Nethergate is another of that increasing list of breweries whose brews mean to review for ‘The Brewclub’ – their flagship brew ‘Old Growler’ is becoming widely available and their trademark British Bulldog has scowled at me from my beer shelf for a while now.
And, as ‘Old Growler’ is described as an ‘English Porter’ and we’ve been on a Porter kick here at The Brewclub, I thought it was time to face this growler down.
A bit of background – the Nethergate brewery was founded in 1986 in the Suffolk village of Clare.
Regular readers might recall that Suffolk is in East Anglia, the round, bulbous bit of the UK on the east coast.
Suffolk is home to some well-regarded brewers including Greene King, St Peter’s and Adnams – although I confess I have yet to review an Adnams ale yet for the Brewclub. See there’s another brewery… it’s on my list for this summer, honest!
Nethergate expanded to a larger site a few miles away from its original home, in a series of converted barns in the village of Pentlow, still (just) in Suffolk. Old Growler was one of their first brews, introduced in about 1988, and it has won numerous awards, including ‘Supreme Champion’ at the Chicago International Beer Festival in 2004, in the porter category.
The brewery describes Old Growler as “a complex, satisfying porter, smooth and distinctive.” Sounds promising, we shall see:
It pours a dark brown-ale colour, not the pitch black of many porters – this is somewhat disconcerting – but with a rich mocha coloured head (the phot0 doesn’t do it justice) that’s slow to fade. When it does go it leaves a healthy lacing down the glass.
The nose is subtle, not ‘in your face’ I get chocolate, and a little liquorice, but not much else. Hmmm.
The mouth-feel is medium to full-bodied, nice.
And the flavour?
Well, while it’s well balanced – with chocolate and liquorice underpinned with a hoppy bite – it’s not quite as complex as the brewery promised. The flavour improves with warming, this is a beer that benefits from being warmed in the hand like a fine brandy, there’s also a warming potency from the 5.5% alcohol.
I thought long and hard about this rating, after the disappointment of Thwaites Tavern Porter which had flavour but not potency I find this one has the potency but not the finesse.
As such I have to give it 3½ stars, but I suspect that neither will be regulars on my beer shelf.
Old Growler is also brewed to a respectable 5.5% ABV, unlike the 4.7% Tavern Porter I reviewed recently; personally I would make it a stipulation that anything claiming to be a Porter should be at least 5% ABV.
There we go, we now have the Reinheitsgebot and Bob the Brit’s Porter Law.
What brewing laws would you introduce?