After attending CAMRA's Revitalisation meeting I needed, er, revitalising. In the Crown and Kettle I spotted a porter. I was in the mood for dark beer, so ordered a pint. It was very sweet. "Hmm". Later in the Marble Arch I ordered a different porter, again a touch on the sweet side, so I tweeted that. Beers incidentally were from local brewer, Squawk and the other from Summer Wine, both great brewers I hasten to add. Nothing wrong with either as such, but just too sweet for me. Another "Hmm". I don't really like beers that are too sweet and wondered if porter should be. Now "should be" is a bit pejorative I suppose and when I tweeted about the sweetness, Squawk Brewing responded by saying "That's just how we brew it". Fair enough (up to a point) and if it sells that way, why not?
But should it be sweet? When you want to know anything about Porter, you really need to consult the oracle. Well in this case the oracle's blog. Here'swhat Ron Pattinson has to say. Basically if you look at the apparent attenuation of porters when porter really was a thing, it just couldn't have been as sweet as some of the examples around nowadays. Is there a genuine misunderstanding going on here or is it something else, namely the dividing line between what is perceived as fashionable these days - porter - and what isn't fashionable at least by its availability at drinking strength - stout? Of course, nowadays, brewers call it a stout or porter to suit themselves it seems, but the artificial dividing line can often be one that falls between the degree of blackness and the degree of roastiness, though Ron's myriad of tables suggest no such thing. If you do want to know the difference between porter and stout, see Ron. As far as I can tell there isn't really any, at least in historical terms.
Talking to a new brewer, Ken Lynch from Serious Brewing in Rochdale, he reckons that there is a gap in the market. His first cask beer is a stout at a drinkable 4.5% and a lovely black bitter and roasty drop it is too. He, like me, likes stout and often can't find one. His beer - and I have witnessed it happen - flies off the bar. My two recent collaborations have been dark bitter stouts and they too have sold so well they are repeated. So, not many bitter stouts around, but they are popular when available. Are brewers missing a trick here?
The only issue in using Ron as a source is that there is information overload, but nowhere that I have found does he suggest that porters are sweet. I am far too lazy though to read very single article, though I gave it a fair shot until my brain rebelled, all tabled out.
The poorness of modern Guinness also presents an opportunity for stout brewers I would suggest. The photo is a pint of Serious Moonlight Stout.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink.
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