Insights on beer marketing & PR by a beer-war vet

Archive for the 'Porters' Category

19 August

Thirty breweries

Thirty is a theme. Two articles in as many weeks noted cities with thirty breweries. Both stories I see as healthy signposts for Aussie craft beer.
Olympics city is having a craft beer and brewing renaissance according to The Telegraph which notes: “London … now has nearly 30 breweries, most having blossomed in the past three years or so. Capital beer-lovers are now spoilt for choice as fragrant pale ales, robust bitters, creamy porters, slinky lagers and powerfully hopped IPAs spill over into their glasses. Yes, the former brewing capital of the world is definitely making a comeback.’ 

The Tele journalist (Adrian Tierney-Jones) notes three of the best London beers, all of which sound great:–
1 Camden Town Pale Ale, 4.5%: Bright amber in colour, this juicy pale ale has a fragrant nose of ripe peach skin with orange pith in the background.
2 Beavertown Smoke Rocket, 5.4%: The colour of midnight, this is inspired by the London porters of the past. [see my earlier post on porters]
3 Brodie’s Hackney Red IPA, 6.1%: American hops give this amber-coloured beauty slinky ripe pink grapefruit notes.
Second: Portland Oregon is now called the ‘craft brewing capital of the world’ with 32 breweries according to this article in the July edition of Virgin Australia Voyeur.
The inflight mag notes Portland’s brewery numbers now eclipse Leuven in Belgium and even Munich.

Portland. Now that’s one city I gotta visit!

And – as if I needed another reason – Portland’s population is about 584,000 while London’s is estimated to be anywhere from nine to twelve million: so Portland is certainly well ahead on a brewery per head of population basis.

Just one of thirty-two good reasons to visit Portland.

How many does Melbourne have now? Cheers!

30 June

ZYWIEC! BOOM! Porter with balls

My new ‘porter radar’ pinged in the local Dan Murphy’s picking up this ?ywiec brew from Poland. I took a bottle home.

The part of the label I could read highlighted its ABV as 9,5%! BOOM! Porter will balls.

Zywiec porter in its home setting: pic courtesy of Lonely Planet’s best beers

To my palate it clearly is a damn fine porter – complex and peculiarly bitter – however the gravity overshadows the smoothness. The alcohol shines through just a bit too strongly on the back palate: like an added nip of vodka or even scotch.

Dan Murphy’s web site provides the following description:“?ywiec Polish Porter has a full bodied, medium gold colour. Sharp and focussed flavours, with oily, bitter hops and a background of toasty malt.”

The ‘oiliness’ is likely to be the alcohol I believe.

Drinkable -vs- Sippable
Some of the best dark beers have higher ABV; it carries the depth of flavour we love in these brews. My preference is for a drinkable porter rather than one for sipping.

Perhaps I just need to give it another go….


19 June

Kooinda porter gets its growler on

What is it with growlers? They’re popping up everywhere. Kooinda Brewery in Melbourne has put it’s milk porter into a cool one litre growler. My earlier post on Matilda Bay’s venture into growlers pictures a larger 1.8 litre growler.

Freshly growled off Kooinda milk porter

Porter in a growler: how could I resist? I stumbled on this lovely combo at the Swords Select outlet in the South Melbourne market. Always a great place for craft brews, the small team there led by self-confessed ‘beer tragic’ David Vass @vulgarbeerman has growled off (that’s the beer equivalent of decanting) Kooinda’s milk porter into these one litre growlers from a 30 litre keg.

David informs beerlines that these bottles and their special caps are often used in the wine industry and are great for storage.

Kooinda milk porter
Good luck if you can get some of this porter. I really enjoyed it. Not sure about the ‘milk’ reference. It was certainly milk-like in its smoothness with a coffeeish complexity that maintained interest.

David Vass nurses two freshly growled one litre growlers

It delivers a firm bitterness and, as I’ve mentioned, no dusty taste which I dislike in porters and dark beers generally. Despite the depth of colour (for those wary of dark brews) Kooinda milk porter is easy drinking: which brings me to my only recommendation. I believe this rare treat of a porter would deliver greater depth of flavour if it had a higher ABV: somewhere a tweak north of 5%. But that’s picky .. don’t let it put you off trying to track some down if you can.


11 June

Porters: the new black

I’ve tried a few porters over the past few cold weeks in Melbourne. What a delicious sampling it’s been.

Porters are an interesting style of dark beer with a rich history. I especially love the historical link of the porter name to a letter in the London Chronicle in 1760 by Obadiah Poundage (sounds like one of Dickens’ characters) where he noted: “The labouring people, porters etc. experienced its wholesomeness and utility, they assumed to themselves the use thereof, from whence it was called Porter..”

While the history creates a delightful backdrop it’s the brew that’s the substance of this post.

And on the matter of taste I agree, largely, with James Smith of Crafty Pint: rather than provide detailed tasting notes, it’s better and simpler to provide a guide. Individual tastes vary so much and intensities are hard to put into words. The breweries usually provide details if you want them.

Here are my thoughts. But first:

Why drink porter?

Porters are an adventure; they are mysterious. They open up an entirely new landscape in beer land.

I found porter a great way to broaden my beer palate (not pallet). After decades of lagers, porters provided me a new and rich range of beer flavours. Not to be confused with their more robust cousin stout – which can be challenging – porters have a quaffability and  sessionability to them.

