THE regular reader of this column would possibly remember that my pick for the best beer I tasted in 2015 was the Return of the Dread Stout, the first winter seasonal release from the crew at Little Creatures Brewery.
Seasonal releases are a chance for brewers to have a bit of fun with different ingredients and styles of beer, secure in the knowledge that if a particular batch doesn't fire with the drinking public, they haven't tooled up an entire production line to make it.
The good news is this means the discerning beer lover gets to try exciting things that can be really different. The bad news is if you really like it, it may not be still available in three months' time.
For this year's winter release, Little Creatures have returned to a stout, and returned to the theme referenced by the "Dread" part of Return of the Dread. (That Dread of course referred to the Dreadnought class battleships, the pride of naval fleet around the world in the early 20th century.)
Named for the fearsome black barrels of the Hotchkiss guns that bedecked the mighty Dreadnought battleship, the Hotchkiss Six has arrived to tantalise our palates during the cooler months.
Hugh the neighbour and I had the opportunity to try a couple, albeit under warmer, more summery conditions than we would normal have before getting stuck into a full flavoured stout (curse you, Global Climate Change).
At 4.5% alcohol by volume, the Hotchkiss Six doesn't quiet pack the punch of the 7.2% Dread, but it doesn't lose out in the flavour stakes. This is a really smooth drop, full of chocolate and caramel flavours from the English malts used with a measure of oats added to balance out the flavours.
You can still pick up a lovely overtone of hops in what is genuinely a very pleasant beer, and, with the lower alcohol content, one you can have more than a couple and still nod off in front of the football.
HTN felt it was a genuinely drinkable stout and certainly held up against one of his all-time favourites the Coopers Extra Stout which we enjoyed alongside the Hotchkiss Six.
If you have not been a stout drinker, this would be worth have a crack at; if you are a drinker of stout - purchase, chill, pour and enjoy while you can.
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