Showing posts with label porterhouse. Show all posts
Showing posts with label porterhouse. Show all posts

Monday, October 22, 2012

Too Many Hops?

There are times when I get the feeling that I come across as being something of an anti-hop crusader. However, I prefer to think of it as being sick of the apparent notion that seems to float around the indie beer drinker world that the more hops there are in a beer, the better. The reality though is that I like beers with a firm hop bite, a nice hop flavour and a pleasing hop aroma, I like the hopping to be a distinct element of the beer, not the sole focus of the beer - and no, IPA is NOT 'all about the hops'.

Having said that, and for fear of completely contradicting myself, there are times when I think beers have, to bastardise the , 'too many hops'. By this I don't mean that a beer is 'too hoppy', whatever the hell 'hoppy' actually means anyway, but rather that some beers have such a melange of hop varieties as to effectively become a mess.

Often, though not always, such beers are in the generic world of 'pale ale' or a 'black india' version of something. When I read a list of 7 or 8 hop varieties, usually, though again not always, the high alpha varieties, I can't help but wonder at times if the beer that results would benefit from fewer hop varieties and more attention being paid to the effects of the remaining hops so they are more distinct and pleasurable when drinking.


In thinking about many of my favourite beers to drink, as opposed to sample, they tend to have a maximum of three hop varieties, though in reality the vast majority use just one or two. Take my current favourite pilsner (sorry Pilsner Urquell, you've been usurped for the time being), Port City's Downright Pilsner, which gets all 43 of its IBUs from that majestic hop, Saaz, or even my favourite IPA being brewed in Virginia today, from St George down in Hampton, with its judicious, and exclusive, use of Fuggles. From further afield, take one of my favourite stouts, Wrasslers XXXX from Ireland's Porterhouse, hopped with Galena, Nugget and East Kent Golding (which reminds me, I should stock up on this beer at some point). With all three beers the hops are noticeable without intruding on the drinking, in a sense you could say that the hops know their place.

Maybe this feeling harks back to something I mentioned in my previous post about balance being an essential part of my definition of 'good' beer. For me it is not just a case of the overall beer being balanced, but that there is balance within the elements of a beer as well, and perhaps it in the hopping that this balance is most important and most easily disrupted.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Fuggled Review of the Year - Dark Beer

Whereas the Amber Beer of the Year presented me with the challenge of where to draw the line between amber and brown, the dark beer category presents me with a very different challenge. Simply put, this year has been excellent for dark beers, whether brown ales, milds, stouts or porters, even the occasional Black IPA (sic) hasn't been entirely awful. As such, this category will not only have the same "bests" as the previous categories, but will also have several honourable mentions. On then to the lists:
Before discussing the relative merits of the various finalists, the honourable mentions go out to:
  • Virginia - Starr Hill Dark Starr Stout, Blue Mountain Original Summer Mild, Williamsburg Alewerks Tavern Ale, Devils' Backbone 1904 Ramsey Stout.
  • USA - Terrapin Moo Hoo, Samuel Adams Honey Porter, Sierra Nevada Porter, Sierra Nevada Stout, Stone Smoked Porter, Highland Oatmeal Porter
  • World - BrewDog Paradox Smokehead, Unibroue Terrible, Zatec Black Lager, Porterhouse Oyster Stout, Fullers London Porter, Young's Double Chocoloate Stout, 

Ok, so on to the beers that made the list. The Washington's Porter from Williamsburg Alewerks is a beer that not only made excellent drinking, but goes well in fruit cake as well. Rich, chocolately and velvety, it is simply a wonderful beer that goes down insanely easily and is so packed full of flavour that I wouldn't worry too much if all other beers were outlawed from midnight.

My first taste of Left Hand's Milk Stout was in St Augustine, Florida. It was hotter than hell and to be perfectly honest stout of any kind would not have really hit the spot, though tasty it was. Come autumn, the leaves and temperature we plummeting and Left Hand had taken over the taps at Beer Run, along with Terrapin. Milk Stout, poured into a pint nonic? Yes please. A second just minutes later, you bet! Everything you expect from a stout, and then the creaminess of lactose. Simply lovely.


I have waxed lyrical about Porterhouse's Wrasslers XXXX before, so when I learnt that bottles of this delightful stout would be available in the US I immediately emailed every bottle shop in Charlottesville to find out if they intended to stock it. Beer Run said they would and patiently I waited. Then I blew $40 on getting plenty when it arrived. Big on chocolate and with a healthy bitterness to balance it all out, this is one of the best stouts available.

