Saturday, March 19, 2011

Nethergate Brewery - Old Growler

Hello all! As promised, the review of Old Growler English Porter is here. I have finally beaten my cold and as a result I am back sampling beer from all over the world (still have a pretty nasty cough though). So, Old Growler, a robust superior Porter, so says the side of the bottle. We'll see about that. If memory serves me correctly I believe I have only reviewed two other Porters, one was the Imperial Chocolate Pumpkin Porter from Midnight Sun, and the other was the Baltic Porter from Alaskan Brewing (so those don't really count). I don't know why I haven't reviewed a standard Porter in the past, they are one of my favorite styles of beer. This one however, is an English Style Porter.

Before I get started on the explanation and history of the Porter, let me first shed a little bit of light on the brewery this beer is coming from: Nethergate Brewery. Nethergate Brewery is located in Pentlow, England. The brewery was founded in 1986 and they offer 10 core brews ranging from Mild Ales to Bitters and IPA's to Porters and a Specialty Ale utilizing toasted Coriander in place of hops. The beer I am reviewing: Old Growler has won a smattering of awards, most recently in 2004 where it took the award for Supreme Champion for Porter's at the Chicago Int'l Beer Fest.

So the Porter. Where does this beer begin? Research tells me its' origins are in 18th century Central London. It was widely popular at Train Stations in the 1700's with railroad workers and train Porters (people who assisted passengers with bags and luggage), this is where the name "Porter" comes from. But what is a traditional Porter? Good question. Traditionally Porters were engineered by brewers using three component ales. The first component was an old ale (soured or stale) a new ale (either Brown or Pale) and a weak ale (Mild Ale). How people come up with these ideas is beyond me, but I am sure glad they did. Now the flavour profile on these original pioneers of the English Porter was an interesting combination that tasted neither old or new. The brewer was able to customize the flavour by combining various amounts of the component ales. Early versions of the Porter were strong (by English standards) falling above the 6.0% abv mark. Over the years, due to the various wars (the Napoleonic, and the two World Wars) and various taxations of malt, the Porter experienced many changes in strength and ingredients. Around 1940 the Porter fell out of production altogether and would not be revived for nearly 40 years.

And the revival would took place in England around 1979. Now there are numerous breweries in England and America producing their versions of the style. The strength of Porters seems to run between 4 to 7.0% with many examples falling above that mark. You can find many different kinds on the market; some brewed with Smoked Malt, some aged in Bourbon Barrels, some brewed with vanilla or coffee, the options are seemingly endless. Typically a Porter will be red brown to black in color and the flavour will be chocolate, earth, coffee, smoke, toffee or caramel-like. The hoppiness will be light to moderate and the carbonation should not be too prevalent. The body will be light to medium. And so now let's get to the beer...

Name: Old Growler Porter
Category/Style: English Porter
ABV: 5.5%
IBU: Unknown
OG: Unknown
FG: Unknown
Malt Types: Unknown
Hop Types: Unknown
Yeast Type: Unknown
Special Additives: Unknown
Bottled: Unknown
Bottle Size: 500 mL
Location Purchased: Nelson's Wines, Merton, England

The Pour: Much lighter in color than I would have expected. It pours a clear reddish dark brown, the head is cream colored, not very thick, but lacing is nice.
The Nose: The aroma is a lovely mix of chocolate, caramel, butter toffee, lightly toasted grain, molasses, faint hint of coffee, but mostly sweet and malty. Swirling the glass reveals a bit of grassy hops in there. A slight hint of stale bread, tobacco, straw, slightly musty. Smells delicious.
The Taste: Hmm the mouthfeel is heavier than I would have anticipated. It's delicious. Dry on the finish. Definitely bready. Medium bodied. Slight roasted flavour, notes of caramel and coffee, a bit of dark chocolate, molasses, cocoa powder, has a nice spicy bite, a little bitterness and earth midway through. The finish is slight toasted grains, a little smokiness, faint hop bitterness, butterscotch and earth. Wow I am really liking this. Quite different from the Porters I know and love back home. The carbonation is low and spot on. Strangely refreshing. This one is really drinkable. Could probably drink this one all night long. Wish I had more of it ;]
The Verdict: This one really threw me. After pouring it into the glass, I expected it to be thin and watery, but it was the complete opposite in every way. Full flavored, perfect carbonation, and the nose is incredible; makes you want to dive back in for another sip. The flavour is just so delicious it's not even funny. Wow I am definitely glad I waited to have this one. The wait was definitely worth it. I have no idea if you can find it in the US but you should definitely try and track this one down, it will not disappoint. If you want a darker beer, very drinkable and flavourful, maybe looking for something midway between a darker heavier stout or typical American Style Porter this is your beer. If I had to pick just one word to describe this beer it would be: amazing. Now go try and find your own bottle ;]

Thanks for reading!


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