Take it home: An oatmeal stout and a big estate bargain

Each week John Wilson selects a great beer and a great wine to try right now. This week: The White Hag Black Boar Imperial Oatmeal Stout and Domaine de Sainte Marthe Syrah 2014

The White Hag Black Boar Imperial Oatmeal Stout

The White Hag Brewing company launched as recently as August 2014, but already has a very loyal following. ‘Our beers are different’, says American brewer Joe Kearns; ‘we don’t do an accessible red ale, stout and lager like most of the others. Our beers are big and bold, American style made using Irish ingredients where possible. We have a heather ale made without any hops. Our water comes from a bog and is very soft, ideal for stout. It doesn’t have to be treated, filtered or pasteurised.’

Imperial Stout, sometimes called Imperial Russian Stout has a reputation as the bad boy of the beer world. First brewed in London back in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century for the Russian court, it is high in alcohol – up to 12%, and coming down with dark flavours. Think roast chocolate, coffee and roasted malt. Imperial can be dry or sweet, intense or medium-bodied, it can be flavoured with extra hops, milk chocolate, coffee, liquorice, sea salt, spices, extra malt, or even chili. The use of oats in stout is fairly common. Added during the fermentation it adds a smooth texture to the beer.

The White Hag Imperial Oatmeal Stout was launched at the Craft Beer Fest in 2014, where it won the stand favourite award. It went on to become Beoir’s Best Stout in Ireland in 2015 and runner up for Beer of the Year 2015. This, it hardly needs saying, is not a session beer. Big (10.2% but never burns), bold and full of roasted barley and dark chocolate, with a lovely smooth texture, this demands careful contemplation on cold winter nights. White Hag will release a special version of  the Imperial Stout for Christmas. Aged in whiskey casks and available in a 75ml bottle. One to leave out for Santa perhaps?


The Beauty of Big. Domaine de Sainte Marthe Syrah 2014

The Languedoc in France is the world’s largest vineyard, dwarfing the entire production of most countries. Domaine Sainte Marthe is owned by the Bonfils family, who own no less than 20 estates and 1,800 hectares of vines in the Languedoc, plus three more in Bordeaux. They are the largest private owners in the region. A big producer in a big region does not usually mean quality wine, and there is a plenty of  dull insipid wine produced in the Languedoc. But the region also offers some of the best value wines in the world, reds especially. The Bonfils family have always gone upmarket, offering wines that deliver a little more and cost a little more too. Not too much more though; Domaine Sainte Marthe, a 70 hectare estate between Pézenas and Faugères, sells for a bargain €10.50 in Dunnes Stores. Medium-bodied, smooth and ripe with dark fruits and liquorice, this will warm you up nicely on these cold winter nights.