Tartarus Beers started off as an idea to bring a bit of mythology into the brewing world. Conceived by Jack Roberts and Jordan Orpen in Horsforth near Leeds in West Yorkshire, the nanobrewery first experimented with their recipes at the start of 2019, with prototype beers such as ‘Blackbeard Rum and Raisin Porter’ and ‘Elf Black Pepper Tripel’. Come August 2020 and their first batch of commercially available brews were released. Teaming up with artist Sam Farrer, who supplies the brewer with striking illustrations for their packaging, Tartarus’ ‘mythical beers’ were originally only available in the Leeds area. Becoming a limited company in July 2021, the brewer is now a popular figure in the craft brewing scene, famous for it’s use of European styles and with a fondness of dark beers with sky-high ABV counts.
Moon Rabbit is the brewer’s first entry into the world of low alcohol beers, and was released at the start of 2023, just in time for catching the attention of stout-lovers partaking in Dry January. The ‘Moon Rabbit’ is a figure in Chinese and North American folklore, which is based on the shape that shadows on the Moon’s surface can produce when viewed at certain angles. What it has to do with alcohol-free beer I’m unaware, but the design is both cute and otherworldly. Moon Rabbit is a ‘vanilla and tonka bean stout’, which means it’s subjected those adjuncts during conditioning, to try and impart their flavours into the beer. We’ve had vanilla-infused stouts reviewed here before, most notably Anxiety Saint and Stoker’s Stout, but tonka bean is a new addition in a dark beer for me. The ‘bean’ is actually a dried seed originating in South America, and it’s flavour and fragrance has been described as vanilla backed with aromatics such as cinnamon and almond. Perfect for flavouring desserts and other foodstuffs where vanilla is commonplace. However the word ‘dessert’ is absent from the beer’s can and description, so will we be getting a stout that is sweeter, or more on the bitter, roasty side. Or something in-between?
Pouring the beer from the can we get a jet black liquid which seems completely opaque when we look through the glass. There doesn’t appear to be much visible carbonation, but a bubbly caramel-coloured head is produced as the beer is poured, though this is fleeting and recedes to a few collections of bubbles around the rim. Initially on the nose we get smoky, roasted grains and bitter black coffee. After a while some vanilla sweetness is discernible, along with a black treacle/molasses aroma. The roasted grains dominate however.
On tasting we get a wallop of roasted grain bitterness, almost teetering into being burnt. The flavour manages to keep to the ‘smoky’ side however, and we get some black coffee coming in too, backing up the bitterness even more. There is sweetness to be found but it’s mild, resembling bonfire toffee or cinder toffee to my palate. Can you even get bonfire toffee any more? Now I want some bonfire toffee… Back to the beer, and oh boy it’s got body. You could build a house on it. This has to be the heaviest bodied non-alcoholic beer I’ve had in nearly 200 beers reviewed. The carbonation level is low, but is not really needed here as the mouthfeel is silky. The bitterness remains into the finish, where it takes on a more coffee-edge.
Tartarus Beers Moon Rabbit Vanilla and Tonka Stout really stands out amongst the already blazing quality nolo stouts that are currently available. It’s probably the bitterest alcohol-free dark beer I’ve tried so far, and the extreme roasted flavour it has may indeed put some people off. My wife for example proclaimed it was the worst beer she had ever tried. She may be a tad hyperbolic. If you’re a dark beer fan and want to witness a non-alcoholic stout that could easily pass for full ABV then this should be on your shopping list. Or the moon rabbit will come and get you!
Buy Moon Rabbit Vanilla and Tonka Stout
Tartarus Beers offerings are mainly available online from the brewer, or in specialist local craft beer shops. You can also try the following online retailers:
|Nutritional Information (per 100ml, taken from the side of the can)|
|Additional nutritional information not given. Boo, hiss!|
|Water, Barley, Hops, Yeast|
|Country of Production||United Kingdom|
|Brewer||Tartarus Beers – https://www.tartarusbeers.co.uk/|
Tartarus Beers Moon Rabbit Vanilla and Tonka Stout Review
Packed with rich bitterness, a hint of sweetness, and a body that other AF stouts dream about. You’re going to like this one (probably)