Many people think of beer as a summer drink, something light and fresh, crisp and tangy to quench a thirst in hot weather. But that's only one part of the brewers' story. Dark-coloured, strongly flavoured wintry brews abound these days, and stout has probably been the best known of these in Australia for generations. Made using very dark roasted barley malt, giving black colour, strength of flavour, and depth of character, stouts vary considerably in style. Some are easy-drinking, soft, creaming brews, while others are potent drops of biting bitterness that are not for the faint-hearted.
Monteith's Black, $3-$5 330ml bottle
A New Zealand dark beer with an attractive malty nose, some deeper toffee notes and a lifted seasoning of fragrant floral hops. It's an appealing, smooth drink, not heavy but still richly flavoured, it's light enough to be quenching and not excessively bitter. A black beer of lovely balance and drinkability. 5.2 per cent alcohol.
Stockists include: Dan Murphy's stores.
Little Creatures The Fuggle is Real, $4-$6 355ml can
What's a Fuggle? It's a variety of hop with English origins that gives notable aromatic qualities to some beers. Deeply coloured, this stout has complex aromas, yeasty and dark malty with hints of orange rind and herbal hop notes. It's rich, with good depth and powerful, dry, savoury flavours, trimmed in a good measure of steely hop bitterness. 5.8 per cent alcohol.
Stockists include: Little Creatures Brewery, Geelong (Vic); Dan Murphy's stores.
Red Hill Brewery Imperial Stout, $6-$7 330ml bottle
A stout for heroes from the admirable Red Hill brewery on Victoria's Mornington Peninsula. In a style originally made for the czarist court of Russia, this impenetrably black drop has a rustic nose, sweet and high-toned, with dark roasted grain, molasses and herby hop notes. It's full bodied and lush in the mouth, with deep burnt malt flavour and lots of bitter grip on the finish. 8.1 per cent alcohol.
Stockists include: Red Hill Brewery at redhillbrewery.com.au or call 03 5989 2959.