Many beers have interesting back stories, a brewers log rediscovered, a tribute to a classic, or even a bunch of brewers visiting one another. Well the story behind Brewdog’s ‘Renaissance Baltic Porter’ is perhaps stranger than most. It also explains the beer’s slightly unusual name.
Back in 2010, Matt Gorecki, the manager of the well respected ‘North Bar‘ in Leeds (possibly Britain’s first ‘craft’ beer bar – founded in 1997), was getting married, and decided to brew a special beer for the occasion. His fiancée’s name was Alice Porter, and so it was appropriate that the commemorative brew should be a porter, brewed at a Stag Weekend spent with the Brewdog guys in Aberdeen.
I actually enjoy some of the florid descriptions that breweries ascribe to their beers, and this one is a prime example:
“Few beers are shrouded in secrecy like the porter; a beer whose roots are said to be punctuated by hurried footsteps along cobbled London streets and swirls of mist from atop the River Thames.
Decloaked and radically reinvisaged, BrewDog’s Alice Porter is a 6.2% sacred union of one 300-year-old recipe and two cross continental hop varieties.
A delicate mirage of chocolate, red fruit and burnt sugar, let Alice Porter whisk you away to a forgotten time juxtaposed against the backdrop of modernity. And then, before you know it, she’s gone… tumbling down a rabbit hole into the same obscurity that first caught your attention.”
The ‘300 year old recipe’? Well it included Caramalt, Chocolate, Dark Crystal and Marris Otter malts, along with Roast Barley. The cross continental hop varieties were Bramling Cross and Sorachi Ace – and the (almost inevitable) Brewdog ‘twist’ was the addition of Vanilla pods during the boil.
The initial brew was some 15 Hectolitres (that’s about 350 gallons or 2,800 pints) which was rather too much for even the most enthusiastic wedding receptions, so Brewdog sold the rest at their first bar, in Aberdeen. It was, as they say, and instant hit, and has been brewed by Brewdog seasonal regular ever since.
These days I’m afraid to report that Alice has lost a little of her potency and complexity, at ‘just’ 5.2% ABV, and the recipe now comprises Extra Pale, Munich, Special W, Carafa, Flaked Oats, Torrefied Wheat malts, with Magnum, First Gold and Sorachi Ace hops.
This gives a brew that Brewdog describe as “Roasty and smooth with fruity, rich coffee character.” That “takes a sudden twist in an unexpected direction; a blend of hops that add a light, balancing citrusy twist and a subtle spiciness.” We shall see.
It pours a deep, intense black, with a rich, foaming mocha coloured head. It’s slow to fade and while there’s not much lacing, the head maintains a full cap on the beer as it goes down.
The nose is a rich coffee, espresso, and the mouth-feel resinous.
The flavour is rich, deep and almost tarry. There’s definitely coffee, in spades, but ther are also dark fruits lurking in there, over-ripe plums and Christmas mincemeat, the merest hint of vanilla and then a citrus Sorachi hop flourish at the end.
It’s full bodied, rich, warming, challenging, satisfying.
The word the I wrote most often on my notes was ‘intense’, this is an intense brew, and worthy of three and a half Brewclub stars.
One can only imagine what the original brew must have tasted like.