A Tontine is an interesting fundraising device. A group of investors pay into a central pot, perhaps for a major building or transport project, and then receive annual dividends until they die.
As they do, and as numbers diminish, the value of the investment is spread more generously among the surviving members.
The last man standing gets the lot – and the suspicion that such an arrangement might bring the temptation for the murder of rival investors has led to Tontines being outlawed in most countries. They have been illegal in Britain since Georgian times.
It is perhaps an appropriate name for this rich dark 4.1% ABV milk stout, whose “unconventional darkness” is giving the Head of Steam chain a genuine alternative to Guinness.
It is a deep jet black ale, topped by a determined, foaming ivory head which keeps its attractive shape and consistency as you drink. It lathers the palate with smooth, velvetty goodness, soft and malty, with suggestions of black coffee and chocolate, but not dominated by either, as some stouts can be.
Only in a long aftertaste does some gentle sweetness emerge.