Robinson's Old Tom Chocolate Strong Ale

The is supposed to be the World's Best Ale. Don't ask me - ask Robinson's about their label. Here I have been trying to find the best beers in the world (available to me here locally) and these guys went ahead and put it in their bottle, slapped a label on it that told me what I was looking for, and then sent it to my local brewslinger.

The beer is dark brown with a dense, swirling mist of white specks that make me think of this glass as a snow globe. The head isn't very much at the best of times, and it boils away to a few patches floating on top and the familiar ring around the edge. The aroma is slightly bitter and actually reminds me of a bourbon barrel aged beer with the heavy oak and distinct alcohol - and those kinds of beers are not my favorite.

First sip is not the bourbon barrel beer that I'd feared, and it is also not the chocolate porter/stout/black ale that I'd hoped for. Instead, it is a bitter swill of heavy bread malt, some coffee, very slight vanilla, oak, a hint of smoke, and more water than it has a right to have with all this bitterness. If I were to sip this beer for the rest of the night, I might get used to it and say it was middle of the road at best, but I think I can find hidden depths of goodness that the beer is hiding.

Tip-in is hard carbonation burn with cherry wood and toffee. The middle somehow manages to make the carbonation increase in intensity, and toffee and coffee try to deal with it while a sweetbread lingers in the back, trying not to be looked at too hard. The finish ruins any possibility of this beer working for me. The alcohol surge with oak and dark fruits is just not a good balance, and then the trail off is bitter and watery.

Bottom Line: This beer doesn't improve my opinion of English beers.



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