more on cold winter nights than they do in the middle of summer around the BBQ. Each to their own though. There are no rules.
Ok, so Garage Projects Aro Nor.
Price: $4.99 330mls
Alcohol content: 7%
Colour: Deep black with a macchiato like head. More bubbles than I was expecting too.
Aroma: Smells delicious, a lot like the burnt chewy pieces of beef roast that end up stuck to the bottom of the roasting dish. Hints of coffee and plums.
Palate: It’s yum. Tastes like a shot of espresso, a juicy bite of rib roast and golden syrup. There is some fizz to it as well.
Finish: The finish is lovely. At first there is a hoppy bitterness, you can't mistake it, and then a kind of roasting dish toffee kicks in. It’s a nice combination.
On the Chart: I was meaning to review a beer that was big on malt and light on hops. This is malty alright, but not light on hops. It is a malty black beer but the combination of Columbus and Summit hops make it something more. It’s a really good example of a dark beer made more complex because of the hops used. So while it is still in the malty quadrant it isn't extreme, more to the middle as the hops come through. I need to also acknowledge the complexity of the hops and also the coffee/toffee/burnt beef flavors that come through.
Conclusion: It is delicious even though not what I'm normally looking for in a stout. If I’m drinking a dark beer I’m normally looking for a full blown malts, chocolate and coffee, almost a milkshake. I don’t need any hops. However, the Aro Noir achieves the brief on the can and brings hops into a stout really well. This makes it really interesting. It's not a black IPA but you get that sense It would be perfect if you are looking for a black beer that is more balanced with interesting bitterness rather than being a full on chocolate or treacle thick shake.
Next week we'll have a look at an IPA. Or is it an APA? What's the difference anyway?