Friday, July 15, 2016

Friday Craft Beer Review: Boundary Road's London Porter

It's the middle of winter, mild as it might be, and that means log fires, hearty beef stews and even heartier black beers. Or, in other words, it's time to tuck into a variety of deep and dark porters and stouts. This week will have a look at a porter, and I've chosen a cheaper one on purpose. Firstly to see how it holds up, and then secondly, because next week we'll be reviewing Tuatara's 15th Anniversary Russian Imperial Stout; the XV. This one is a little more pricey.

So, Boundary Road's London Porter... Boundary Breweries launched in 1987 as competition to the two powerhouse breweries operating in New Zealand. Dominion Breweries (DB) and Lion Nathan. I’m not sure if they set out to brew “craft beer” or just largers capable of sitting alongside existing NZ beer. Either way they are now owned by the Japanese beer giant, Asahi, and brew a range of craft beers as well as Kingfisher, Carlsberg and Tuborg, (and I assume some Asahi as well), all under license. The fact that they do this, and the awful "ginger beer beer" they brewed one time, makes me suspicious of their ability to brew quality craft beer. It seems they are so diversified that to really do craft beer well could be a push. They also come across to me as "the supermarket craft beer." They actually promote on their website the supermarkets you can buy it from. Makes me wonder if it is cheap and nasty rather than the real deal. Still I thought I’d give their porter a go.

What’s a porter? How is it different to a stout?

There isn’t a lot of difference between a porter and a stout. If you search the internet, you’ll find plenty of interesting discussions of subtle differences but at the end of the day they are two different versions of the same sort of beer. Essentially. More or less. There is some debate. 

Basically though, porters originated in London as a dark style beer brewed using brown malts with the first record of "porters" being in the early 1700’s. Up until around 1700 beer was brewed and then sold to publicans who would age the beer themselves and serve when they felt appropriate. Porters were aged at the brewery and then sold to pubs. They were a strong beer, just over 6%, and apparently a favorite of beer among local street and river porters. 

Stouts were historically the strongest of the porters, 7% or 8%. Originally called “extra porters” or “double porters” or “stout porters” they were eventually known as “stouts.”

Nowadays porters are not a hugely popular beer, aside from in the craft industry. Even then, dark beers are usually brewed stronger, as stouts, and you’ll find a wide variety; chocolate stouts, Russian stouts or Imperial stouts, oyster stouts, chocolate stouts, oatmeal stouts etc. You can find honey porters, vanilla porters and chocolate porters aged in barrels if you shop around, but stouts tend to rule the roost. Looking forward to next weeks Tuatara XV Russian Imperial!

Let’s give this London Porter a try. I’m expecting creamy caramel malts and not a lot of hops. Also, I'm suspicious it will lack body, i.e taste watery through the middle. We’ll see. 

Price: $5.99 500mils

Alcohol content: 5.6%

Colour: Black (obviously) but when you hold it up to the light, it is a deep red where the light can get though. Nice head, creamy rather than coffee like as we sore with the Aro Noir. A few bubbles but nothing to note.

Aroma: Smell is subtle, hints of coffee and chocolate ice-cream.

Palate: At first a slightly bitter taste with the beer feeling like it lacks body, it feels watery. But then the depth kicks in with wonderful deep flavours; milk chocolate, caramel, instant coffee. As you tilt the glass to drink, you again notice the beautiful red hew in the light. It is a very deep red/brown.

Finish: The aftertaste is that of a double shot flat white in a tulip. Espresso now rather than instant. Then a couple of swallows later you get the residual bitterness of hops. Nice hops too, not overpowering or too "herby." 

On the Chart: This porter is about as complex as Garage Project’s Aro Noir but certainly not as hoppy. You pick up the hops for sure, but it’s malt that is leading the whole way. Complexity is the notes of coffee and caramel rather than the contrasting hops. 

Conclusion: I’ve no complaints about this beer. It was a lot more than I was expecting. It’s been a while since I’ve had a Guinness or a Kilkenny, both which I find pretty watery through the middle. They both seem to lack body and complexity (from memory at least). This London Porter doesn’t lake anything. It’s a great beer. Not as complex as an imperial stout, or a beer that has set out to actually capture chocolate or coffee or whiskey flavours, but still delicious. It’s a cheaper brew and it’s a supermarket brew, but provided you like a dark beer, there is nothing wrong with it. Good value for money. Yum. Time to chuck another log on the fire, put the old knitted reading socks on, and with feet up, tuck into a couple of chapters of The Hobbit. Better finish this delicious beer too. Good stuff. 

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