Name – Plum Porter
Brewer – Titanic
Classification – Porter. With plums. Naturally.
Strength – 4.9% ABV
Verdict - At A Glance
On the eye – Rosewood tinged translucent black. Alarmingly attractive.
On the nose – A certain tree fruit dominates the aromas. You'll never guess which.
On the tongue – A novel, but by no means a 'novelty' beer. Rich, fruity, beautifully engineered and impossible to drink without smiling. (See below.)
On the subject – Sinking sea vessels aside, it's taken me far too long to get around to Titanic. Appropriately, this Stoke-based brewery has an increasingly 'big' reputation among ale aficionados (beer geeks), and although it may not the most ubiquitous brand on a national level, it's certainly among the fastest growing.
On the market – You might not find this particular beer in supermarkets, but many of Titanic's core beers are popping up more and more frequently these days. Otherwise, try a specialist retailer to sample some of their more avant-garde products such as today's. I got this one from Newark's Real Ale Store.
On the whole – 8/10
On the whole – 8/10
Rarely has the first sip of a beer produced such a wide and enduring smile.
I should quickly add that around fifty percent of that grin was induced by a profound sense of relief, as I'd fully convinced myself there was little or no chance of me genuinely enjoying this brew.
That prior fear, based on years of crushing disappointment, is a sensation I experience whenever I crack the lid on a drink which claims to be an established beer style (a porter, in today's case) that has been somehow 'enhanced' with use of an extra, supposedly 'bonus' ingredient. In these days of evermore feverish innovation this additional item could be anything from chocolate or ginger, vanilla, horseradish, caramelised church bench, or the ground bones of the head-brewer's former boss.
(Those latter two may be fictional at the time of writing, but it's surely now only a matter of months...)
Plum, then, could actually be regarded as a reassuringly conservative choice, and in many ways its easy to imagine why the rich, deep roasted character of a stout or porter might benefit from the sweet, tangy sharpness of any number of dark skinned tree or hedge fruits.
My problem is that these 'special' beers can all too often wind up tasting like the kind of tinned confectionery we only ever receive from that elderly lady across the street at Christmas.
Basically, they have a tendency to taste exactly like what the breweries will never admit they actually are. Public relations tools. Firms feel obligated to churn these 'creations' out every once in a while to remind the world that their businesses are populated by warm blooded human beings as well as dispassionate machines, and to remind their rivals that they can be every bit as innovative (bonkers) as they can. It can often feel like companies brew the occasional quirky beer purely to demonstrate that they can, not because they particularly should.
Personally, I don't drink beers in order to marvel that they're possible, I usually just drink them because they're nice.
However, very occasionally, these brewery muscle-flexing sessions will result in something which is not only ground breaking, unique and hugely painstaking to achieve (blah blah blah), but which also happens to be genuinely delicious.
Mercifully, Plum Porter is very much among these beautiful anomalies.
Sumptuous swirling suggestions of liquorice, smoked bacon, cocoa, fresh picked herbs and soft spice – all very much in the porter tradition – combine wonderfully with the guest star of the show, the unmistakable presence of that ultra-juicy, perfectly ripened plum, which imposes itself determinedly upon the overall flavour without ever overstepping that fine line and heading off toward brutal domination. It does get close to that line at times, but if anything that adds a welcome 'tension' to the experience which might otherwise be perfectly pleasant but much less dynamic. There's also a lovely little cameo performance from rhubarb which, in my estimation at least, comes dangerously close to stealing the show at various stages during a full glass.
The body has substance, but there's also an agreeable lightness to it, making the instinct to pour an immediate second glass pretty darned compelling, and the complex aromas have that 'please let me have just one more sniff' quality which is all but guaranteed to earn you a police caution.
There's little doubt that this an extremely successful foray into the potentially hazardous realms of recipe experimentation, and I really needn't have wasted any time at all worrying about it.
Sometimes, 'funking' a beer up can prove to be nothing less than a typo.
With this though, Titanic have brewed a very classy porter and given it a distinctive edge with restrained use of creative ingenuity.
In truth, I image that's what all breweries are really aiming for whenever they have a go at a 'special'.
Few ever get it as right as this.