Porter beers have a long and sorted history. Originally the poor man’s pint, porter was also the first beer aged directly at the brewery and delivered to the pub fit to drink. Fast forward a few centuries and porter has become one of the most diverse styles of beer available today. From dry to sweet, hoppy to malty, and sessionable to imperial, ithere are endless possibilities when it comes to porter. Last week, New York’s Blind Tiger Ale House celebrated these historical suds with their first “style event” of 2011.
“We will be serving 14 porters on draught! This should prove to be a exceptionally dynamic event – with the porter style represented from breweries around the globe and ABVs all over the map as well. Draft list: Fullers London Porter, Sinebrychoff Porter, Avery New World Porter, Hopfenstark Baltic Porter De L’Ancrier, Nogne Porter, Captain Lawrence Imperial Smoked Porter, Stone Smoked Porter, Victory Baltic Thunder, Brooklyn Cookie Jar Porter, J.W. Lees Manchester Star 1884 on Cask, Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter, Smuttynose Robust Porter, Founders Porter, Bayerischer Bahnhof Porticus”
We tasted several porters throughout the night, opting to reach for some imported and unique brews and pass on the tried and true staples. For example, instead of reaching for one of my staple beers, Stone Smoked Porter, I had a chance to sample the Captain Lawrence Imperial Smoked Porter. This is the base beer for their Smoke from the Oak series, but the un-aged version easily stood up on its own. The 12% ABV porter was rich and meaty, and we actually preferred this version more than the barrel aged variations, finding it more appropriate for the chaotic bar atmosphere than it’s multi-faceted siblings.
Another fantastic brew was the Baltic Porter De L’Ancrier from Quebec’s Hopfenstark brewery. Hiding its 8% alcohol well, the De L’Ancrier was incredibly dry with a unique tart character uncommon in modern porters. Instead of the big milk chocolate we have become accustomed to, there were apples, raisins and bitter chocolate flavors along with hints of tobacco and ash. Both complex and balanced, the De L’Ancrier was an excellent example of the breath of the porter style. This one is well worth seeking out.
Also notable was the Nogne O Porter. While widely distributed here on the east coast, and available at most better craft beer stores, it is still always a treat to find on tap. Nogne O brews these impeccably cohesive beers… masterfully balancing the malt, hops and yeast. Their porter is no exception. While there are no outlandish flavors or fancy brewing tricks, it is a rock solid, easy drinking, and slightly hoppy (for European standards) porter. For me, there is a certain enjoyment to exceptionally crafted, balanced beers – something I also relish in Hill Farmstead’s beers – and Nogne O are masters and finding that ideal. If you have passed on this beer before, I suggest you pick one up next time you are in the store.
Oh, and there were wings… the Blind Tiger makes awesome wings which go great with porter.
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