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Dark Star Brewing, Imperial Stout

Conceived in 1994 in the small, dark, dreary cellar of the Evening Star pub (an incredible drinking establishment) in Brighton with brewing kit on the scale of an enthusiastic home brewer, local entrepreneur Peter Halliday, publican Peter Skinner, and brewer Rob Jones wanted to call their new operation Skinner’s Brewery, but that name was taken by the chaps over in Cornwall. During his time at the then tiny Pitfield Brewery in North London in 1987 Rob Jones had brewed up a dark beer and miraculously (given its size) walked away with Champion Beer of Britain gong. The beer was called ‘Dark Star’ and its success resulted in Rob and his brewing partner Martin Kemp becoming known as the Yeastie Boys. Beat that for a beer themed tribute band name. The success of that beer back in the day inspired the three men to name their chaotic little operation under the pub the Dark Star Brewing Co. 

The locals at the bar above their head couldn’t get enough of their beers, “It was just a hobby that got out of control” says Paul Reed who joined the team in 2000 and is now Managing Director. That year they were also joined by Mark Tranter, an art student who at the time was cooking in a local pub by day and drinking in the Evening Star by night. He would swap beer for food, taking them samples of what he’d made. Without any training he got offered a job and is now head brewer. He helped Dark Star establish itself as one of the most forward thinking (they were the first British brewery to brew a Saison) and collaborative (teaming up with the likes of Thornbridge, Kernel and Marble more recently) breweries going before leaving to set up a brilliant new brewery called Burning Sky.

Nowadays Dark Star are brewing in excess of 20 different beers with a great core range complimented by some brilliant seasonals. Favourites of ours include ‘Six Hop’ a hop laden beauty, ‘Hophead’ a much lighter, refreshing Pale Ale and their ‘Original’ which is a lovely dark, strong best bitter (it also uses the same recipe as the original Dark Star beer brewed by Rob Long back in the day).

Their current facilities, a 16,000 square foot brewery in Partridge Green, half an hour North of Brighton, are much better suited to what is now the second largest brewery in Sussex (the wonderful Harveys in Lewes have long held the number one spot).

This week’s beer, Dark Star’s Imperial Stout is the most special beer in their collection.  Imperial stout, also known as Russian imperial stout or imperial Russian stout was first brewed in the 18th century by Thrale's brewery in London and exported to the court of Catherine II of Russia. Production was ramped up again in the 1920s after the biggest Russian brewery was pillaged by anarchist Russian soldiers and destroyed by German troops during World War 1.

Weighing in at a boozy 10.5% the first thing that strikes you with this little beauty is the sticky, viscous pour. Aromas of dark chocolate and espresso coffee dominate, whilst cherry and liquorice flavours lingering on the tongue. Stunning. Now, someone pass the cheese. 

It’s a suitably decadent beer style for Christmas. Have a good one folks.

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