Today is my blog's fifth birthday and I'm celebrating with stout. Two kinds, in fact: The Porterhouse's new Celebration Stout (far right) hit the shelves last week. This is a scaled down revamp of the 2006 10th anniversary edition, a mere 7% ABV, in 33cl bottles. It still packs a punch, though: very bitter, mellowed only slightly by notes of coffee and very dark chocolate. More than anything it reminds me of Wrasslers XXXX in a way that the new bottled version of Wrasslers doesn't. So far so good, but how does it stack up against version 1?
It doesn't. While the new one is great by Irish standards, Celebration Stout from 2006 is world class. There's not really any bitterness left after three and a half years, instead it's exceptionally smooth and mellow with a boozy cherry liqueur complexity that, if I didn't know better, would have me swearing blind that it's barrel aged. Mrs Beer Nut said it reminds her of the milder sort of imperial stout produced by De Molen and I can see where she's coming from. A celebration indeed.
It's possible that the bitterness in the new bottles is because it's still a bit green, having only just come off the bottling line. My hazy memory from 2006 is that the original had this sort of aggressive hopping back in the day too. I'll be interested to see how it pans out: time to lay in the bottles.
And while I'm on the subject of new local beers, I picked up a four-pack of Guinness Black Lager in Belfast last Friday, where it's currently being test-marketed. On Saturday I was doing a bit of brewing, as is my wont, and needed something easy-going to to quench my thirst. Ice-cold, straight from the bottle is the recommended serving style so that's what I did. Then I waited for some flavour. Vainly. Trying to ignore the wateriness I found a hint of the mild sourness which passes for character in bottled Guinness Extra Stout, but nothing that makes black lagers worthwhile: no fresh roasted coffee or dry crispness. Any kind of decent yellow fizz would render this pointless.
Best of luck with it, Diageo. Here's hoping it's the thin end of a schwarzbier revolution leading to better things.