A very difficult choice, very difficult. However, the Fuggled Dark Beer for 2010 is:
  • Porterhouse Wrasslers XXXX
Sure there may be a hefty dose of nostalgia in my choice, but the fact that the $40's worth of Wrasslers in the cellar has been refreshed more than once is testament to my enduring love of this beer.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Wrassling with Oysters

Less than a month ago I posted this little piece encouraging people here in the US to contact their elected officials to ensure health insurance would be available to as many people as possible, no wait, sorry wrong blog, that post was to encourage people to contact their local bottle shops to get hold of the newly available Porterhouse beers. Well, well, well, guess what I found during a routine trip to Beer Run here in Charlottesville? Yes indeed, they are stocking Wrasslers XXXX and Oyster Stout, I nearly leapt for joy, but instead I smiled broadly and bought some beer, you really don't need to be told which ones I assume, but just in case, here are the labels.


Ah the memories come flooding back, but as I said, I posted about that before. From what I understand, and I am sure that I will be swiftly corrected if I am wrong, these versions of Wrasslers and Oyster Stout are somewhat different from the ones you would get in the Porterhouse bars in Dublin, for a start they are bottle conditioned. Secondly, there is not a whiff of nitrogenation to be had, no stupid widgets or magic balls floating around to give me a great head (note, "a great head" you mucky people) and rob me blind of most of the flavour. "Ah yes", I hear you cry, "but how did it taste?". Well, if you're sitting comfortably, let's begin.


Once upon a time there was a bloke called Michael Collins, and he liked a tipple, and so the good people at the Porterhouse took his favourite tipple from his local brewery in Cork, though long closed down as a result of the predatory nature of the free market, and used it as inspiration for a beer they called Wrasslers XXXX. Wrasslers is a beautifully dark, dark, ruby red beer with a tan head that bob, bob, bobbed along on top of the beer.

"My, my, what a beautiful big chocolate smell you have Wrasslers"
"all the better to tempt you to taste me with"
"and is that a tang of sour milk in the background?"
"why, yes it is, just like the old days"

Sorry there, got carried away. So yes, chocolate is a big theme in Wrasslers, both on the nose and in the mouth - though I am not sure of the purpose of putting beer on one's nose, I will strive to discover it though. Despite the big, smooth chocolate flavours, there is a good dose of bitterness to counteract that, I am guessing the Galena hops are responsible there. Simply put, this is so much better than the beer I had on a nitro tap, and I am very glad I have a good stock in the cellar.


The last time, and also the first time, I tried Oyster Stout, I was a touch disappointed, but that was most likely because I had heard many a soul rant and rave about how this was the best beer ever produced in the history of humanity, and nothing could ever have lived up to the expectations I had allowed to develop in advance of my trip to Dublin in 2008, so I was looking forward to reacquainting myself with the Oyster Stout. Again the actual beer was a deep ruby red, although the head was rockier than the Wrasslers. The usual stout aromas abounded, chocolate and coffee front and centre, but there was something else, lurking in the background, something I couldn't place. The only thing I could think of was that it had a touch of the sea about it, somewhat akin to the Islay whiskies, perhaps that was pure suggestion, but there we go. As far as drinking goes, this is lighter than the Wrasslers, but full of flavour and with a long bitter finish, simply put it is great drinking and beats the stuff on nitro in Dublin.


So there you have it, my favourite stout, and something I can see becoming very popular, is available just round the corner from me, and I am a happy man with plans to stock up further. Happy days indeed.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Get It In!

Apart from getting married, the highlight of my 2008 was finally going to Ireland, which Mrs Velkyal and I did for a long weekend just before my birthday. One of Mrs Velkyal's good friends is Mrs Saruman, wife of Saruman, author of The Tale of the Ale. Why was 4 days in Ireland such a highlight? Simply because I had, up to that point, always wanted to go to Dublin and Galway but never had the opportunity. I have, over the years, had plenty of Irish mates, and especially when I was a student in Birmingham we would go out to the pub for a few pints and just talk shite, and often my mates would tell me I should move to Ireland because I would love it there, something I am sure is true.


