Monday, October 1, 2007

Historical Porter?

One of the beers in the shipment that interested me was Old Growler from the Nethergate Brewery in Essex. Old Growler is marketed as a porter brewed from a historical recipe. In his 1987 New World Guide to Beer Michael Jackson wrote
A Journalist once tried to recreate the sound of the jazz cornet-player Buddy Bolden. He wanted to establish whether Bolden could, indeed have been heard across Lake Pontchartrain. The search for the authentic Porter is almost as hopeless.

While outfits like the Durden Park Beer Circle are known to recreate historical beers with apparently fascinating results, few commercial brewers produce convincing glimpses into the past . The issue of what exactly porter was like is vexed and at times controversial, it also depends very much on when in history you are looking at.
Two things can be safely said about early porter

  • It was a vatted beer so aged character was part of it profile
  • it was brewed with wood cured malt, so it probably tasted smoky

Its often said that the beers from Rodenbach offer up the aged character that vatted porter would have shown. Perhaps a blend of a Rauchbier and Rodenbach would give an approximation.

It was with all these themes in my head that I tasted Old Growler. The beer was formulated by Dr Ian Hornsey a microbiologist with an interest in historical brewing. The recipe was adapted from a 1750's Taylor Walker recipe with two versions being brewed one with spices one without. Old Growler is the unspiced version while Umbel Magna has coriander added.

Old Growler 5.5%abv

Pours a dark ruby with an off white head. Aroma features chocolate, caramel, toffee and a woody note. On the palate there is chunky chewy toffee, a touch of chocolate with an oily texture, finishes with a smooth maltyness. Good strong mild in the same ball park as Old Peculier, I’m not convinced this is a porter.

After writing the above tasting notes I came across a Roger Protz article on the beer here where the admission is made that the recipe that Old Growler was based on was in fact for Taylor Walkers mild, not their porter. It seems that Porter was a more marketible brand than Mild when Old Growler was launched.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well written. Regarding the Rauchbier and Rodenbach mix, Stu is the pro blender. His “Berliner Weisse” during the BJCP study group was similar to what I’ve tired. Ben