On Day Two in Dublin we go to the immense Archaeological Museum. After a few hours of breathtaking, minute Celtic metalwork, hunger takes us.
In 1989, Liam LaHart and Oliver Hughes opened Porterhouse with a focus on Belgian beers. Today they craft a wide range of bold beers and never serve Guinness.
Seated, we wait for mushroom soup. A pint of Hop Head (beyond the pale) ($4.40 pint) hits our table, poured at a cool-ish temperature from cask.
It looks lovely. The color rings with a bright, medium plus intense red copper and a fine, cask-conditioned 2cm cream-colored head.
The aromas flaunt medium plus intense honey, toasted vanilla, cardamon, and grapefruit hops.
The palate feels dry. Extra acid and tannin keep it uptight. Alcohol (4.7%) and body are average. Flavors strongly express fresh-squeezed orange juice with no sugar, cardamon, clove, and hops.
Even with all the zip and structure, the texture blankets my palate with softness. The core tastes sweet, while the lengthy finish cuts off clean, bitter, but not too edgy. Porterhouse’s Hop Head is very good quality (4 of 5), mainly because it showcases bitter hops in an unexpectedly elegant fashion.
Our mushroom soup arrives: time for Wrassler’s 4X Stout:
It looks the part with a clear but pronounced iron black red color and a 3cm caramel color head (no I don’t use a measuring tape).
My nose picks only moderately intense intense esters of grilled portobello mushroom (not the soup), with nice quality balsamic, and chocolate with caramel filling.
It matches Hop Head with notable acid and tannin. However, the body hits bigger as do the flavors of baking chocolate, honey, and, well, really nice manure. The finish is longer, hoppy, green, pine-like. The Wrassler’s 4X Stout, is very good (4 of 5).
Beer-imbued, we spend another 3 1/2 hours getting lost in the Archaeological Museum. Their medieval collection, Celtic gold exhibit, and Coptic fabrics amaze us. They even have centuries old felted clothes that look brand new. However, the space -rich in marble mosaic, iron filigree, and symmetry- dwarfs the collection.
Another Dublin brewery that we visited that same evening will get its post this Thursday. But for consistency-sake, let’s check out Porterhouse’s Temple Bar location:
Begun in 1996 as Dublin’s first pub/brewery, Porterhouse’s narrow halls and stairs wind up and outwards, like octopus limbs lined in wood. Crowds pack the place this evening. A three piece Celtic alternative band keeps pace with the noise. Tracy snags seats upstairs, overlooking the altar to live music, while I get beer.
A gaggle of Americans reach the bar before me. They eagerly ask for Guinness. The mistress behind the bar patiently apologizes. Heads cock in confusion. She tells them Porterhouse is a brewery, with many a porter and stout that would satisfy their need for something Irish and black. But they storm off, swearing and name-calling.
I smirk and pay for two pints.
First, Porterhouse’s “Oyster Stout“.
As the name claims, fresh oysters get shucked into the conditioning tank. Sorry vegans (sorry oysters).
My mind wanders: did their Wrassler’s 4x stout have any wrasslers in it?
Back to reviewing. It looks a deep iron red black, with a 3cm cream-colored head (no floating oyster bits).
Aromas seem clean and stout with hop citrus, toffee, and a mild chocolate (still no oysters).
The palate is dry with bold acid, tannin, and body. Flavors don’t dissapoint us, with a fullsome hoppy, fruity, malty character, and a structured, bitter back kick that demands food. The length is long. The quality, again, is undeniably very good (4 of 5). (I expected more oyster).
Finally, Porterhouse’s “Plain Porter“.
Everything looks plainly porter-esque.
The bouquet exudes loads of char, roasted nut, chunks of chocolate, and caramel. Good.
Acid and tannin step down a notch to medium intensity. Yet this is still serious, dry drink with a rich body and velvety texture.
Searching now for flavors, I sip again. Nothing.
My wife stares at me. I try again.
Gradually, a warm tart with mellow apple rises on the horizon, followed by increasing chocolate orange, finally cracking with a long, crunchy, charred coffee finish. Like Ravel’s Bolero, a whisper patiently leads to crashing symbols and horns. Yet silky vanilla, as the theme, provides a touchstone throughout. It forces your attention forward, just before the boredom of “oh gods, he’s reviewing another black beer” sets in.
This is near perfect beer (5 of 5). No surprise that Porterhouse’s Plain Porter has won The World’s Best Stout, twice (even if it is technically a Porter).
For you who like lighter beers, build the Lagerhouse and I might visit. Luckily no such sadness exists.
If you can’t make it to Ireland, the Porterhouse now has a New York extension and is trickling into stores stateside. Keep your eyes pealed and glasses readied.