“I normally drink Foster’s, but this Beardface is alright,” said the bloke at the adjacent urinal. Normally I’d freeze up at such a flagrant violation of toilet etiquette, or go into a ‘Withnail & I’ style paranoid trip, but here I found myself nodding along in agreement. The Beardface was alright. So alright, in fact, that within 40 minutes of its launch at the Goat Major pub in Cardiff, the first barrel had sold out – a new record for the pub. Not bad for a Wednesday evening.
How a whole barrel of beer sold out in 40 minutes is possibly due to a perfect storm. Beardface is one of the latest expressions from the prolific Brains Craft Brewery (yes, that’s right, I reviewed their then latest beer three days ago) brewed in collaboration with Chris Rowlands. Brains have cleverly spearheaded their craft beer range with the aid of leading beer writers, such as Melissa Cole and Martyn Cornell; however, Chris Rowlands represents an interesting trend shift in that he is one of Brains’ own leading pub managers, responsible for the Goat Major.
In recognition for winning ‘Brains cask ale pub of 2012’, Brains invited Chris to the brewery to help make a new beer. What occurred was Beardface, a 5.0% milk stout. Named after his online presence and magnificent crop of facial hair, Beardface is a malt-led stout which utilises pale ale, Munich, crystal, brown and chocolate malt. Given the prevalent trend for Brains Craft beers to be pale and hoppy, Chris wanted to do something different, hence the milk stout route. Anyone familiar with Brains’ Original Stout might be on the edge of their seat at this point.
Beardface pours with a rich, velvety black body and tan head, which keeps throughout the pint. The aroma is gentle, with sugar sweet coffee notes and a subtle hint of roast malt. The mouthfeel is rich and full bodied, with the lactic sugar-sweetness taking centre stage, followed by a roast malt bitterness leading to a dry finish. The sweetness and roasted malts keep each other in check, so it’s never cloying or puckering. Gentle notes of coffee and blackcurrant come through on occasion.
When you make a pint gentle, sweet and dry, you’re going to quaff it and want another. From Cardiff CAMRA to Brains brewery staff, Chris’ friends and family, pub regulars, and various hop-heads, bitter drinkers and lager lovers, everyone came together in enjoyment of an easy-going pint and managed to demolish the first barrel so quickly there were concerns as to how long the remaining seven would last.
They aren’t the only barrels, fortunately. Other pubs will stock them, and it’s at Craft Beer Rising this weekend. If you do come across it, you might find yourself in a toilet telling a stranger how much you like Beardface.