Dark Star Imperial Export Strength Stout (330ml bottle, 10.5% ABV)

Dark Star predate many of the new independent breweries, having been set up in the cellar of Brighton’s Evening Star pub in 1994. Since then, they’ve gone from strength to strength, now occupying a 45 barrel facility near Horsham.

A dark star, surely, is a black hole, and this beer seems to fit the theory nicely: a brew so strong it seems to exert a gravitational pull that no drinker can escape. Or is that just me and my fondness for potent stouts?

As with many darker beers of intimidating strength, the inky blackness seems to have swallowed all the fizz, leaving a treacly liquid that would not be immediately identifiable as beer if you met it in a dark alley. It smells undeniably boozy, with powerful chocolate, coffee and dark fruits, and maybe a hint of vanilla too. It’s satisfying just to sniff.

On the tongue it’s as thick as an oil slick, with flavours of Christmas cake, sweet coffee and liquorice. It’s not as roasty as you might expect, until the aftertaste, where a roasted bitterness joins forces with the throbbing alcohol to give a final kick to the taste buds.

Curiously, the underside of the bottle cap has the word ‘paper’ and a little picture, making me wonder whether other bottles feature ‘rock’ and ‘scissors’. I advise caution: the cost of playing more than one round of rock, paper, scissors with bottles of this stout could be expensive in terms of hangovers.

Written by Richard Salsbury

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