"Untimely" is a word that got used quite a bit in the reporting of Oliver Hughes's death a couple of weeks ago, and with good reason. Not only was he still in the prime of life, and the distillery he was so proud of just beginning to turn out whiskey, but 2016 also marked the 20th birthday of his inspirational brewery and pub chain The Porterhouse.
The Fine Ale Countdown decided some time ago that The Porterhouse deserved a place in their occasional feature for legends of Irish beer The Alco Hall of Fame, and a matter of days before Oliver died I met up with the guys in the Nassau Street branch to chat about the company and make one of my occasional efforts to inject a bit more factual content into their programming. Mostly I was hoping that we might catch Oliver in his usual spot at the end of the bar and acquire a few scandalous tales from the Porterhouse's 20 year history -- he did a good trade in those. Unfortunately it wasn't to be, but the guys ploughed valiantly on with the episode anyway and you can hear it here.
Obviously, pints of Wrassler's were consumed, but I also took the opportunity to nab a bottle of the brewery's 20th anniversary commemorative beer. Just to annoy fastidious documenters of Irish beer like myself, they decided to call this one Celebration, a name that was first used for their 10th anniversary beer in 2006 (reviewed, in brief, here), and revived for a permanent iteration of it in 2010. And strangely (perhaps) their ABV is falling, from 10% in the original to 7% in the permanent version, to just 6% in this new one. It feels more like this is a try-out for a revised permanent edition rather than a special one-off, though according to the barman in Porterhouse Central it is already in short supply.
At least the flavour hasn't suffered unduly and, while I think this may be a little lighter of texture than its stronger siblings, it has pretty much the same bitter liquorice punch. Smoother caramel and molasses round it out in the background. I can't say it's an improvement on the 7%-er but if they did decide on this as the new permanent recipe I would definitely continue to buy it.
I'm still finding it difficult to imagine even one more year of the Porterhouse without Oliver, let alone another twenty, but I'm also sure that gentlemen as hardworking and resourceful as Liam, Dave and Peter will manage it. And I look forward to the 40th anniversary Celebration dark mild.
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