Drunken Speculation

#9 Monteith’s Black Beer

Monteith's Black BeerThis review begins with me wandering the aisles of my local First Choice gunning for a porter or any sort of dark beer. For some reason, Guinness is $80 for a case and I can’t find the James Squire Jack of Spades in a case. I spy Monteith’s (First Choice really need to move it away from the eye level shelf) and they produce a darker beer in a handsome black bottle. Dare I risk it? The last belt of Monteith’s didn’t go so well. I check the label:

A mysterious dark beer smoothly blended from five premium malts to deliver complex biscuit, caramel, chocolate and coffee flavours. Savour the ingenuity of this classic beer as it lingers on the palate.

Biscuit, caramel, chocolate and coffee? Sold! That sounds less like a beer and more like a gluttonous dessert.

Wait… damn it, I’ve been sold on a label again. Never judge a book by its cover, huh? Then why do books have covers? Unfortunately, I’m already in the car by the time the infinitesimal part of my brain that isn’t sucked in by marketing has decided to connect itself to the decision making centres.

At home, the first pour shows considerable head, with a solid amount of time taken to settle down. The head is a slightly brown tinge but retains itself well, as it turns to a cream with fine bubbles. The beer’s aroma is its main selling point: there’s a very pleasant chocolate mudcake aroma, very smooth, under a slightly stronger Kahlua smell. I’m practically re-sold, despite my earlier realisation.

The colour is unsurprisingly black. The people down at Monteith’s are definitely straightforward in naming, if nothing else. That said, if you hold it up to the light, the colour is actually a very dark burgundy and quite clear.

The taste reveals that the overwhelming flavour is bitterness. I think Monteith’s tried to go for the bitter sweet flavour of very dark chocolate but forgot to put in the sugar. I’m a bit disappointed as the ale lacks the appeal of the smells above. It finishes clean and well and the mouthfeel is not unlike a nearly flat Coke, light with small bubbles and without the heavy creaminess one expects of Irish stouts. More tasting reveals some complexity as the “five malts” – I’m thinking its three, personally – are revealed but ultimately, its the cocoa but not the chocolate flavour that dominates. Where was that on the label?

If you’re looking for something a bit different in the strain of a porter, you might enjoy this, especially if you like your chocolate with cocoa content in excess of 70%. But the main lesson is if you want Guinness or Kilkenny, then you should go for that and, if you’re like me, prepare yourself for an evening of singing sad songs of the Emerald Isle, wrapped in an Irish flag and yelling profanities about something incomprehensible.


  • Website
  • Genre: Porter/Stout (well, technically schwarzbier)
  • Regionality: Greymouth, NZ
  • Strength: 5.2%
  • Rating: 1.5 / 3 taste + 1.5 / 2 ancillaries = 3 / 5
  • Plus: I’m salivating just thinking about the smell (not as good as Hawthorn Amber Ale though).
  • Minus: It’s disengagingly bitter, just like me.
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