If the British trends of recent years are anything to go by, the Basque region of Spain is responsible for a remarkable food and drink offering. Although the rest of the country is most famous for lagers such as Estrella and San Miguel, the northern part of Spain – in particular – has become responsible for brewing a fine selection of dark beers (Amstel Oro, Alhambra Negra, Voll Damm). Brewed by Euskal Garagardoa S.A., the Pagoa range of ‘traditional Basque beer’ features a pilsner, red ale and stout – ‘Beltza’.
On pour, Beltza is dark-brown, almost black, and crowned with a small tan head. On the nose, typical notes of coffee, chocolate and toasted malt notes of caramel are most prominent. Elsewhere, some lactic aromas are joined with licquorice, pine, a whisper of tobacco and soapy back notes. When tasted, however, the stout has an uncharacteristically thin texture, though the taste is fairly prominent. Light-medium bodied, the beer has further sweet notes of chocolate with some vanilla, plus slight bitterness of dark chocolate and ground coffee beans. In addition, dark fruit savours of black cherry and blackcurrant accompany further tastes of oats, some diacetyl and raw tobacco. With medium carbonation, Pagoa Beltza stout has a slightly oily mouthfeel and pleasant bitter-sweet finish.