14 July 2007

Original gravity

It rained again today, starting conveniently as I was passing The Porterhouse who are gearing up for their Belgian Beer Festival, beginning Thursday. I watched the downpour from the third floor window, in what used to be the brewery when they made their beer on site, over a pint of Newton apple witbier which is one of the specials they've bought in for the Festival. Newton is made by Belgian brewery LeFebvre and reminds me a bit of strawberry beer Früli, in that it's fruit first, beer second. The apples are juicy green ones and absolutely dominate the taste. If you wait to the very end there's a vague wheaty character alongside, but mostly we're talking apples here. At a mere 3.5% this beer goes down incredibly easy and leaves you wanting another straight after. A wonderful summer session beer, just a shame we aren't having a wonderful summer.

While I was on site I took the opportunity to reappraise one of the house beers. The first time I tried The Porterhouse's TSB, I was sorely disappointed. This is their attempt at an English-style cask bitter, and comes out of an authentic handpump of the sort not seen anywhere else in the country. I couldn't remember quite why I'd taken against TSB, but I've had a lot of English bitter in the meantime, so I decided a do-over was in order. While my experience was not negative second time round, I maintain that this is not a serious competitor to most real English ale. My favourite English beers are either the very light, flat quaffing ones with a tea-like quality, Theakston's being the benchmark, or are the heavy hop-laden warm ones of which there are many fine examples, usually with multiple Xs in the name. TSB is aiming to be the former type but just can't cut it. It just doesn't have the subtlety, being full-flavoured with malt and hops, creating a dry bitterness which I find much more characteristic of an Irish stout. Hardly surprising, I suppose, given The Porterhouse's specialisation in the area. TSB passes muster as bitter, but as the only cask bitter available for hundreds of miles, I'd rather have something straight from the textbook.

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