Potter back in history for a taste of porter..
Byline: MAURICE FITZMAURICE WINE with
Etymology isn't a word I drop into polite conversation too often for fear of sounding like a pillock. Actually, pillock's a word that probably has an interesting history. But I read a fascinating article the other day about the history and origins of porter (the beer) and I discovered it (the beer) was named after the porters of London who supped it with vigour after a hard day of hauling carts of jellied eels and such like around the city.
The name aside, porter was a highly hopped beverage, brewed with high-roasted malt and then aged in 108-gallon casks called butts. The high level of hops meant it kept well so was good for exporting to the Empire, a bit like those India Pale Ales readers will know I'm a big fan of.
Apparently the working man, in London anyway as they liked a paler ale up north, would have necked a few pints of this stuff along with a plate of oysters in the 18th century.
Porters that were brewed with a little more weight towards the mid 1700s were stronger and therefore stout. Stout! You see the etymology here?! Wasn't it in 1759 that some fella called Arthur Guinness had a rattle at it? Anyway, this rather neatly leads me to the efforts of the big beer firms, well Guinness especially, to make a foray into the craft beer world.
There's little doubt the now vast choice on the shelves, along with closing pubs, is hitting Guinness hard.
So they've had a rattle at the craft, microbrew, trendy, artisan, call-it-what-you-will beer market in a bid to compensate for those flagging sales, or is that ales? I must say, I'm not a huge fan of that Hop House 13, but then it's a lager. Come on, Guinness, lager?!
On the other hand, their West Indies Porter is getting rave reviews. A take on a recipe from the days of old, we're told.
In fact, it appears to be a descendant of West India (not Indies) Porter which was heavily hopped and exported to Irish emigrants in the Caribbean from 1801 onward. It evolved into Guinness Foreign Extra Stout, the 7.5% rocket fuel which is a big sellers in Africa.
What ever the back story, it's wonderful to see old school beers re-emerge simply because they're tasty. Try a taste of history this weekend, then see if you can say etymology.
Guinness West Indies Porter is widely available at around PS2.50 a bottle. I love Guinness, but this is sweeter and more hoppy. What more is there to say? If you fancy a stout, but not the usual from St James's Gate, try Pokertree's Treacle Oat Stout. They're a brewer doing some nice work in Carrickmore and this gear is a treacly, shot of espresso hit, big bold beer. Available in good independents, and Supervalus that do drink, for around PS2.70.
This would have been necked with a plate of oysters