Until recently, Thwaites have been off my radar as it were.
I have known of them for a long time as a good regional brewer (from Blackburn in Lancashire), but other than their fine ‘Lancaster Bomber’ which is occasionally stocked at my local ‘real ale’ pub I confess their brews haven’t really troubled my palate.
That was until a few weeks ago when my good friend Alan (about whom I wrote in my Staropramen tale) started waxing lyrical about this wonderful new porter he’d found. I did a bit of research, and it appears that Thwaites, as well as planning to build a new brewery (always a good sign) are developing a range of ‘craft’ (with a small ‘c’ methinks) ales, of which ‘Tavern Porter’ is their second example to go mainstream and be widely stocked in supermarkets.
I was a little troubled to read on the Thwaites website that “Thwaites own market research has indicated that porters are of particular interest within the premium bottled ales category, especially to upmarket ale drinkers looking to expand their repertoire.” I consider myself to be am ‘upmarket ale drinker’ and am always keen to ‘expand my repertoire’, but am somewhat resistant to being targeted quite so directly.
Anyway, so enthusiastic was Alan that I should try this porter that he dropped a few bottles round for me to try. Well, Scott’s been on a Stout/Porter kick lately, so I figured it would be rude not to… so here goes:
Well it pours dark, very dark, ‘bible black’ as I’ve described porters in the past, with a rich coffee coloured head that lasts quite a while, leaving a healthy lacing down the glass as it goes.
The nose is complex, coffee, chocolate and liquorice a hint of smokiness, ticking all my boxes so far.
And the flavour is equally complex, with liquorice, coffee, chocolate and smoke all jostling for the attention of your taste buds, underpinned by a deep hoppy bite. One sip comes through coffee, the next liquorice and occasionally hints of ripe plums. They’re great flavour combinations, I’d go for this again, although as this is bottle conditioned I think I’ll keep a bottle on the shelf and revisit it in a few months.
At 4.7% ABV this is less potent than one would normally expect for a porter, thinking back to classic porters like those from Fullers, Meantime or even Brewdog they all clock in above the 5% mark. In part I suspect that this is in response to recent beer duty changes here in Blighty (I mentioned it here and there’s an excellent article about it here).
It’s also less full bodied than I would like, I prefer my porters on the chewy side.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a fine porter, Alan and I agreed to give it 3½ stars, and I guess it works well as Thwaites target it, as an ‘entry beer into the porter category’, but.
How can I put this?
Back in 2001 my wife and I did a trip to California, and I fulfilled a lifetime ambition of driving a Ford Mustang up Highway One and through San Francisco – but (and this is a big but) it was a 2001 Mustang. Not a classic. It kinda looked the part, and had the Mustang badge; it just wasn’t as good as it could or should have been. It was somehow lacking in passion.
In the same way I’m concerned that this could be what Porters are becoming… dark, and tasty but lacking in body or power.
And that would be a shame.
Bob the Brit