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Classic Beer of the Month September 2011: Wye Valley Dorothy Goodbody's Wholesome Stout

Wye Valley’s Dorothy Goodbody’s Wholesome Stout, 4.6%

In a feature in the forthcoming Book of Beer Knowledge, I suggest which beers may best, today, exemplify a wide range of beer styles. For the dry Irish stout style, I plump for Wye Valley’s Dorothy Goodbody’s Wholesome Stout.

Wye Valley StoutIt would have been easy and obvious to go for Guinness. That was the beer that created the style in the first place, when Arthur Guinness (son of the founder) decided to save on some malt tax and use roasted barley in his beer instead. The dry, bitter, roasted quality of Guinness stems from that day.

But the so-called ‘Black Stuff’, for me, is only a pale shadow of its former self. In 1993, the company decided to stop production of bottle-conditioned Guinness Extra Stout in favour of a pasteurized version that is now sold as Guinness Original.

Original remains a better beer than the Guinness you can buy on draught, when it’s been chilled to death and flattened by nitrogen, but it’s not the beer that Extra used to be.

That’s why I had no qualms in choosing Wye Valley’s stout as the best example of the style. It’s bottle conditioned, it’s fresh-tasting and it’s complex. More than that, it’s a damn good drink.

Wye Valley began producing its Dorothy Goodbody range of beers in the mid-1990s. They started out as seasonals, but a few found their way into bottles and they now are available year-round on draught, too.

Blonde Bombshell

For the record, there was no real Dorothy Goodbody. She’s just a computer generated blonde bombshell used to market the beers. The label for the stout used to claim – somewhat tongue-in-cheek – that Dorothy found the recipe in her grandfather’s brewing book.

The truth is more interesting. Brewery founder Peter Amor once worked for Guinness and no doubt picked up a few tricks of the stout-brewing trade while he was there.

Peter’s stout is built on a grist of pale, crystal and chocolate malts with roasted and flaked barley completing the cereal bill. The hops are Northdown, a functional bittering hop that does its job perfectly, helping the roasted barley add bitterness but otherwise keeping itself to itself and allowing the dark grains to dominate the taste.

The beer pours an inviting garnet brown colour and presents an aroma filled with mellow cappuccino coffee. The same creamy coffee notes then linger on the tongue, providing a soft alternative to the smoky, bitter, roasted graininess the beer also features.

The finish as you’d expect and hope is firmly dry, with more bitter coffee, along with dark chocolate, to round off. Judges were impressed in 2008 when they awarded the beer CAMRA’s Champion Bottled Beer title.

One of the most pleasing developments in the beer world in recent times has been the rediscovery of stout. There are dozens of great examples now in production in the UK, but I doubt if you’ll find many finer than Dorothy Goodbody’s.

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