Beer review: Svaneke Liquorice Stout (by Johan Bülow)

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Craft brewing has been all the rage in Denmark over the past couple of years. Second to only a few select nations such as Belgium and (gasp) the US, Denmark has been one of the biggest stars on the international craft brewing scene. Actually, we may at some point even have been number one in the world on the craft breweries per capita index. A vastly prestigious scale that I’ve just made up!

Albani BlålysNow is a pretty good and exciting time to be a beer lover in the Kingdom of Denmark!

It’s been an interesting few years for beer geeks such as myself. Not only because there’s been more different beers out there that you could ever really hope to taste (not that that’s kept me from trying), but also because brew masters have been brewing every style of beer out there with about every ingredient imaginable to man. We’ve seen Raspberry Triples, birch sap pilsners, cherry and cream imperial stouts… At some point, Danish brewing demi-god Mikkeler even famously produced an imperial oatmeal stout brewed using coffee beans that had passed through the digestive tract of a small, rare breed of weasel.

No joke: Mikkeler Beer Geek Brunch Weasel  is brewed using one of the world’s most expensive coffees made from droppings of small Asian weasel-like creatures. I’ve had it and not only does it not taste like shit, it was actually phenomenal. But don’t just take my word for it, watch the video review here.

Things have died down a bit now in Beer World, but given the recent craze, it seems only strangely comforting that someone would take it upon themselves to produce something as old-fashioned and familiar as a liquorice stout, which is exactly what Danish craft brewer Svaneke Bryghus has now done in cooperation with gourmet liquorice producer Johan Bülow.

I recently got my greedy little hands on a sample bottle of said stuff as part of the liquorice gift set that I’ve been using for snacking and culinary experiments lately and I’ve been dying to give it a try. This past weekend, I finally found an occasion after subjecting my friends to a nice little dinner that involved some quite successful liquorice experiments. What better way to end a liquorice based meal, I though, than by sharing a bottle of liquorice stout as a nightcap? And while we were at it, why not take some notes?

Svaneke Licorice Stout by Johan BülowTasting Svaneke liquorice Stout, a liquorice lover’s dream?

Once relieved of its cap, this liquorice stout poured a deep, dark brown, almost black, with a small but rather attractive head. Aromas were pleasantly roasted and had notes of malts, caramel, coffee and raw liquorice. Taste was predominantly sweet and malty with quite a long and dominant liquorice finish backed by some subtle bitterness – I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some amount of sweet liquorice syrup had gone into making this beer.

Overall, I found this to be very well balanced with only a subtle hint of hops used to balance out the sweetness. Some would probably argue that this was too sweet, but at the end of a cold chilly day, I found it just perfect. As did the majority of my fellow tasters.

This is definitely a beer made for liquorice lovers. It is, honestly, surprisingly thin taste-wise to begin with. For a stout, at least. But then the liquorice starts building mid-palate before turning really noticeable on the finish and aftertaste. This may put off true stout lovers, but it certainly appeals to liquorice lovers. As one of my female diners put it: “I don’t usually like stouts, but this is truly gorgeous!”

Like all Johan Bülow products I’ve had my hands on this far, this was obviously handcrafted with attention to detail, flavor and use of the best possible ingredients to create the best possible taste. This is a solid effort that should appeal to most liquorice lovers, probably more so than to stout lovers. Regardless, I found it an interesting and original twist on a low alcohol stout.

Don’t expect this to be a smoky, burnt stout monster or a punch in the jaw liquorice bite, but rather a balanced, sweet, slightly intoxicating liquorice treat. Give it a try if you’re a serious beer lover who happens to have a thing for quality liquorice, or if you’re really into other items in Johan Bülow’s product line. If both apply to you, you might as well just get two bottles and share it with a few likeminded souls over a good talk and a few laughs, possibly following a great dinner. Damn, I wish we’d had two bottles.

Aroma 5/10 – Appearance 4/5 – Taste 7/10 – Palate 3/5 – Overall 15/20

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