Words & Photos - Matthew Curtis
Every time my gaze meets the new branding that now adorns bottles and cans from BrewDog I fall deeper in love with the design. It's so very un-beer like, which is what makes it so good, it stands apart from every bottle flanking it on the shelf. With an almost Global Hypercolour look to the two tone label that fades from purple to red, the freshly re-released Alice Porter is a real looker, and that's even before you've poured it into a glass.
With the label copy BrewDog have tried to convince us that this beer is "profoundly puzzling... cryptic and enigmatic" when in reality I have found it to be anything but. Alice Porter is a beer with a story and it's a story worth telling and if BrewDog aren't going to, then I will. It all starts back in 2010 when Matt Gorecki, then manager of the quite wonderful North Bar in Leeds, headed to the old and now defunct BrewDog brewery in Fraserburgh. This wasn't just any old trip to a brewery, Gorecki was heading north on his stag do for a trip that would combine brewing, camping and a lot of drinking. The resulting beer, a 6.2% ABV Baltic Porter that featured Bramling Cross and Sorachi Ace hops, as well as vanilla pods in the boil, was named after Gorecki's bride to be, Alice Porter.
The original fifteen hectolitre batch was made as a one off for North Bar but it proved to be so popular that it soon became a winter seasonal. It featured in bottle, keg and back then even on cask, I can imagine that was really something. Then something genuinely puzzling happened, BrewDog stopped making Alice Porter, instead replacing it with Brixton Porter, a beer I found to be inferior to its predecessor. The thing with Brixton Porter is that it is a nice beer, but 'nice' isn't BrewDog. This is a brewery that is truly dedicated to pushing the envelope when it comes to flavour and for me Brixton Porter fell well short of the mark.
I'm delighted to see the return of Alice Porter, especially dressed up in its new livery and part of a new range of alternating, seasonal beers. It's changed quite a bit since it was first brewed in 2010, the strength has been dialled down to 5.2% ABV, the Bramling Cross and vanilla pods are gone but the Sorachi Ace remains, joined by the Magnum and First Gold varieties. The malt bill features four different types of malted barley, including Carafa which would indicate to me that, although they're looking for a dark colour they want to avoid strong roasted or burnt flavours. The grist also includes flaked oats and torrified wheat, adding fullness to this beers mouthfeel.
Alice Porter pours a cola-tinged shade of dark brown, the pleasingly fluffy head is just about off white and gives off light aromas of ripe figs with just a hint of molasses creeping in around the edges. In terms of flavour it seems to me that this beer has stayed true to it's Baltic roots, it feels full on the palate but drinks easy with notes of fig jam mingling with black treacle and an unusual lemon zest note from the Sorachi Ace. The finish is spicy, prickly and bitter at first but as the beer warms a little more sweetness creeps through rounding any sharp edges out.
This is the beer I'd rather have seen join BrewDog's core lineup instead of the rather ordinary Brixton Porter. It tastes excellent and slides elegantly into BrewDog's ever-evolving range of beers during the late winter months. I could actually see Alice Porter fitting into BrewDog's core range and being brewed year round, and it would be even better to see it dispensed under nitrogen in its bars. One thing I don't see is the alleged "enigmatic dark alchemy" that supposedly surrounds this beer. This is one beer that doesn't need dressing up in spiel, it's good enough to sell on taste alone but this is most certainly a beer with a story that deserves to be told. Who knows, maybe now that Matt Gorecki is involved with the brand new Zapato Brewery, perhaps a vanilla infused, Sorachi Ace and Bramling Cross led porter will be on the cards once again.
I was sent these beers to review by BrewDog and I'm an Equity for Punks shareholder but I don't think either of these things affected my opinion of this beer.