Porters are approachable and drinkable.

Taste profile
A quick read of the labels highlights the tasty allure and mystique of porters. Chocolate, coffee, toffee, dark, roasted, rich, caramel and vanilla – see what I mean?

Bottom line: porters are dark rich and smooth: often creamy. That depth usually goes hand in hand with higher alcohol: many porters are over 6% ABV.

I do recommend drinking these rich brews with a slight chill but not cold. Let them warm up a bit if they’ve been in the fridge to bring out the depth of flavour.

Six Pack Sampler
All of the six porters pictured are excellent to my porter palate

Five of the six are from Australia. The tallie, Shallow Grave from Heretic Brewery, is from California. It is a majestic example of the style: perhaps a bit sweeter than the others. It’s certainly the warmest at 7% ABV.

Of the Australian lineup, ‘Red Truck Porter’ from Lobethal Bierhaus in South Australia was a standout: indeed an award winner. There was, in a good way, a Vegemitish depth to it. As an aside: I tried two from different bottle shops in Melbourne, both were bottled June 2011.

I know dark beers can have much longer shelf life than lagers and can benefit from ageing but one bottle was excellent while the other tasted papery and dull: not ageing as well. To be fair: it reflects a challenge all craft breweries have in spreading small batches of packaged beer to a big market. Doesn’t put me off my porter pursuit!

Holgate’s porter really has cocoa and vanilla in it. These flavours stand out on first taste but blend in swiftly to enhance the overall richness of this super porter. You could drink this as an accompaniment to rich ice cream. Called the Temptress; it’s aptly named.

Red Duck Porter was highly drinkable: I enjoyed what I thought was its extra bitterness compared to the others.

Wicked Elf from The Little Brewing Company in NSW is a fine exemplar of the style: smooth and rich but engaging, drinkable and moreish – especially at 6.2% ABV.

James Squire Jack of Spades was perhaps the least complex of this line-up to my mind. Highly drinkable nonetheless. Perhaps this reflects a lower ABV compared to the others. It reminded me a bit of White Rabbit Dark Ale.

I look forward to conducting a similar sampling of fresh porters on tap. Until then: this lineup of packaged porters is a good insight to the style. Hope it interests you to try a few. Enjoy …


03 June

Revolution in lager land

Good Beer Week has just finished here in Melbourne. Congratulations to all who brought this amazing event about.

Melbourne’s Good Beer Week 2012

Just a few years ago there would not have been the groundswell of interest I believe to make GBW the success it’s been.

The beer market is changing. A revolution is underway in lager land. And about time too.

I know I’m late to the revolutionary barricades (and only carry a pen!) but in a land dominated for so long by monolithic samey lager brands it’s fantastic to see the diversity of craft beers becoming available across Australia.

It’s a hard slog trying to make a few bucks from brewing in lager land. It’s soooo hard trying to get distribution for a start.

I wish all Aussie craft brewers well and will do my small part to champion the cause.

Slowbeer: emblem of the revolution
My small part today was to stop in at Slowbeer in Richmond Melbourne and buy a few different porters. My fave style for winter.  I’ll pen some thoughts on them soon.

If you’re a book lover you’ll know of a bookshop where you know if you go in, just for five minutes, you’ll come out having bought a few. Without doubt.

Slowbeer is the equivalent bottleshop for craft beer lovers.

Craft beers can be hard to track down. Irony aside: maybe Slowbeer can speed that up for you.


02 June

Matilda Bay’s new home gets off to a growling start

Two things beer that I love: draught beer and porters. So this post is a great way to launch my new beer blog: beerlines. So welcome! Here goes ..

Dark beers – like porter – are great especially here in Melbourne in winter. And Matilda Bay has created a beauty.

I tried it first on tap at Matilda Bay’s new brewery home in Bertie Street Port Melbourne.

On tap it’s currently called Bertie Street Porter.

The Growler
Matilda Bay’s Bertie Street brewery now makes available take-away draught beer in a growler bottle. Not the most flattering of names: but whatever gets the beer home I reckon.

It’s about 1.8 litres of beer and costs $22 including the deposit on the bottle. But check that as I get the impression I was one of the first to ask and there was some scratching of heads behind the bar.

Despite years in brewing PR I’m not that familiar with growlers or takeaway draught beer in Australia for that matter.

I took home a growler of the Bertie Street porter on Friday night to share with a beer-loving friend. Most of the growler was consumed: the little that remained the next day was still perfect.

Tasting Notes: Bertie Street Porter

The porter is a delight. I’m not a fan of a dusty after-taste with porters: there was none here.

Smooth and chocolatey. It’s quite bitter but balanced and easy to drink, as a porter should be in my view.

I’m not sure of the ABV but will find out and report. Cheers!

Covent Garden porters: no wonder they got thirsty! Picture from Strandlines

PS: History of Porters

I’ve heard and read a number of reasons for how the name ‘porter’ came about. Most relate to it being the preferred tipple for the porters in London: at the docks and at the Covent Garden markets.

I’ve also heard that the beer came about as slops of all the other beers from the pub on the day that were combined to sell cheaply to the porters. Not sure if that’s true. I’m sure a brewing historian will advise me. The same tale includes a version that these porters demanded something more stout giving rise to yet another style. Influential drinkers clearly.