Food & Drink

Craft Beer: Lightnin' strikes

Smoke Stack Lightnin' by Whiplash
Smoke Stack Lightnin' by Whiplash

WHEN the ABV Festival was a must-go-to event in the local beer calendar, I remember going along and attending a talk by renowned beer writer Pete Brown. Pete's other passion is music and so he had mused on how to pair certain beers with certain pieces of music – Neil Young's Harvest Moon with a Belgian witbier, that sort of thing.

That session came to mind last week when I go my hands on a can of Smoke Stack Lightnin' by Whiplash. For a start, it got that Howlin' Wolf tune buzzing around in my head for a few days.

And also, listening to some classic blues, for me, is best accompanied by a beer which can be savoured rather than guzzled down.

It helps that Smoke Stack Lightnin' is an 8.5 per cent brown ale – on that can be sipped away as those earthy blues rifts kick in.

Of course, the name also gives away a bit more about the style. It's a smoked brown ale, leaning it ever so slightly towards the rauchbier style. It doesn't quite go all the way there, though, with the smokey tones being a little more subtle.

However, it does have all the expected tropes of a classic brown ale with something of a twist. Brown ale has come to be thought of as something of an American style in recent years, despite the most famous example of it emanating from the north-east of England.

This one, though, is straight out of Dublin and pours a dark brown colour with a slightly tan head. There are lovely roasty aromas with a hint of smokiness and hints of dark fruit popping through. The malt character is biscuit and slightly bready – a bit like a malt loaf or Veda.

There is a comforting sweetness to this one with flavours of raisin and the smokiness acts more as a counter-balance to that sweetness rather than being a dominant flavour.

And throughout all this complexity, you forget that it's a 8.5 per cent beer. So hoke out that Best of Blues CD (ask your parents) and kick back with this one.