Sunday, 29 January 2017

Station Porter

Dark and gloomy is the night, late is the hour and I though me chanced to catch an apparition as it floated beyond the crackle of the flames in the other room, as though watching me watching it and lo, did it disappear, leaving naught in its wake but the bottle of ale that I now feast upon as part of my trying new brewers thing this month. The last one, alas, of yet another meme into which I have bought. Still, it can't be too bad and certainly won't affect me as much as did the Christmas ale shenanigans!

Tonight I refer to Station Porter, the apparition according to the label on the neck of the bottle, hence my rather strange opening sentences. Or not, interpret them as you will. And I'm sure you will! Anyway, yes, this was brewed by Wickwar Wessex Brewing Co. and comes to me courtesy of the local bargain store so I cannot complain.

The night is dark, so they say, and full of terrors. Personally, living as a middle class beer bore in a post-industrial town in the heart of the Western World I find that the night isn't even all that dark these days and the most terrifying thing in it is the news of the day on Radio 4. I digress, would you like to know more?

This opened with a deep whiff of the carbonation, a single whisp of white cloud blown from the neck like mist before a sudden breeze or cobwebs in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark at the beginning in that temple complex. Almost immediately I was beset by the aroma as if by tribesmen materialising out of the darkness on all sides, having approached more stealthily than I could ever imagine as I banged about like some great lunk out of context, and, like them, the aroma offered the gifts of chocolate and coffee - both roasted to perfection and accompanied by the music of some tropical hops that were faint but insistent, carefully plying my senses with their rhythm in a game of guess me and keep me. Which is not a real game at all, but it sounds almost poetic and I appear to be waxing that way. I blame the rush of work in the last month and it's not over yet. Some may blame other things. Still, it pours well and causes quite a head as I do so, despite my best efforts to avoid such a confection. Mind you, this seems to be the way decent stouts do things and I am, again, using that pint glass that has the bits on the bottom to encourage heads.

Despite the awful quality of the image, as I do like to sit with just one energy saving bulb on in the living room of an evening, you can make out the depth of this porter - the kind of black hole goodness that speaks to that primal part of ourselves that was raised and evolved with the darkness of forests, woods, jungles and just plains as a part of our psyche. It is at once inviting and scary, comforting and disturbing - but I think I like the pitch nature of it, the flatness of it and the endless depth that lurks beneath like swamps in the peat areas of Ireland or tar flats in the depths of the Amazon. Either way, it suits the roasted nature of the aroma and the depth of the coffee like smell tinged with a sweetness like caramel. Perhaps this is another instance of fig from the hops like with the Dark Arts (see this link) but perhaps not, it's hard for me to say.

The apparition in question, by the by, refers to Isambard Kingdom Brunel - he of the 2012 Opening Ceremony fame - and there is a tall tale about the beer came about, apparently. The bottle sees fit to inform me of these things but then goes no further for some reason. No matter, it is a strong and powerful porter on the tongue, wet and chocolate tipped so that it drags itself like some forgotten beast from the depths of the slime that collects at the edges of fields and woods before crawling, Grendel-like, across a darkened landscape and into the mouth. Good depth on the malts with a sparing amount of hops so that it is the soft and chocolate that dominate with a healthy does of coffee roast on the side, a sweetness like caramel mingles with the bubbles in the centre as it inflates to fill the mouth and then recedes, fading like a shade with morning, toward a strangely toasted aftertaste with the faint hint of something bitter hanging in the air.

In short, this is an interesting and healthy porter of the type that matches cold and dark nights with a fire going, though, for the record, ours is not. A heady 6.1% ABV means that this is a winter warmer of the type that would see you through a cold night with or without blankets. We've got central heating, of course, and big blankets and duvets so I shan't let this worry me. Being from Gloucestershire this has a bit of the rain about it, the kind of dark that lingers and gathers beneath a towering cloud in either summer or winter along with the faint hint of rolling countryside lost beneath a tide of modernism but that peeks through in railway cuttings and in copses that seem abandoned but are actually carefully managed but for the sudden chill as one passes through. The sort of porter that matches myth and legend in my mind.

Best enjoyed when sharing a diesel train along the line from Gloucester to Bristol with shades of Victorian industrialists and Celtic noblemen and women. Pass the time by looking from the shine of the fob watch to the glistening bronze circlet tong about the bearded neck of the warrior or atop the staff of the other warrior with long hair and fierce eyes. Open in time with the click-clack of the rails, sample the smell and then lose yourself in the calming influence of a decent porter on the journey. A savouring ale rather than a sessionable one, it will reward taking things slow and steady, and deserves to be had alone to warm you when the train's heater inevitably fails. The shades can only sit and stare in jealous wonderment.

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