Durham Brewery Temptation Russian Stout doesn’t mess about. It’s a 10% ABV sledgehammer with strict instructions on pouring and storage down the side and it may as well have “FRONT TOWARDS ENEMY” printed on it as well, such is the explosive nature of this blasting charge of a beer.
The nose on first opening is the opening blow in a one-sided prizefight, a complex and overwhelming rush of chocolate and hops with seductive undertones of dark rum and exotic, smoke-choked fruits that cements this beer’s nature as a gentleman thug, a complex and civilised creature that nonetheless will beat the shit out of anyone who crosses it. I stand by my initial statement on contact with this powerful scent that I could happily get high on it.
Pouring it into a pint glass unleashes the smell even further and the degrees of complexity in the nose alone could fill a notepad with my terrible, “I learned to write with the wrong hand” scrawl without a drop of this black hole of a beer passing my lips. But pass my lips it had to, and the first mouthful was nothing more than an electric kiss that left me certain that this is one of the best beers I have ever tasted. Almost uncomfortably warming from the second or third gulp and pushing the envelope of complexity to a virtually incomprehensible degree, this beer is hard to pin down because it throws so many solid rocks of flavour at the drinker.
It pours like rum, a delicious thick oil that promises absolute destruction, and it coats the mouth like liquid sin; a sensuous taste impossible to throw off the tongue. It burns like liquor as it slices and smashes up the senses with weaponised notes of raisin, blood orange and plum.
I realise I’ve thrown a load of violent language and symbolism into this review, making this beer sound like a wild chainsaw of a drink, but all through this powerful stout’s muscularity is a sense of balance. “Gentleman thug” does sum it up well, I think. Anthropomorphised this beer would be a Victorian gentleman with a massive library of arcane and complex books and constantly busted knuckles from pit fighting. It’s a subtly made craft ale that is unsubtle in its endgame, a beer that talks softly about Egyptology then shatters your jaw just for fun.
The taste fails to diminish in the slightest all the way to the bottom of the glass, continuing to produce tempting hints of almost every fruit I can remember tasting as the water level drops, all the while reinforcing the skeleton of chocolate that supports this fruity and smoky mass of delicious flesh. The wealth of taste spurred me to gluttonously inhale the final mouthful, and made me wish I’d dropped the extra cash to buy more than one bottle of this disgustingly, eugenically perfect beer.
I could drink Temptation Russian Stout for breakfast, if society and drink-driving laws were cool with it. Want a beer that makes you feel like a Czar? The good bits, not the bits about getting machine-gunned by communists in a basement? This is the beer for you, tovarisch.