Aussie stouts and book pairings to warm your grimdark heart

There are few better ways to spend a winter’s afternoon than opening up a grimdark book next to an Australian royal imperial stout (barrel aged if you can get it!), kicking your feet up on the balcony in the sun, and losing yourself for a few hours. Like our favourite grimdark books, stouts in Australia have come a long way in the last decade, and while we’re not quite at US levels of stout awesomeness, the gap has narrowed by a significant margin.

For me, a book and a beer (as you’ll know if you follow our Instagram page) is one of the simple pleasures in life. So here are five recommendations for both book and beer that I know you’ll love.

Before you read on: if alcohol is a problem for you, please both seek help with an organisation like DrinkWise, and please click here to go to another just-as-awesome book recommendation post without alcohol included

Old Money Barrel Aged Stout and The Court of Broken Knives

Thick and dark, with many layers in flavour that develop as it warms, Sydney-based Stockade Brewing’s Old Money Barrel Aged Imperial Stout is a perfect sipper for an afternoon in the winter sun. Both the name and forward flavours of spices and dried fruit put me right in the mood for reading about the falling, once-great empire of Sorlost. And with the pace of this book, you may very well find yourself needing a second bottle after realising the afternoon has disappeared and the stars are out.

If you haven’t yet read The Court of Broken Knives by Anna Smith Spark, get on it! You can find our review here.

3Ravens Barrel Aged Peated Imperial Oatmeal Stout and The Poppy War

For an 18 percenter like 3Ravens’ Barrel Aged Peated Imperial Oatmeal Stout you need something just as heavy. And with a trigger warnings list that covers off, “self-harm, suicide, violent rape, sexual assault, murder, massacres, brutalization, mutilation, torture, substance abuse, abuse, emotional abuse, physical abuse, relationship abuse, human experimentation, chemical warfare, and genocide” you know you’ve found it in The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang. A fantasy novel inspired by the darkest chapters of China’s twentieth century, The Poppy War is an enjoyable, compelling read with great action, emotional impact, and an awesome magic system.

Make sure you check out our review of The Poppy War

Bacchus Brewing Islay Reserve and Prince of Thorns

For a book like Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence, you need something as smoky and peaty as the hole this book will punch in your heart. Each year Bacchus Brewing‘s Islay Reserve limited releases sell out in minutes, and for good reason. It has incredible depth and length of flavour, and that smokiness is an absolute must for peatier scotch fans. While technically a barley wine (I’ve unapologetically betrayed you here, like Jorg would), out of the beers I personally cellar, the Islay Reserve is something I’ll hold on to until I’m celebrating something significant or reading something magnificent … like Prince of Thorns.

If you’ve never heard of Prince of Thorns before, click here, buy it, read it, thank me later.

Boatrocker Fat Santa and A Crown for Cold Silver

Fun and different, with plenty of flavours to get your head around, Boatrocker’s Fat Santa is a perfect match for a book with such a diverse and fun cast (who obviously get thrown into the grinder). A Crown for Cold Silver is a slow burn start, a well developed middle with plenty of POV cross interactions and pre-book world building hints, laughs, and then a barnstorming ending with plenty of vicious, bleak and anticipation-building finishes. I honestly couldn’t think of a better beer to match, with Buffalo Trace bourbon barrel, dark roast whole coffee beans, Madagascan vanilla pods, tonka beans, and bourbon and American oak characters.

Grab yourself a copy of A Crown for Cold Silver after reading our review.

Range Brewing Canadian Tuxedo and Beyond Redemption

Now, this pairing isn’t so much about a linking of flavours, but more simply because I love this royal imperial stout from Brisbane-based Range Brewing about as much as I love Canadian author Michael R. Fletcher and his debut Beyond Redemption. It’s highly likely the author is sick of me spruiking his debut release (I can hear him shouting at me from the other side of the world, “I HAVE OTHER BOOKS, EH”) but it just fecks me off this book wasn’t a bigger deal. To be honest, there are some scenes in this book where putting a liquid of any sort into your mouth probably isn’t going to sit well with you, but if you can stomach it, this is the right beer.

Check out Beyond Redemption by Michael R. Fletcher.

(Ed. All photos taken in my kitchen. Massive apologies to the brweries for my atricious photography skills. They look much better sitting in front you you, I promise!)

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Adrian Collins

Adrian Collins runs Grimdark Magazine and loves anything to do with telling darker stories. Doesn't matter the format, or when it was published or produced--just give him a grim story told in a dark world by a morally grey protagonist and this bloke's in his happy place. Add in a barrel aged stout to sip on after a cheeky body surf under the Australian sun, and that's his heaven.