Oh Mister Porter
While it is still rather warm around these parts, my boozy mind is already wandering towards more autumnal and wintery beers, thinking less about quenching my thirst and more about having something dark and complex and hearty in my glass. There are obviously plenty of dark beer options, but porter keeps coming up. The excellent Boak & Bailey beer blog is working its way through the popular porters. I’ve started reading their book too, Brew Britannia (excellent reading so far), and was surprised to find that for many years porter was a lost beer, it was brewed nowhere.
Nowadays porters can be found really easily. The other Saturday I came across two interesting examples during my weekly supermarket shop. Guinness have looked back into their archives and revived two classic porters from their history, their Dublin Porter and West Indies Porter.
I’m aware that as part of Diageo, Guinness are really part of the Evil Empire of Big Brewers, but this is an interesting and welcoming development. Plus, I do actually really enjoy a Guinness from time to time. While there is a place for more sophisticated and challenging beers, sometimes only a good glass of Guinness will do, and it has accompanied many a happy, hazy afternoon sat in a pub.
So, I couldn’t wait to try out Guinness, but a bit different.
At first, both beers seemed a little over-carbonated. Perhaps I was just too eager to give them a try after opening and pouring, but at first the taste was a little unpleasant, not too far from the taste of normal canned (not ‘draught’ canned) Guinness. However, once I let both beers settle there was a lot less fizziness and a lot more taste.
I also have real trouble with serving porters, and other dark beers, at the right temperature. Room temperature makes drinking a bit of a struggle. Straight out of the fridge and all the flavour disappears. And I’m not organised enough to refrigerate, then take out the fridge, and then wait until the optimum time before opening. It is a minefield.
So, both beers were a little better once they warmed to the right temperature. Obviously.
The Dublin Porter is the weaker beer of the two, at 3.8 per cent, and as such felt not a million miles from a good pint of mild. There was a little sweetness, a nice amount of smoothness and it was very easy to drink. Yet I felt like it could have benefited from just a little more booziness for interest, as it was dangerously close to being a little bland. But I reckon if I worked out how to serve it right, it would make for a pretty good autumnal session beer. Just as Guinness is a pretty good entry drug for moving on to more interesting stouts, I reckon Dublin Porter would make a good introduction for those wary yet curious about the world of porter.
The West Indies Porter is far heftier at around the 6 per cent mark and had a fair bit more depth of flavour and texture to it. While there was the warmth and toastiness you might expect from a weighty porter there was also some real hopiness going on. However, I’m not sure there was the right balance between flavours and aromas, which made it a bit of a confusing pint. But I am easily confused. The jury is still out on this one. It was certainly not the worst porter I’ve tasted, but it did seem a little caught between being an approachable easy-drinker and a more sturdy, savour-not-sup example. One to try again.
Anyway, it is good to see big brewers embracing their history and giving their customers enough credit by offering them alternatives to the norm. Long may that continue. Plus I am a real sucker for vintage style packaging on booze. I like beer that tastes good, but it doesn’t hurt when the bottles look handsome too.