The annual Christmas series of seasonal one-offs from Small Gods took a decidedly dessert stout turn this year. When faced with a selection of beers like this, flavoured with raspberry, orange, clove and more, I would typically pick the one I was most comfortable with to review. But, to kick off a new year that I hope will contain many new directions, I am instead going to pick the one that terrifies me the most: Hark! A 9.3% Gingerbread Imperial Stout …
Crystallised ginger is certainly first and foremost on the nose, but it harmonises well with that huge quantity of malt. Chocolate, mocha, even an errant note of banana that manages to stealth in from somewhere, all lean in around what would have been an overpowering primary flavour and keep it on the rails. The palate is as sweet as you’d expect (which is very …) with a notable viscosity from the sheer malt concentration. But here the ginger works to its benefit, lending a freshness that holds the line just long enough for the big burnt-malt bitterness to take control.
This may not be the beer that turns me into a dessert stout drinker, but it’s certainly moved the needle. It’s big, powerfully indulgent, but — in its own vast way — balanced. Small Gods are again proving their mastery over the ‘big beer’.
Here’s to a year of good challenges.