Category: The Session


The session – Porter

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This months beer blogging session is titled porter. We’re  supposed to talk about  the style in whatever capacity we feel is appropriate and quite simply, I forgot. So tonight I was in the supermarket desperately looking for a porter to drink.

The Guinness was nice by the way.
It is amazing how few porters there are available in British supermarkets. In fact I could only find one, Guinness West Indies Porter. It is amazing that so few are available. There are loads of IPA’s but nearly no porters. Is the style doomed? There are a few stouts (mostly other Guinness  brands or equivalent competition). My question, are dark beers really just for beer geeks because the powers that be think most people dont want to drink it.  I have no answers. Does anyone else?

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It’s been a while since I have done one of these beer blogging sessions. I intended to always join in but life gets in the way. Sorry guys. Never mind though, I’m back now and the first topic is “snowed in”. Being hosted by Jon Abernathy at The Brew Site and he asks us what beers do we go for when we are stuck in the middle of winter with nowhere to go but the beer cellar.

Thanks Jon, thanks for posting for my first topic after my long hiatus a subject which is near impossible for me to answer. I live in Bedfordshire, England, a place which does get the occasional snow shower but never anything to leave you stranded in your own home. In fact it I have to cast my mind back three of four years to remember a snow bad enough to even affect the traffic.

I have been giving this some thought, however, and I have a few little snippets of my past that were very cold and I remember the beers I reaches for then. Here is one small account of beer and the cold:

Last year we had a lads weekend to Amsterdam. It was October and not all that cold. We have been several times before and we know which bars we like and which serve some really good beers. That being said we always try and seek out a few new places. This year it was suggested that we visit the Ice bar. Now I know it’s a tourists trap and there is nothing authentically Dutch about it and I know there is one in London which is only 40 miles from where I live, but it’s a lads weekend, if we were there for the culture we’d have visited much more sensible places than that.

For those who haven’t been, here is a little description of what it’s like. First of all you have to book your time slot. You then arrive about have an hour before where you are let into an ordinary bar provided you have a ticket. You are given a few tokens, some to spend in the first bar and some to spend in the Ice bar, these are part of the ticket price. You drink with the tokens in the first bar for about half an hour, until your time slot is called up. You then queue with approximately 30 other people who are all given gloves and huge coats to wear before being let in. Above you is a video playing which is a flagrant rip off of Pirates of the Caribbean meant to suggest that we’re all going on an ocean voyage which ends in us all being shipwrecked in a tiny ice cave. You are then walked into the ice bar. The bar itself is made of ice (no surprises there) and the walls too are made of frozen water. You could almost believe it is a frozen ice cave if it wasn’t the red LED clock giving you constant temperature read outs. It was about -10°c if memory serves. You spend the two tokens you were given outside and nothing else. No cash in the Ice bar. They time it all about right so the next group comes in just as you are finishing your second beer. The beers are served in a glass made of ice (no licking or eating of the glassware, by order). All in all you have three or four half pints, two of which are even colder that usual. You are then ejected from the premises where you wander off into the  (relatively) warm Amsterdam night. You then bump into a bunch of girls who were on your flight who you try to avoid but end up having a conversion with before leaving the final bar of the evening to raid the Febo machines. *

So there you are, in a cold room with a cold glass. Your fingers are slowly numbing and your face feels like you’ve been slapped with a shatterproof ruler. What sort of beer do they serve? There is only one option. Logically there is only one thing it could be. Which beers taste best when they are on the verge of freezing themselves? Beers that have always been known for their refreshing clarity and crispness? Of all the beers which taste the most repellant when warm? It has to be Lager. And which Lager? Well we’re in Amsterdam, you’ve got two choices and its not Amstel.

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*That last part may not happen to you, it is just an example of what can happen in Amsterdam when the beer flows. There are numerous other outcomes to an Amsterdam evening which you can Google for yourselves.

