A few weeks back I began this obsession with New Glarus' Old English Porter. You'll recall that New Glarus' latest unplugged is intensely sour with roasted and biscuit tones that come out as the beer warms up, along the lines of a dark Rodenbach. New Glarus creates this sourness by blending aged (sour) beer with new (un-soured) beer to a mix that suits that the drinker (in this case, Dan Carey).
St. Peter's Brewery, of Suffolk, England has created a porter that is also a blend of old and new beer. One of the few ubiquitous British beers (Fullers and Samuel Smith's being the others), St. Peter's aims to produce classic British beer and have won numerous awards for its style-defining (literally) porter.
I'm going to do things a little differently with this because I want to get the review out of the way first and then compare this with the New Glarus Old English Porter. So, check out the review and I'll meet you again below the review.
St. Peter's Old-Style English Porter
BeerAdvocate (B+). RateBeer (80)
Appearance: a vigorous pour at 50 degrees produces a one-finger, tan head that is foamy on a dark, almost black body
Aroma: roasted and burnt but muted with a light earthy, grassy hoppiness (fuggles maybe?);
Flavor: light and funky; not what I expected from the aroma at all; the end is a bitter from burnt (black) malt and not a hoppy bitterness (like the Dark Horse Black); there is a mouth-puckering bitterness and anise-like flavor here that I'm surprised to find; there is a malt complexity here that tastes like a non-oily Palo Santo Marron;
Body: light bodied; unlike the NG Old English which is medium-bodied, but the sourness makes it seem light-bodied, this one is actually light-bodied
Drinkability: with the weird flavors going on here, I'm not sure I'd want more than one - but a 1.9 bottle is perfect for me once a winter
Summary: If this was my quirky local beer, I'd be happy to drink this, but I can definitely understand why others would have more reserved judgment; as it is, I'd probably drink this, a year later forget what I thought of it and buy another; it's kind of different and it's definitely not a "robust" porter like what we've become accustomed to here in the states.
Ok, now back to our comparison with the New Glarus Old English Porter
These two share similar bodies, though they clearly arrive at it differently - which is to say both appear to be light-to-medium bodied. Moreover, both are very different from what we tend to think of as "typical" porters - which is to say, Robust Porters (like Edmund Fitzgerald). But these two beers are aged very differently: New Glarus obviously intentionally sours its beer, while this one has a strange aged flavor that makes me question how the "old" part of this aged. This one didn't sour so much as funkify and there's a little Belgian-like funk, but it comes out more like a licorice quality. We can say for certain that this brewer's "mix" is not nearly as aggressive as Dan Carey's. In fact, it makes me wonder what the "old ale" portion of this beer actually tastes like.
So, these two beers are clearly from the same lineage. But, they present a challenge. Were the "old" porters intensely sour or were they more funky and earthy like this one? Or, were they both? Beer ages differently depending on the vessel and location of the aging beer, so it's very possible that some were vinous and sour and others were funky and burnt like this one.
This is making want to drink more porters ... so ... stay tuned ...