Anyway, let me digress no further. One of my plans for that weekend was to visit one of the Porterhouse pubs in Dublin, as I had heard many a fabled tale of their Oyster Stout. Porterhouse Central was the one we went to, and sure enough I enjoyed the beer, in particular the Wrasslers XXXX stout. So imagine my glee when I heard from The Beer Nut a couple of days later that the Porterhouse were buying a bottling line, also imagine my glee when I got word from Porterhouse that they would be exporting to the USA, and they gave me the details of their importer, so I duly made contact to find out if the range of Wrasslers, Oyster Stout and Irish Red were to be available here in Virginia, to be gladly told that yes they are looking for outlets in the Commonwealth.

So my beer loving readers, contact your local bottle shops and demand Porterhouse beers to be added to their range, if you are Charlottesville based get on to Beer Run; if Fredericksburg call Kybecca; based in Blacksburg bother Vintage Cellar; wherever you are ask your retailers to stock the only bottle conditioned genuine Irish stout you are likely to have in a while, as great as O'Hara's is, I believe it is not bottle conditioned (and if I am wrong, I am sure The Beer Nut will swiftly set me right). If your retailer claims not to know how to contact, tell him to talk to Ron Fisher at B United International, his contact details are here, and he handles various other parts of the country as well.

Here endeth the lesson. Sláinte!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Beers to be Cloned or Bettered!

Last week I picked up the current edition of Brew Your Own magazine as something to read while chilling out by the pool and enjoying the Virginia evening sunshine. On a side note, we have had fantastic weather here since arriving from South Carolina, temperatures in the mid 80s (high 20s for my European readers), and almost wall to wall sunshine. Ideal for sitting by the pool and reading.

Anyway, back to beer, this edition has a selection of clone brews for both the all grain and extract with grains brewer, which got me thinking about the beers in this world I would love to eventually learn to "clone". So far in my homebrewing ventures I have mainly messed around with established styles, such as the smoked chocolate porter I did last time round.

Even so, here are a few of the beers I would love to clone - on that basis that I can't buy the original here in Virginia:

One beer I either want to emulate or better is the English Pale Ale from Primátor, which was Mrs Velkyal's favourite beer when back in Prague, so to have something of that merit would be a cap in the feather!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Jubilate!

What a dire month January was. It is one of my traditions these days to give up the booze for the whole month and gladly see the Christmas excess drain away. If it wasn't hard enough to not drink for a month then Liverpool decided to make life yet harder by giving up the winning habit - other than beating Preston North End in the FA Cup, they drew every game in January.

February could not come soon enough, and what better to break the fast than a bottle of Porterhouse Celebration Stout? A gift from The Beer Nut when Mrs Velkyal and I went over to Ireland in November. Created to mark the 10 anniversary of The Porterhouse Brewing Company, this 10% ABV bottle conditioned imperial stout was already 2 years old when I popped off the crown cork.

I must say now that I like big stouts, and this was up there with the best of them - black as coal, dark biege head, coffee and cocoa in abundance on the nose, big, big big so far. What a lovely beer this was to drink as well, burnt caramel and rich luxuriant chocolate held beautifully in tension, wonderful to sip and feel the warmth of the alcohol. The perfect way to re-enter the wonderful world of beer.

The day of course got better because Liverpool re-discovered their winning ways and gave Chelsea a right spanking at Anfield! Things are looking up.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Fuggled Review of the Year - Stouts and Porters

Dark beers have played a major role in my drinking this year, in particular stouts and porters, both from the Czech Republic and from further afield, such as the UK, Ireland, Norway and Germany. I have learnt about the differences between a Baltic and a London porter, and about the different styles of stout, whether dry, sweet or imperial.

When I started my, legal, drinking life, stout was very much my ale of choice. I remember ordering my first ever pint in the Dark Island hotel back at home, it was a Guinness - a youthful homage to my eldest brother. When studying in Birmingham I would wander off for pints of Murphy's and Beamish.

When I came back from Oxford a few months ago, many of the beers I brought with me were stouts and porters of various types, and the only beers I managed to bring from Ireland were from the Carlow Brewing Company, makers of O'Hara's stout.

My shortlist of stouts and porters is as follows:

O'Hara's on draught was good, from the bottle it was great - and still I have a bottle in the cellar waiting to be drunk when the right day arrives.

Wrasslers XXXX was, they say, the choice of stout for Irish hero Michael Collins - a man evidently of exceptional taste in beer. Smooth, full bodied and yet easy to drink, if I lived in Ireland it would be my beer of choice.

