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To the best of my knowledge, Southeast Asia is not particularly known for its beers. Tea, yes. Textiles, yes. Curry, absolutely. But beer, and a world-class stout, at that? Who knew? Well, okay. Plenty of people knew, judging from the fact that Lion Stout is second—right after Guinness Foreign Extra—on the Beer Advocate list of 263 Foreign/Export stout examples. Among the people who already knew about this delectable brew from Ceylon/Lion Brewery out of Sri Lanka, was noted beer critic, “The Beer Hunter” Michael Jackson. There is a quote from him on the label of the bottled version, but we got the can to try this time, so I can’t show you a picture of the quote. Sorry.
In the Beer Hunter archive hosted by Real Beer, there is an interesting article on Lion Stout, that describes Michael Jackson’s two trips to visit the original Lion brewery “in the hill town of Nuwara Eliya,” a tea-growing area. But despite its notoriety as one of the best tropical or export stouts around, I’ve only seen Lion Stout in one, maybe two stores—both in Henrietta, NY. Right. Let’s talk about the beer, shall we?
Pour/Appearance: (Ben) A carelessly vigorous pour gave about five fingers of head. Very thick, not spongy; pillowy, tan.
(Meagan) Pours thick and black, with a properly tan head.
Nose: (Ben) Smells sweet with chocolate and truffle notes in the nose.
(Meagan) The aroma is sweet, malty, and chocolaty, with a hint of Black Cavendish pipe tobacco.
Flavor: (Ben) Molasses, chocolate syrup, vanilla, Black Cavendish. Against the background of a Jamaican curry, it’s like a super-rich dessert; like a brownie. Touch of mineral water, hint of clay.
(Meagan) I didn’t pick up on the clay, but Michael Jackson mentioned that at the old brewery—the new one is located near the port city of Colombo—the brewing water came from “a cascade” high above the brewery. I guess the old one isn’t in operation anymore, but if the beer still uses spring water, it would explain the hints of minerals and clay.
Mouth feel/Body: (Ben) The mouthfeel is beyond thick; it’s creamy. You move it around in your mouth, and the Lion Stout just coats it.
(Meagan) It’s exactly right for a stout.
Overall: (Ben) overall impression is a thick, creamy, slightly chocolaty, hint of coffee, fruity, sweet, export or foreign extra or tropical stout, as the 2014 BJCP guidelines say.
Would I buy it again? Yes!
Would I brew it? I can only hope to brew something this good.
(Meagan) Jiminy Christmas, this is fecking good beer. If you’re expecting a dry stout, don’t. At 8.8% AVB, it’s almost as strong as an imperial stout, but very smooth and with quite a bit more residual sweetness. There’s only a hint of alcohol taste, though you’ll sure feel it before long. We didn’t particularly want to drink this guy on empty stomachs, so we settled on a Jamaican curry—because that’s the curry I had—cooked with coffee stout and coconut milk. The spices and hints of coconut really brought out the sweet, chocolate characteristics in the beer. Later, I saw that the great Beer Hunter himself recommended pairing Lion Stout with “Anything with coconut, especially Sri Lankan curries…” and he also noted that it can be combined with melting ice cream and re-frozen for “a great dessert…” An experiment for next time, perhaps.