One of the problems with brewing at home is that formulating a recipe stimulates the imagination, and the ingredients smell delicious, so that you want to drink the beer the minute it goes into the fermentor. By the end of Thursday, having brewed to a 1912 St Austell recipe, all we could think about was drinking a pint of black, rummy, treacley stout. Guinness aside, however, Penzance is a stout-free zone. It’s also short on porters, dark mild… in fact, anything beyond brown is hard to find.
But, as luck would have it, we couldn’t have aligned our brewing and drinking agendas any better this week: a Tweet brough to our attention that Roger Ryman’s own recreation of a 1913 recipe (5.2%, £2.75 pint) would be available at Docktoberfest, a festival at the Dock Inn in Penzance. We legged it down and wasted no time reviewing the beer list: “1913 Stout, please!”
In a straight-sided pint glass, with a loose, long-lasting, off-white head, it looks as if it might have been snatched straight from a pre-war sepia photograph. There’s a whiff of balsamic vinegar, red wine and very rich espresso. The taste was multi-layered and complex, mouth-coatingly oily, with rolling waves of intense flavour where Guinness just has a big watery nothing. Sweet and a touch sour; burnt-bitter and prunes-in-syrup fruity; and, finally, like licking treacle from a spoon. It reminded us most of Fuller’s London Porter, which also uses brown malt, and is one of the few beers we’d make multiple changes on public transport to get at.
We liked it.
In conclusion, our thesis, which requires more investigation, is now that brown malt, dark sugars and one hundred years of history add vital extra dimensions to a stout. Our own 1912 stout, which is fermenting furiously, might help us confirm or deny that suspicion.
Picture nicked from the Dock Inn Twitter feed.