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As you should all be aware by now The Session is a monthly group exercise whereby bloggers from around the world all come together and collectively post on a given topic which surrounds the subject of beer. This month the session is being hosted by Boak and Bailey from boakandbailey.com. They said:

We’d like you to drink one or more from that list and write about it on Friday 6 June… and that’s it.

Now first of all I can see the the calendar I know it isn’t 6th June, infact it is 19 days overdue. If I were at school still and my homework was this late then I would have been severely chastised (so thank god I’m not and it isn’t). I did have every intention of writing this post on time, infact I had planned on writing it early, but life, and the fact I’m a crap blogger put paid to that.

When I first read the subject from Boak and Bailey’s website I immediately knew what I was going to do. I had once had a drink in a pub a few miles down the road, The George.  When I got back I had received a few messages from twitter about my pint of Greene King’s xx mild. A small conversation got going during which it was suggested that it would go rather well with Guinness. Not all that convinced, and the George being a good hours walk away, I forgot all about it.

Fast forward to last month and Boak and Bailey’s post triggers a memory of an old conversation. So that was it. I would have a pint of half xx mild and half Guinness in the George.

The God’s of weather were on my side at the beginning of the month so I went for it Sunday 1st. It was an hours walk  through the fields and small villages nearby, passing a few other pubs which I ignored so that my first pint would be in the George. As I walked into Silsoe, the village where the George is, another pub, The Star and Garter, was heaving. There were people milling around out the front, I could hear more in the back and I could see that it was rammed inside. I thought to myself that it must be the fine weather drawing everyone out. I retrospect, it was perhaps more to do with The Star and Garter being a better pub. The george was nearly empty, save for a few die hard local types who, when I walked in at least, were talking about how they want their funerals to be. On the wall above them was a brass plaque with the words “bullshit corner”. I can image there guys in here on a friday night and this being a very apt sign indeed.

I went to the bar and looked at the range on offer, Greene King IPA, Abbott Ale and well that was about it on the ale front. No xx mild. I believe the youth of today abbreviate it to FFS. They did have the other half of my beer check list though, so I ordered a pint of Guinness. I nearly fell off my bar stool when she asked for £4.10. I expect that sort of thing in London or at a festival but here? No wonder The Star and Garter was more popular!

I overheard the three stooges in the corner talking about another pub, again about an hour’s walk away, The Stone Jug. This gave me the idea to try there for a mild, they have several ales on at any one time and have one many CAMRA prizes over the years. Never know, I might get lucky.

I didn’t. It was a lovely walk in the country, followed by a lovely pint of Hopping Mad’s Brainstorm, but alas, no mild.

In the end I had to settle for a bottle of Brains Original Stout and a tin of Thwaites Champion mild from my local Tesco. I got two drinks out of this and I mixed them deliberately about 60/40. Firstly the one with more mild. As you would expect it was dark, really dark. Mix two drinks that are the same colour and don’t be surprised if the result is the same colour. But mix together two drinks that you like the taste of and you can be surprised that it doesn’t taste all that nice. It was almost like the two drinks didn’t really mix all that well, individual mouthfuls being dominated by one or the other. And of those that truly did mix, it was a foul concoction that had a most bizarre mouthfeel. I did not care for it at all.

The second drink was more stout than mild. This was much better, the more robust flavours in the stout stood forward and really took control of the drink, while the mild still stood there in the background imparting its classic Thwaites je nais se qua. 

All in all a much better drink than the first, however I can’t really see the point. In my view it you want mild, fine, have mild, and if you want stout, fine, have stout, but don’t mix the two together. It’s not a clever move. So thanks to the people of the twittersphere who pointed me in the direction of this long afternoons goose chase around the rural pubs of Bedfordshire, but after all that it really wasn’t worth it. Perhaps if I had stayed true to the recipe and gone with the brands I was supposed to it would be a different story. If I see any genuine xx mild on tap I’ll let you know.