Pulled a real spaceshot move the other night. Swung into Merrimac Liquors Friday evening and spotted a couple new (to me) Pretty Things “Ounce Upon A Time“ (OUAT) beers on the shelf. I saw “1855 East India” on one and my mind read East India Pale Ale, but it was, in fact “East India Porter”. Chilled it and popped it open the following night, still thinking I was pouring an IPA brewed using a recipe from 1855. When it poured almost black in color, I was confused (it’s easily done).
I’ve took a whif, and got toasty, coffee, and chocolate. Took a taste and got the chocolate, and a bitterness that I attributed to hops initially. This is when I pulled the bottle back out and took another look at the label. Doh! Porter?! Yes, it’s got porter qualities, but… there are differences compared to what I think of as a porter. Mayflower’s porter is more a traditional English porter, whereas Smuttynose offers an award-winning Robust Porter. Mayflower’s has more roast.. more of that slightly burnt flavor that used to keep me away from the style many years ago. Smutty’s I find delicious, but it is definitely more of an American take on porters.
This OUAT version is unique by comparison. The bitterness is a bit crisp and refreshing. I don’t think of a porter as “refreshing” normally. But this one finishes a bit more dry than most, not hanging on the tongue, making it quite easy to dip in for a another taste right away. Again, I find myself thinking “different” in a great way. Is the bitterness from the hops, from the coffee-like roast, or the combination of the two?
Well, the OUAT website explains quite a bit. There’s a TON of hops in this beer. It’s a 6% English porter. High in ABV for the time (1855), but, it appears that this was brewed with higher alcohol (and therefore more hops) just like the early IPAs. The historian’s explanation that the enlisted men drank porter, while the middle and upper class troops drank the IPAs. It was a class distinction, and therefore there was less recognition for the beer of the “ordinary soldiers.” According to the site, this beer has 93 IBUs, using Kent Goldings and Spalt hops.
So while American brewers are patting themselves on the back for their “creation” of Black IPAs, American Black Ales, or Cascadian Dark Ales (take your pick), it appears England was WAY ahead of us.
I will differentiate this brew from moderns Black IPAs however. I have never been a fan of the Black IPA. I find that the American varieties of hops clash with the roast. This however, seems to had a much better blend of flavors. The hops are there, but not in a way I am accustomed. I assume it’s just that the English hops work better with the brown malt used in this porter. Perhaps there’s much less late/dry hopping used as well, more focused on bittering. There’s plenty going on in this beer, but not so much that it leaves my tongue twisted.
Probably the best mistake buying a beer I’ve ever made. Cheers!