Ridgeway Lump of Coal (500ml bottle, 7.5% ABV)

Dark beers, perhaps more than any other, have their fair share of forbidding names: Harvieston’s Old Engine Oil, Hambleton Nightmare, RCH Old Slug. ‘Edible things shouldn’t be black,’ these beers seem to be saying, ‘but we know you love us anyway.’

You can add Ridgeway’s Lump of Coal to that roster – a beer named after the wooden spoon of Christmas presents, a beer that reeks of Dickensian humbug. Thankfully, it’s far better than its name suggests.

Lump of Coal hides its formidable alcohol level behind layers of chocolate and coffee and caramel sweetness. Although thick, it’s also smooth enough to drop down the hatch without any hint of protest. The finish is bitter and surprisingly juicy for a stout.

The booze creeps up on you, and may prompt a bout of fireside philosophising in those prone to that sort of thing. Why am I drinking a beer named after something inedible? Does that make me an optimist or a pessimist? Is the glass half full or half empty? Spoiler alert: it’s empty.

Written by Richard Salsbury

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