British Bottled Porters, Part 1

Porter has been much on our minds lately with the arrival of Guinness’s new effort and our rediscovery of Samuel Smith’s sublime example.

When we asked if (i.e. tentatively declared that) the latter might be the best bottled porter in the UK, various people suggested other candidates, namely Fuller’s London Porter, Kernel Export and Redemption Fellowship.

That was all the nudging we needed to declare The Great Porter Taste Off, and promptly acquired for consideration over the next month or so bottles of:

Beavertown Smog Rocket Smoked; Kernel Export India; Five Points Railway; Okell’s Aile; Fuller’s London; Redemption Fellowship; Meantime/M&S London; Brewdog Brixton; Guinness Dublin; Brew By Numbers 03/01; Sambrook’s Powerhouse.

We’re going to use this as an opportunity to ponder the nature of porter and also to try out a new approach to assessing and reviewing beers.

  1. Regardless of anything else, did it make us say ‘WOW’? (Sam Smith’s TP did.)
  2. If not, why not; or, if so, why so?

Once we’ve got our short list of WOWs, we’ll revisit them alongside Sam Smith’s and decide on a winner (i.e. our personal favourite — this is about as far from objective as it gets) and order a full case to see us through the winter.

Of course we haven’t got hold of every porter on sale in Britain — our budget only stretches so far — and the Guinness isn’t British. (Or is it? No. Well, sort of. But not really.) And who’s to say what, uh, counts as a porter anyway, man? (Anything with porter on the label, at this stage.) But, still, this should be interesting.

On Friday, we’ll be giving our first thoughts on Fuller’s, Meantime/Marks & Spencer, and Redemption.

If there’s a porter you absolutely think we must include — a stone cold classic that we’ve somehow overlooked — let us know below and we’ll see if we can find some pennies down the back of the sofa and get hold of a couple of bottles.

38 thoughts on “British Bottled Porters, Part 1”

  1. Elland’s 1872 won camra gbbf champion last year. I’d say it’s worth including. 2 of the porters in your pic ive had recently and wasnt impressed, another I bloody loved. Interested to see results. Hawkshead brodies prime would be other strong contender – though it’s been apparently rejected from some competitions as ‘too hoppy to be a porter ‘

  2. Massive fan of the Meantime / M&S Porter. It’s just massively full flavoured. Amazed they weren’t asked to tone it down a bit. Which would definitely have happened at other super markets. A stunning beer.

    Kernel’s Export India Porter is awesome, but almost a hoppy black stout / black IPA.

    1. Kernel’s Export India is based on Barclay Perkins original recipe. Confuses the hell out of style nazis, but the precedent for Hoppy Porters has been set for around ~160 years. Until people forgot about them and had to invent oxymoronic Black IPAs to recategorise a dark, well hopped beer.

      1. I know the history, but you are quite right. Still, by the modern definition of porter – if that’s what B&B are going by – I’d say the kernel is a little too hoppy.

        Either way, a stunning beer, and I’m certainly no style Nazi!

        1. Neil — one of things we want to get into (an old hobby horse of ours…) is expectations of style (style as brand) vs. the historical technicalities. We know what we expect to get from a beer with ‘porter’ on the label — whether the Kernel beer meets those expectations is one of the things we’ll be writing about.

  3. elland 18762 as a former CBOB surely a must? Anspach & Hobdays is also excellent. I really enjoy Wylam The Haugh too, Whitewater clotworthy dobbin for a norn iron entry? by the horns lambeth walk

    Ratebeer top 10 (English) as follows:
    Fuller’s London Porter (Bottle/Keg)
    Fuller’s London Porter (Cask)
    The Kernel Export India Porter
    Samuel Smiths Taddy Porter
    Elland 1872 Porter
    Brodies Smoked Rye Porter
    The Kernel Export India Porter Bramling Cross
    Anspach & Hobday The Porter
    Magic Rock Punchline
    Thornbridge / Mountain Goat Thorny Goat

    So you have 3 of those

  4. Thanks, all.

    Elland 1872 is a good shout but no-one seems to have any for sale. We’ll keep an eye out and maybe call for help on Twitter in a week or two.

  5. I had one of your eight the other day (one I’d not had before) – I was given a bottle of Saint Petersburg & decided to work up to it by drinking all my dark beers in ascending strength order (haven’t got there yet). It was a monster beer, but very heavy – much more a stout than a porter to my mind. But then, given that (a) it’s a revival style and (b) originally it just meant ‘the beer that stout is a stronger version of’, who’s to say what porter should taste like? it’ll be interesting to see what you think of them.

  6. One Porter that used to be my staple back in the nineties was Nethergate Old Growler in its tall thin bottle and bulldog on the label. I confess that I’ve not had the bottled version for a few years but I remember that it was rather good.
    If you’re after suggestions then I’d like to nominate By The Horns Lambeth Walk as well. It’s one that I turn to time and again and it’s never disappointed.

