09 October 2008

Control Alt Delish

There are few things that make me happier than the arrival of a new Irish beer on the market. While it would be fantastic if more of these were permanent, I'm happy to settle for seasonals and special editions when they come my way. So I was delighted to see that the Porterhouse have eschewed the Kölsch which they normally bring out this time of year (though there's not a thing wrong with it) in favour of a new Porterhouse Alt. I was even more delighted when they invited me along to the press launch last week.

I'm not exactly an old hand at this top-fermented German style which is particularly associated with Düsseldorf -- I've had the Frankenheim version and found it well-made but quite serious in its dark bitterness. The Irish take on it won't leave you rolling in the aisles either, but it's still a damn fine beer. Sourness is its first characteristic, but this is followed quickly by a long dryness, redolent of crunchy grain husks. The whole thing is lip-smacking and satisfying, and incredibly drinkable. I wish the brewery well with it and hope to see it again. And if you have a Porterhouse near you, I'd strongly advise giving it a go before the festival ends on Sunday week.

As usual, Porterhouse Oktoberfest comes with a range of subsidiary German beers, and they've done particularly well this year in my estimation (though a return of Andechs Dunkel wouldn't have gone amiss), including three on draught from Weihenstephan. I used to enjoy pints of Weihenstephaner Hefe in Dublin's Long Stone pub back in the early days of my beer obsession. It has only recently come back to the Irish market in bottles, so it's wonderful to see it on tap as well. I find it a difficult weissbier to describe since it balances all of its fruity-hoppy-grainy characteristics so wonderfully. Yes there's bananas and cloves and candy floss, but none really dominates the palate. The texture is a marvellously smooth and fluffy one, causing the beer to slip down with the greatest of ease. I'm really not doing it justice with this review, but take my word that it's streets ahead of the more common Bavarian weissbiers we see on draught in Ireland.

Vitus is the second of the family now available in the Porterhouse -- a beer I really enjoyed back here, and a perfect warming brew for the season that's in it. The last newbie is Weihenstephaner Festbier, a clear golden number I'd never heard of before. It's very much in the Oktoberfestbier style, being heavy and sticky with only faint bubbles working their way through the viscous body. Bizarrely, I got a major hit of sweetcorn from the aroma, but the flavour is definitely properly grainy. The malty Märzen alcohol is present in a big way, but it doesn't cloy or get overpowering as the beer is sunk -- another technical exercise in balance by the brewmen of Weihenstephan which has produced a superlatively drinkable beer.

Oktoberfest at all (I assume) Porterhouse branches kicks off today and runs to the 19th. There's much more to be had among the specials, including Aventinus and that fantastic Schneider/Brooklyn hoppy weissbier collaboration. But go for the Irish Altbier first. You'll be glad you did.

13 comments:

  1. As I write, I'm within a few kilometers of the Weihenstephan brewery in Freising. I had hoped to make a trip there, but have been kept too busy. I don't think I've tried any of their beers. But they make nice milk and yogurt products! :)

    I would love to try the PH Alt to compare it to some recently tasted samples from Düsseldorf, including the famous Uerige.

    Love the post title by the way :D

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  2. Yes, I think my title is rather more tasteful than the "HALT: papers please" marketing the Porterhouse have gone with (see last pic). Fun with fascism (or "facism" as their menu likes to spell it).

    Like I said, I couldn't speak to the authenticity of PH Alt, but Séan reckoned it was pretty on the money.

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  3. I am assuming they'll be all out of Alt by November, though will be praying to Bacchus and Gambrinus that it will not be so....

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  4. They've designated 1st November as the return date for their Vienna Winter Lager. It would be unusual for them to finish a seasonal over the course of a month, and having both of these on simultaneously would be very fine indeed.

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  5. So is the Alt likely to be on in the Covent Garden branch too, Mr Nut? If so, a midweek trip uptown might be called for.

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  6. I'd've thought so, but I recommend phoning in advance. 0207 379 7917

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  7. Bailey is jonesing for Alt pretty bad at the moment, so if it's on at Covent Garden, we'll be there!

    Is it better than chilling London pride and pouring it into the right glass with a big head? That's how we've been getting our fix since our trip in January...

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  8. That's a good question, Boak, but unfortunately I do not have the answer (and remember you have to reverse any answer I give). Some sort of blind tasting might be in order.

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  9. jocko2:25 am

    Beerfest what beerfest. The London Porterhouse on Sunday had on their ALT and Paulauner octoberfetst hardly a German beer fest.The only new bottled beer they had was the Sneider Brooklyn collaberation which IMO was brilliant.

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  10. Best blog post title ever.

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  11. Someone in London complaining about lack of beer variety? That cracking sound, Jocko, is my heart just breaking.

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  12. My point was 2 draught and 1 bottled beer hardly makes a beerfest.On sunday the Bree Louise had 3 new at least to me anyway O'hara bottled beers should he have called it an Irish beerfest.Excellent beer but £4 a bottle.

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  13. Looks like I will miss the PH Oktoberfest for the second year running. It's ironic that I missed it recently because brewing studies assignments are due soon and I can't find the time to head out for tasty beer. Hopefully the Alt will hang around for a wee while.

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