New Brew: New Glarus Unplugged Old English Porter

10 Sep

Elaine writhes to the sour goodness

So looks like New Brew Wednesday is bleeding into early Thursday with a second entrant. As I mentioned, I made a little stop at Barriques and picked up a few new goodies including Capital Dark, and some new beans I’ll be trying soon. On to the good stuff though. It’s always exciting when New Glarus puts out a new entry in their Unplugged series of experimental beers because you know that whether or not they work as a whole, they will be crafted by one of the true masters in the brewing industry, Dan Carey. Case in point – their last offering, Imperial Saison, was an almost overwhelming burst of bright fruit and spice flavors primarily due to its unique yeast strains. Was it nuanced and smooth in the ways we normally expect from a saison? Probably not, but it was a ballsy new take on a truly classic style that was crafted with just as much care, but maybe a tenth of the restraint. Interestingly enough, their latest, Old English Porter, seeks to do nearly the opposite – revive a classic style lost to time along with the traditional brewing methods lost with it. Of course, Dan is never content to follow tradition to the letter in the Unplugged series.

Beer: New Glarus Unplugged Old English Porter

Style: English Brown Porter

Description: “Our interpretation is a Brown Porter based on the style popular in 1870’s London. It was brewed with mostly floor malted English malts including the famed pale ale malt, Maris Otter. A touch of smoked malt produced by Briess Malting Company of Chilton Wisconsin was also used. Half of the batch went through a souring fermentation, in the traditional way, to promote the characteristic wine-like acidity. Lastly the beer was aged on wood to extract sweetness from toasted oak. –”

Vitals: 5.5% abv

My take: This one pours a translucent dark mahogany, a far cry from the almost stout-like black opacity of most of today’s porters. Rusty-tinged head shrinks to a creamy film. The acidity hits the senses hard up front with notes of sour cherry and oak in the nose concealing a roasty cocoa finish. Again, the first effect on the tongue is the wine-like acidity from the sour fermentation, followed by tart cherry, the roasted malt and and a dryness from the toasted oak.

Dan loves his oak barrels for these Unplugged beers and many of them are imparted with a certain “house flavor” that has been carried out through several iterations of the series. My first impression was of a mix between his barrel-aged cherry beer, Enigma, and the Flanders-inspired Sour Brown. Obviously, nobody outside of Bill Compton has tasted this style of porter firsthand, so we are forced to take Dan’s word for its authenticity. As a lover of sour beers, this hits all those right places for me, while the dark malts add a welcome balancing character. Ultimately, this is not a huge departure from other recent offerings from the series flavor-wise, but the novelty of the process of historical recreation ensures that the experience seems new and fresh…in a sort of old and sour way.

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