Porterhouse Red Ale: Perfect for any day, especially St. Pat's
All I can say is, where was this beer on St Patrick's Day? Much more Irish than the Diageo owned Guinness, and sessionable enough to get you to, through and past the parade, this Irish red would have been perfect for that day in March and not unwelcome on any other day of the year. Red ales are generally very simple and straightforward. They are often a novice home brewer's first and easiest attempt. It's a style that doesn't call for much creativity, and it's rare to find a beer that stands out above the rest for positive reasons. Most are indistinguishable and practically clones of Smithwick's, the bestselling Irish red. Porterhouse has taken this workaday style and cleaned it up without dolling it up. Well, other than by topping it with one of those unusual pull tab caps on the bottle.
Despite the beer loving population, Ireland barely brews any beer these days outside of the now foreign owned behemoth, Guinness. That's where Porterhouse, despite its relatively small size, can truthfully lay claim to being Ireland's largest Irish owned brewery. There are numerous issues with the owners of Guinness these days, and they seem to be boycotted by a different group every month. They have done some despicable deeds, but this isn't the place to recount their transgressions. Porterhouse's size alone allows them to do it right, but they seem to have the proper attitude, as well. They brew in small batches, disdaining chemicals, preservatives and homogenization. And, if the red ale is any indication, they attempt to just brew the best beer they can, and trust the quality will set it apart.
I wish my introduction to Porterhouse involved a more interesting style, but those are sometimes the trickiest to get right. Their red looks the part -- if anything it pours a tinge redder than most of the other red ales. The head is small and fades quickly. A very slight aroma of mostly malt and some smoke doesn't hold much attention, either. It's not meant to; this is a drinking beer.
It definitely tastes of the UK. There is no mistaking the flavor for anywhere else. The chocolate stands out, but is enveloped by a deep smokiness throughout. There is an almost ridiculous amount of carbonation that brings a sharp tingle, perhaps hiding the feeble 4.4% alcohol. The hops are tucked way behind all the malt in this beer, but it still finishes with a good crunch. Nothing fancy, perhaps, but decent flavor for an Irish red. Grab a hamburger with this beer, and cozy up to the bar. This is definitely one of those beers made for those times when you want more than one.
The Porterhouse Irish Red is pricier than practically any other variety of red ale you'll see on the shelf – I paid $15 for a 4-pack. It is from a small brewery that isn't overly committed to growing a huge export market. As long as the beer is fresh, which could be an issue, it's probably better than any other red ale on the shelf, but it is still just red ale. It's not going to bowl you over with complexity. The main thing this introduction did for me is instill the desire to seek out Porterhouse's many other concoctions. They brew a surprisingly wide variety, and seem to offer something for everyone. I'm not sure I'm ready for an Oyster Stout, brewed with actual oysters, but bring on the Brainblasta, please. If the rest have as much pure and simple quality as their Red Ale, they are bound to be worth the search.