Ah, Northern Monk Brew Co: yet another reason to love the wonderful city that is Leeds. Finally based in a proper home after months of being nomads, they’ve settled down to brew in an old flax mill near the train station. Soon, they’ll be opening up their tap room and bottle shop on site; when their doors open in the autumn, I will make the pilgrimage across the hills to drink their beer at the source. At the moment, the offering is still small but perfectly formed: New World IPA, at 6.2%, and Strannik, their 9% Imperial Stout.
I’d heard great things about Strannik, though I hadn’t yet managed to get my hands on a bottle, and when I heard that NMBCo had collaborated with Lauden Chocolate to create Strannik truffles, my mouth started watering. These were being sold, alongside the beer, at the Leeds Food Festival: always a fantastic event, which I was gutted to be missing. Imagine my delight when the babes at NMBCo and Lauden offered to send me over a little present so I could try out the pairing for myself!
Dark as Charlie Brooker’s humour, as the aroma from this thick, viscous beastie wafts up from the glass, you’re hit with big, boozy raisins and strong coffee; rum and raisin affogato. This alcohol-drenched dried fruit character continues as you sip, pursued by an insistent charred savouriness, and the rich bitter coffee is brightened by sour grape skins and hedgerow hops. Long, dry espresso lingers on the palate.
Paired with the suitably beery dark chocolate, the focus on Strannik’s hop profile sharpens, and as the rich creaminess of the truffles lingers on your tongue, the stout provides a deep, earthy counterpart, with hints of dark fruits. The intense dark chocolate truffle bitterness compliments the roasted coffee of the beer, with the fresh nettle hops cutting a swathe through the luxurious, silky mouthfeel to prevent this pairing from becoming cloying. It’s a decadent experience, and the two elements elevate each other. Apart, you have a magnificent Imperial Stout and some yummy chocolates, but together, they sing, hitting notes they couldn’t reach alone. A glorious collaboration, and one I hope to see repeated; it’d make a great gift set, and I know a number of people who deserve a bit of beery luxury! Thank you to Northern Monk Brew Co and Lauden Chocolate for sending these over for me to sample. Cheers.