Porterhouse - Wrasslers XXXX Stout
Dry Stout may be a minor category, but it embraces some famous names, not the least of which is Guinness. How many brewers would go head to head with such a renowned beer? If you remember the Guinness of a generation ago - bigger, rounder, oilier - you will love Wrasslers, as it has more of everything: body, especially, but also toasty barley flavours, malty sweetness , hoppy bitterness, and an earthy yeast character.
Michael Jackson reports from the frontline of Irish politics and an authentically Irish pub
The other month, I wrote about those high-profile politicians who bravely flaunt their beery proclivities. In this respect, few can compare to Prime Ministers of Ireland. I was once a member of a press delegation invited on a fact-finding tour by the Government of the Republic, and I seem to remember being offered a Guinness or three by Prime Minister Sean Lemass. Come to think of it, those political pints may have been proffered by the Premier at the Guinness brewery in Dublin.
Then there was Prime Minister Garrett Fitzgerald, with whom I enjoyed a pint of Murphy's at their brewery in Cork. He was opening a new brewhouse, which was blessed by the local bishop.
The other day, I met the current Prime Minister of Ireland, Bertie Aherne. This Toaiseach apparently enjoys the extraordinary range of lagers, ales and stouts made at the Porterhouse pub and microbrewey in Dublin. That is a enthusiasm we share. I frequently find myself at the Porterhouse (to do this, walk along Fleet Street until you reach Parliament Street). I have quite often lost myself there, too.
Prime Minister Aherne on this occasion went beyond Parliament Street to enjoy his pint. According to The Irish Independent, he flew ‘in a private capacity’ to London. I think this ‘capacity’ referred to a private plane rather than his consumption of Porter. He was after having a few pints at the new Porterhouse, which is in London. In Covent Garden, to be precise. Opposite La Perla in Maiden Lane, to tread perilously close to pedantry.
Premier Bertie declared the Porterhouse open. He lauded the success of the Dublin original; deemed its London offspring the best pub in London; and observed that it surely had the best beer in town (were the brewers of Guinness listening?). He was introduced to your columnist by one of the owners, Oliver Hughes. ‘This is Michael Jackson, The Beer Hunter and Whiskey Chaser,’ said Hughes, a man who does not forget to plug the product. ‘The Beer Hunter will be the better part of that,’ observed the Prime Minister (were the distillers of Jameson listening?). In the best political manner we urged each other to keep up the good work. If Premier Bertie opens pubs selling superb beers, he has my vote.
The beers at the Porterhouse are, indeed, superb. Not the brew called Chiller, which was created for people who like cold, bland, lagers. Nor really the Temple Bräu, though it is hoppier and better balanced that your average Eurofizz. The superb starts with a lager called Hersbrucker, appropriately named after the hop variety, which is robustly evident.
Then there is T.S.B. The first initial stands for Turner, the artist, who was born on the site. The 'S' is for Sticklebract, the variety of hop that is featured (it comes from New Zealand, and has an aroma and flavour that is in this beer reminds me of marijuana). The 'B' is for bitter. There you are, a hop-varietal ale: nothing to do with a well-known London brew - or a bank. The Porterhouse Red is more traditionally Irish: and so flavour-packed that it makes Caffey's seem like Tizer. Watch out, too, for An Brainblásta (an explosive rendition of the Irish Gaelic for a ‘tasty drop’), a powerful, smoky strong ale of 7.0%.
The true specialties are, by definition, porter and stout. Plain Porter was the term originally given to the lightest-bodied of Ireland's black brews, and celebrated in verse by Flann O'Brien. The manifestation at the Porterhouse is fruity and perilously drinkable. The Oyster Stout is said to contain a handful of bi-valves, making it a rare authentic example; it is seaweedy, salty-sweet, and surely an aphrodisiac. There is also a drier but richer stout called Wrassler's. This is named after a long-gone Cork brew said to have been favoured by republican leader Michael Collins.
Revolutionary stuff: Dublin-brewed porter and stout in an Irish pub that's not a fake.
Published in Glass, 2006
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