As the cool breath of winter tucks us into bed in our flannelette pyjamas and bed socks, it’s time to think of a winter beer to stave off the seasonal blues. The shortest day has past but the coldest days may still be ahead nibbling at our checks and frosting our noses red.

A couple of years ago I had a black lager in a restaurant in Pyrmont. It led me on a journey through dark and black beer that took me from Ireland to New Zealand, from a Wicked Elf to a Dogbolter. After extensive research and tastings in search of the greatest of all stouts, I have finally settled on Shepherd Neame & Co Double Stout from Faversham in Kent.

Hailed as Britain’s oldest brewery, Shepherd Neame & Co was founded in 1698 but brewing on the site has been happening since at least 1573. The Double Stout dates back to an 1868 recipe discovered in the archives and written in code to prevent theft by other brewers.

Double Stout bottle

Shepherd Neame & Co’s Double Stout. Image: Supplied.

The tasting notes from their website highlight a “velvety-smooth palate of dry, burnt flavours – complemented by roast, cocoa and coffee notes.” Although not a creamy stout in nature, it does have the aromas of a creamy, oaty and malty, chocolate. At 5.2% alcohol it boasts a stronger taste as it spreads its malty warmth, starting in your chest and spreading all over to warm even the iciest of fingers.

I prefer to leave it out of the fridge for about twenty minutes before I pour as the layers of flavor can be hidden if too cold. This may be why the English like their beer warm.

Shepherd Neame & Co’s Double Stout. Image: Supplied.

I don’t expect to turn the heads of the hoards of Guinness aficionados out there but for those of us who like something a little less on the creamy side, I would highly recommend basting your taste buds in Shepherd Neame & Co’s Double Stout. The connection with a brewery founded in 1698 makes it worth a try if only to immerse yourself in centuries of brewing tradition.

1698 was the year Tsar Peter the Great put a tax on beards in an effort to modernise the country. His effort largely failed with beards becoming a status symbol for someone displaying their ability to pay the tax, proving sometimes it is folly to push against tradition.

In 2017 you might struggle to find a barman in Australia without a beard. Status symbol or not sometimes the old ways are the best ways.

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