What can be said about BrewDog's sublime Paradox series of imperial stouts aged in whisky casks, very simply - where can I buy more?

There is a clear winner here, and it is simply because within one drink the makers have managed to combine two of my passions, as such my Stout/Porter of 2008 is:

  1. BrewDog Paradox Smokehead

Whisky and stout in a single glass - sheer Genius.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Dark Month Quick Review

So November is all but over, and with it my month of drinking predominantly dark beers. I haven't written about everything I have tried this month, so here is a random collection of thoughts on the various brews I have tried:

Most drunk in the month: Primátor Stout, yes it is very nice, and no I am not on a stipend from Pivovar Náchod.

Most enjoyed of the month: O'Hara's Stout from the Carlow Brewing Company, from the bottle that is, the remaining bottle I have in the cellar may be opened tonight in celebration.

Discovery of the month: Hukvaldy 14° amber lager, pure nectar.

Over-hyped beer of the month: Porterhouse Oyster Stout, it isn't bad, just not as good as I expected, even then it is streets behind Wrasslers XXXX.

Confusion of the month: Samuel Smith's Taddy Porter and Oatmeal Stout, are they supposed to have a slightly soapy taste to them? Someone help me with that.

I am sure this weekend will see several more darks enjoyed, though I may not write about them all, but I do have a special treat planned for Sunday, which is St Andrew's Day. I will be opening one of my bottles of BrewDog Paradox Smokehead in celebration.

Friday, November 21, 2008

No Blues in the Porterhouse

On our trip to Ireland last weekend, there was only one thing which was an absolute must as far as I was concerned, visiting one of the Porterhouse brewpubs whilst in Dublin on the Friday. I had heard much about their Oyster Stout and Wrasslers XXXX, and was hoping that they still had some of the their seasonally brewed Alt. Coming into Dublin on the bus from Westmeath took about an hour through some lovely countryside and past a plethora of houses that if I had the money I would buy at the drop of a hat. My first impressions of the city were that it reminded me a several other places that I like, in particular Limoges and Glasgow.



Having strolled around the centre for a few hours I suggested that we find somewhere to sit down and have a coffee or similar - admittedly I only made this suggestion once I had spied the Porterhouse Central. The pub put me in mind of the classic image of a New York bar, dark with a long bar, I liked it, and so headed to the bar to get some sustenance in the form of a pint of Alt, which was still on tap much to my delight, and it was a nice example of the style, perhaps a little thin in the body but it had the right combination of malty sweetness and refreshing drinkability.
The one I was most looking forward though was the Oyster Stout, and as I said to Beer Nut on Monday, I was a little disappointed. I had heard so many good things about this beer and so was expecting great things. It is isn't bad by any stretch of the imagination, it is just that perhaps I had stretched my imagination too far and even ambrosia wouldn't have lived up to its reputation. What it is though is a nicely dark and flavourful stout.

No problems however though with the Wrasslers XXXX, which is a reproduction of an old time stout which was apparently the drink of choice of Michael Collins, and what great taste in beer he must have had. The aroma of hops and coffee were teasing my nose as I carried my pint back to the table, urging me to dive on in and enjoy. Enjoy it I most certainly did, full on roasted coffee and liquorice flavours, wonderfully dry and with a long finish. The Porterhouse website say that this was beer like your grandfather drank - makes me wish all the more I had known him in that case!
With about half an hour to go before meeting up with our host's husband to head back to Westmeath, I squeezed in a pint of Plain Porter. I was starting to wonder about porters, not being a big fan of the examples I had tried already, too much soy sauce in the nose and taste for my liking. Plain was a different beast altogether, easy drinking, with light roasted flavours and a slight touch of burnt toffee. Given more time I would have have been alternating between this and the Wrasslers.

One thing though which stands out in my memory was an old fella sat on the table next to us who ordered a whiskey and water, which came already mixed - a big no no. When the barman had gone, having ever so gently been put in his place, the old fella began to talk about how the job of a barman in the modern world has become so devalued - was interesting to sit and listen to his stories (bad habit of mine is earwigging!).

So that was our wonderful trip to Ireland, the fulfilment of a long held dream. Sláinte!

Beyond January

Dry January is over, but my beer fast continues. Well, it continues until Friday. As a general rule I only drink at the weekend, thus my win...

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