    1. We’re not having much luck tracking down Lambeth Walk as yet but will try to get hold of some.

      Old Growler is, I think, in Tesco, so we should be able to get hold of some. (Don’t remember especially liking it, but can’t hurt to give it another go.)

  7. Looks like a fun experiment – but to my eye the mix looks very heavy on London brewers (which is perhaps not a surprise for porters). For some other suggestions how about:
    Williams Bros – Midnight Sun [available in Tesco sometimes, not my favourite but quite different]
    St Peter’s – Honey Porter [a classic]
    Hammerpot – Bottlewreck Porter

    I believe Elland do bottle some of their porter but I have no idea how easy it is to get hold of.

    I don’t know whether Cornish Crown ever bottle their vanilla porter but if so it’d be worth a try too.

    Enjoy!

    1. dewotty — we’ll probably pick up on the London question at some point in this series of posts.

      Thanks for those other suggestions — we’ll see what we can do.

      We live five mins from the Crown and I have to say that, although the cask porter is our favourite of their beers, that isn’t saying much…

  8. Old Growler was one of the first revivalist porters, so would make an interesting comparison with newer versions. In London on cask I’d say Fuller’s is still champion, although Redemption and Sambrook’s aren’t far behind.

    1. No. Is it easy to get hold of? We’ll try and find a bottle anyway.

      (Again, though, not on our list of trusted breweries…)

        1. Our trusted list is based on personal experience and, on that basis… no. We haven’t written them off yet, though.

          1. I agree the teleporter is very good, worth a look. Easily available up north but obviously you aren’t…

          2. I find they’re quite reliable if you stick to the dark beers – on the pale ones they do have this tendency to put the ‘hoppy’ pedal through the floor.

            Back on porters, one that is available in bottles & might be obtainable online is Red Willow’s Smokeless (smoked porter).

  9. That Dublin Porter looks great, you need its West India Porter too. Supposedly brewed to original recipes. has anyone tried these?

    Gary

    1. Gary — we have got bottles of both.

      They’re not *based* on original recipes, just *inspired* by them, i.e. bear no real relation. We have tried both but we’re saving our thoughts for the blog post. Lots of other UK and Irish beer bloggers have already written about them, though.

  10. Okay thanks and will check them out. Makes sense that nothing original was really implemented, based on a review of the Dublin Porter I saw on ratebeer. Although, the other beer appears to offer more. What a great chance for Guinness to do something meaningful here, but as to one of the beers at least, it sounds to me as they’ve flubbed it. Look forward to your reviews.

    Gary

  11. Hope it’s okay to post this as you’ve pointed me to it and it gives more information about the grist:

    http://blog.beerviking.net/

    I can’t imagine Guinness’s porter was 4% or so around 1800, I’d have thought 6% with the stouts at 7.5%. Also, Guinness used no unmalted grains in the 1800’s. Yet, early brewing records are still being referenced, perhaps it’s a little bit 1800 and a little bit 2014.. The Viking doesn’t state whether the beers are bottle-conditioned. I’d think they are pasteurized, which might explain some of the dumbed-down character he finds. Oh well. I’ll be going by the B&B notes. 🙂 By the way, congratulations on snaring that Guardian gig guys, great news.

    Gary

    1. I was sceptical too and raised exactly that point with Evelyn. Her explanation was that 6% was true of the 1800s but not the 1700s. I still wondered about it, but hey, she’s the one with the archives!

      Pasteurised? Yes, I believe so – they are certainly not bottle-conditioned and there’s not a speck of sediment in there.

      The key thing is they are not craft beers as we understand them here. There’s no boundaries being pushed here. They are variety beers – premium beers designed to offer a bit more choice in the pub fridge or on the supermarket shelf. Especially for curious drinkers who have long come to see regular Guinness as the McDonalds of beer.

  12. No one seems to have mentioned one of my favourites which is Saltaire Hazelnut and Coffee Porter. This won Ilkley Beer Festival ‘beer of the year’ in 2012.

    Its available from the brewery in bottles. Obviously at the beer festival we were selling draught beer.

  13. Ratebeer has Manchester Star down as an English Strong Ale. so that makes it a Stout/Porter/Old/Burton/English Strong Ale. Glad that’s cleared up!

    Harviestoun Old Engine Oil is down ad an Old Ale, but is sold by Tesco as Traditional Porter. It’s pretty good. Also, Waitrose do Meantime London Porter 6.5% and Coffee Porter.

  14. What about Wickwar’s Staion Porter – Supreme Champion Winter Beer of Britain 2008, or (my personal favourite) RCH’s Old Slug Porter.

    You can get them both in Bristol supermarkets.

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