There can be few beer styles that have as contentious a history as London Porter, there are dozens of conflicting legends, perhaps the most interesting early reference being a letter home by the Swiss ex-pat who wrote César de Saussure, who wrote (in a letter dated October 29th, 1726) “Another kind of beer is called porter, meaning carrier, because the greater quantity of this beer is consumed by the working classes. It is a thick and strong beverage, and the effect it produces, if drunk in excess, is the same as that of wine...”
What most legends agree on, is that Porters were dark, strong, rich beers brewed in London and enjoyed by labourers, including the porters that worked London’s wholesale markets. Both Scott and I have reviewed a few here at The Brewclub.
Anyway, on to Brixton Porter.
I must admit, the name of this brew confused me for a while; most 18th Century Porters were brewed to the north of the City of London; notably Samuel Whitbread and Arthur Guinness, both of whom brewed around the Chiswell Street area, several miles to the north of Brixton. And indeed north of the River Thames, while Brixton is most definitely ‘South London’. I then learned that the original intention was for Brixton Porter to commemorate the opening of a Brewdog bar in Brixton, but the bar never materialised.
That said, Brixton Porter was the most popular of Brewdog’s 2013 prototypes, and it’s gone into their mainstream range, albeit with a slightly modified recipe, more of that later.
It’s Brewdog’s 21st century interpretation of a classic 18th century brewing style, the twist being that the relatively low alcohol content (for a porter at any rate) should make it suitable as a dark session ale.
It’s brewed with Black, Dark Crystal, Extra Pale and Roast Barley malts, coupled with Bravo, Bramling Cross and Challenger hops, then aged in oak. The original prototype used “Vic’s Secret” (renamed from “Victorias’s Secret” to avoid the obvious litigation) hops from Australia instead of “Bravo”.
It pours rich and dark, bible black with a full, foaming head that’s the colour of a (strong) latte.
The nose is a different matter, dark roast espresso with a hint of smoke. My local coffee shop has a ‘vintage’ roast that comes across much the same.
The flavour is smoky, espresso with dark fruit cake, chocolate shavings and, yes, just the merest hint of vanilla from the oak ageing.
It’s full flavoured, but not as full bodied as I would have expected for a porter, and at 5% ABV not potent enough to merit being called a Porter. It’s pleasant enough, but not quite the ‘dark side’ experience I was hoping for. Not quite “the smoky salty hit of burning pirate ships” that the 2013 prototype promised.
On reflection, I’m giving this two and a half Brewclub Stars, which for a Brewdog fanboy is a disappointment. It’s good, I’d drink it again, but I don’t think I’d take it to a friend’s house.