When searching the shelves for a new beer to try it seems there’s no shortage of dark, malty offerings. Every craft brewer with a bag of malt and a nifty idea seems to want to brew the next great stout or porter, or an imperial version thereof. Sometimes you get some fairly odd beers staring you down. Blackberry Porter anyone? Not for me thanks. Sometimes you get some beers that are fairly decent, if not outright good. Because so many breweries play fast and loose with beer styles, it can be a challenge finding a beer that is true to style while contributing something new to the world of beer.
The general rule seems to be “the older the brewery, the better its offerings.” San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing is an excellent example of this. They’ve been around in their present form longer than any craft brewery in America and make an overall excellent line-up of beer. While it’s not as old and esteemed as Anchor Brewing, Saskatoon’s Paddock Wood has a “Little Engine That Could” quality making this brewery located deep in the Canadian prairies more than a little intriguing.
In 1995 Steve Cavan had a problem. He wanted to make his own beer at home but could find no local companies where he could buy the necessary ingredients. And the first online company he contacted would only sell malt 1,000 lbs at a time. A tall order indeed for someone who only goes through 5 lbs a year. After finding a U.S. supplier he could work with, Steve decided to open a home brew supply store. And Paddock Wood was born as a mail order business.
When the mail order business dried up, Steve found a market for beer kits. As it turns out, Revenue Canada didn’t care if you were brewing beer or only producing unfermented wort for kits. Either way you needed a license to do so. That being the case, opening up a brewery seemed the thing to do. And after dealing with Saskatchewan’s rules and regulations, the Paddock Wood Brewery opened.
Today Paddock Wood’s beers are available across western Canada. They produce a variety of regular and seasonal brews including a special line-up for one of Alberta’s local liquor stores. London Porter pours into the glass a deep ruby brown color, doming deceptively close to black. The beer is crystal clear, lightly carbonated, and holds up a dense, off white head. Head retention is good.
London Porter’s aroma is smooth and malty up front, almost chocolaty. Chocolate is the smooth, creamy milk chocolate rather than the bittersweet of Belgian chocolate. Chocolate leads into an understated nuttiness in the center. Nuttiness leads into a sweet smelling finish. Is that just a hint of roasted coffee lingering in the finish? Possibly.
London Porter is a medium bodied ale with a light roastiness up front. Roastiness is reminiscent of coffee more than roasted grains. Roastiness builds a bit in the center, held up by perhaps a bit more nuttiness than chocolate. Mingled in with the nutty-chocolate center is just a bit of toasted bread. These qualities combine to add structure to the porter without adding outright complexity to the brew. Malty center moves into a lastingly dry, somewhat roasted finish.
Overall, London Porter deserves an 8.1 out of 10. It’s one of the better examples of the style I’ve come across. And as such this porter deserves at least to sit at the feet of some of the world’s best porters.