Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Review: Lighthouse Belgian Black

Lighthouse gave me a bottle of Belgian Black to review this week. This doesn't happen to me very often. I have long harboured a fantasy of utterly panning a freebie just to prove I have integrity. Maybe that's why I don't get too many. On this occasion, I'm happy to risk looking like a sell-out, because I really like this beer.

A belgian black called Belgian Black. Not much to go on here. I anticipate something like Trois Pistoles as it's the blackest belgian-style beer I regularly drink. That or a dark dark dubbel that's not actually that black once you get it out of the (attractive) matte black frosted bottle.

The beer is brewed with a Belgian Ardennes yeast strain: more evidence that Lighthouse is taking things seriously (they have a reputation for being yeast sticklers). I enjoy Keepers Stout, and I'll drink a Beacon IPA from time to time, but Lighthouse hadn't tempted me too much until they ramped up the quality and invention with the Big Flavour series. Deckhand was a lovely saison and Uncharted is practically the only "Belgian IPA" worth drinking.

So the Black comes with some pedigree, yet still puts the bar into near orbit. It has the charcoal, roasted qualities of an imperial stout — with seared walnuts and some dry cocoa. But where you'd expect a battering ram body to follow, BB is lighter, almost dainty, with a fresh plummy flavour. There's a fair bit of booziness, but it is sweet enough to carry it off. Although not of the same flavour, the mixture reminds me of blackcurrant-liquorice candies I ate as a child — a confectionary contradiction greater than the sum of its parts.

Not only is Belgian Black the best of the "Big Flavour" series (which has had high highs and middling lows), but the style strikes me as the most promising and necessary of all the North American/Belgian crossovers we are mercilessly subjected to. Lighthouse should be doubly commended for underlining that fact with some authority. Nice one.