Another beer review, another wet evening waiting for spring and we're out of the longest haul of the year. Still, there's always marking and job-related things but there's also season 4 of Game of Thrones and lessons to plan and trips to grow ever more worried about getting sorted on time. In short, I can't complain and I shan't, because tonight I am mostly reviewing a porter, Guinness West Indies Porter to be precise, and I picked it up on offer - ever the cheapskate that I am!
This is a dark horse and a dark porter, some of the heavier stuff that I seem to be attracted to lately, so be wary and read on if you dare!
The first thing that struck me was the rather nice label here - nothing ostentatious and it even has a hint of a bygone era about it in the choice of colour and font. It makes me assume that this must be a venerable and well-respected brew before I've even taken a sip or opened the bottle. Well played, Guinness, well played. It opens with nary a sound and pours as one would expect - slow and steady with a big biscuity head that barely fizzes but puts me in mind of the sort of thing you'd get from a soda-steam making cream soda back in the summers of my youth. Good dark colour, black like the soul of the universe and staring back at you like the abyss in Neitzsche. Monsters lurk within, it promises, and the monsters are 6% ABV in a 500ml serving! Can't argue with that, the beer being inanimate and all, and so I shall simply shrug and get on with the review.
It's a dry aroma, not unlike steak and ale pie but the smell after it has been cooked too long and dried out. That's not necessarily a bad thing for an ale because my eyes tell me it is liquid and so my brain doesn't assume that it will be over-cooked and crap. Amazing how our brains can do that against the advice of the olfactory part of sensory apparatus but there you have it. It opens in the mouth with muted hoppiness and the kind of biscuit-depth chocolate malt that I have grown to love about Mocha (here - fast becoming a staple brew). That chocolate note rises to drown the initial mellow hops and then rides over the bubbles and the yeast that just about makes an appearance. Slowly, smoothly, the brew rides and roils around the mouth, it's a good feel - silken scarf across a velvet undertone - and it fills the space in there. It's not as sweet as the Treacle Porter (here - and this will be repeated) but it is heavier and it is stronger as a consequence. the latter part of the taste races a little to the back of the throat and the hops make another appearance.
After taste then takes over. Another slow build, starting with the almost melted chocolate overtones of the malt before allowing a general slippery feeling hops linger behind. Meanwhile, the mouth feel shifts subtly to become less cloying and more like a strong IPA, not a little unlike m'colleague's Milestone IPA (here), with the hops firmly in the picture but supported well by the deep malt and the overall fruity flavour imparted thus. It's not that sharp, though citrus plays more of a role here than the other sorts of fruit one may well anticipate, and it has notes of something like cabernet sauvignon red - which I shan't complain about. Back at the very beginning of my career I thought that all teachers had to drink wine and that was the only type that I could really kick back and enjoy!
This is a definite evening drink, to finish a day off completely and slip back into a comfortable repose, make sure you have already eaten because you won't feel like cooking afterward. It's a strong homely kind of taste with a feel not unlike a good dose of hot chocolate. A winter warmer or a before bed soporific - like the lettuce for rabbits, thank you Beatrix Potter - and that's no bad thing. I am pleased that I picked this up and I may well avail myself of more of this in the future.
Enjoy this best before bed, when you've got a film on that you've seen many times before, sitting alone on a cold evening with the heating off and wrapped in a blanket or a duvet - already in your pyjamas because clothes are for other people - make sure you haven't bothered to really get ready for company and just slob a bit. You probably deserve it. Let this ale take you to a filled and relaxed feeling, kick off any foot coverings apart from bed socks and just lie down, no need to concentrate on the film. Once you've finished, and take your time, drift off to bed and enjoy a peaceful night's sleep until the morning comes and your children dance on your head.