Having tried a Hogs Back beer that I don't remember making a lasting impression on me I thought twice before picking this one up, but I knew I'd made the right decision seconds after pouring it from the bottle. Old Tongham Tasty has been brewed since shortly after the brewery was founded in 1992, and the brewers describe the flavour of this strong, dark ale as 'a festival of fun on your tongue' on the front and 'a festival of different tastes on the tongue' on the back. They're bold statements to make on the bottle, and not ones I could ignore easily. These, along with the delightful purple and green label were enough to prompt me to slip one into my shopping basket. Would it live up to expectations?
Where colour was concerned, I had no expectations. Described as a 'dark ale' it could have been dark amber, ruby or brown, but instead it pours a colour so dark it looks like it could distort the space around it, pulling surrounding objects in at the speed of light before swallowing them up with a gurgling sound. The only colour barely visible is around the very edges of the glass where it just about manages to glow a deep red if you shine a bright light at it, but this could just be a result of the light waves approaching the liquid becoming longer as the darkness forces time to slow down. As for the head, the coffee-coloured foam rises about half a finger before fizzling down swiftly.
I didn't find the aroma all that pungent, but it's interesting: you can make out some dark chocolate, rum and raisin, port and plums. It's a bit like a fruit and nut chocolate bar on the nose.
The flavour, though, is where it really starts happening. It's malts galore: toasted nuts, dark chocolate, licorice, coffee and treacle, with a charred and bitter aftertaste. The maltiness is unsurprising given the four different malts used, of pale, crystal, chocolate and wheat varieties, all bringing their own unique character and sensation up and down the tongue. It's a deep, rich and bitter flavour that doesn't budge for a good while, and the rich flavours are complemented by some herbal notes from the Fuggles hops that are added at several stages of the process, bringing with them a lot of depth. As this one lingers on the tongue, all these flavours repeat themselves on some kind of tasty loop in various combinations as you breathe out, adding yet another dimension.
|Surrey within England|
It turns out Hogs Back really aren't being OTT when they refer to this as 'a festival of different tastes on the tongue'. It's deep, bold and complex yet not overpowering, and includes some lighter flavours in there too. In fact, there's so much going on that you can't even taste the 6% alcohol, making it surprisingly drinkable. Old Tongham Tasty is a festival of fun I'll happily come back to this winter.
Beer Belly's rating: