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As a nascent beer geek in the early years of the century, one of my regular suppliers was the Celtic Whiskey Shop on Dawson Street. The selection has waxed and waned over time but now they've gone all-in with a new online retailer Craft Beers Delivered. Out of the blue a few weeks ago they wrote and asked if I'd like a complimentary selection, and if there was any particular kind of beer that I wanted. I set them them a challenge by specifying a preference for dark ones. Filling a case without any IPAs must be quite tough these days, but they managed it. Today's post is the ones they sent which I hadn't had before.

First up, a collaboration between Wylan and Mikkeller called Geordie Beer Geek, presumably based on the latter's Beer Geek Breakfast oatmeal and coffee stout. It's 7.5% ABV, as BGB is, though is surprisingly thin, given the gravity and the bulking-out. Rather than coffee I get umami: Worcester sauce and mushroom ketchup. This adds an edge, a tang, that doesn't suit it at all. The coffee does arrive eventually, in the aftertaste, but it's quite harsh: cold coffee grounds instead of a warming roast. This is far from the smooth comforter I was hoping for. I immediately reached for something bigger to take the taste away.

That was an American: Galactic Cowboy from Left Hand, a tall can of nitrogenated imperial stout. It looked well in the glass, the pure blackness topped by a thick pillow of ivory-coloured head. ABV: 9%; silly ingredients: none. The big downside of nitro is how much it deadens aroma, and this doesn't smell of much, just a faint whiff of dark chocolate. So it goes for the flavour: the bitter, high-percentage-cocoa kind of chocolate. Pleasingly they haven't skimped on the hops and there's a significant herbal side to the taste, with mint in particular. Nutmeg, sultana, orange peel and tea add to a pudding effect that's dessertish without being overblown or unsubtle. I think, of course, that this would have been better and more interesting without the nitrogen. It still works, however: a solid, understated bruiser of a stout.

For silly ingredients we have to turn to the Scandis. Lervig's Nitro Hot Chocolate Stout is made with cocoa nibs, lactose and vanilla sugar, and comes with a video they tell you must be watched before opening, the link to which they have printed on a QR code too small to actually work. I took my chances. Maybe it's a warning that the can is likely to gush everywhere, because it did. The nitro head is rather looser on this one, and perhaps that bodes well for the flavour. It smells of milk chocolate, the cheap sort with a kind of sour-milk twang. In the flavour the sweet lactose and vanilla clash with some more generous hopping, though that fades quickly allowing the warming smooth hot chocolate effect to come through. It's 10% ABV so I was expecting a lot of booze heat but it wears it well, using the alcohol to add a roundness and fullness, rather than simple kicks. It took me a while to get into this: the shock of those clashing hops with each mouthful is the main issue, but I began enjoying it later, only to realise subsequently that half a litre is too much for a single serving and a glassful needed to be decanted off to herself. Overall, I think Lervig makes better strong stouts than this one, but this one will do.

The selection tops out on 11% ABV with Omnipollo's Noa "pecan mud" imperial stout. Neither pecans nor mud appear on the ingredients. I am not predisposed to enjoying the pastry stylings of this Swedish contractor (this one brewed at De Molen) but I gave it a sporting chance by drinking it late on a Friday evening when I was in a good mood. The aroma does not suggest a sugary mess, being all hard and bitter espresso. The flavour too is no more nutty than a good coffee, a little burnt around the edges with a touch of vegetal hops, but not severe about either. And there's no silliness, none of the syrupy ersatz-chocolate candy I had geared myself up for. While not especially complex, and not as silly as the branding implies, this is a highly enjoyable straight-up imperial stout of the kind I associate with, well, De Molen. Nice.

Thanks to the folks at Craft Beers Delivered for the selection. With all the pale ale variants on the market at the moment a good dose of strong stout has properly rebalanced the oul chakras.