Session #7: The Brew Zoo

This month’s Session, hosted by Rick Lyke at Lyke2Drink, is another clever one. The theme is the Brew Zoo, meaning beers with animal names or labels, of which the beer world is replete with examples. Today was my son Porter’s birthday party (his actual day is Monday) and so I wasn’t able to blog yesterday because there was just too much to do to get ready for the party. So instead I decided to have something furry today.

In honor of Porter’s birthday, I decided on an English Porter I picked up somewhere during my recent travels. It’s from Nethergate Brewery, which is in Suffolk, England. It’s called Old Growler and is, of course, a porter. I tried it with my friend Sean Paxton, The Homebrew Chef, who was at the party to help celebrate Porter’s birthday with his wife and new baby girl, Olivia.

The beer had a beautiful color, black with reddish purple streaks, a very appropriate color which I’ll explain later. It also had a thick tan head with great lace and silky rich aromas of milk chocolate and dry powdered cocoa. Silky smooth and rich, thick with milk chocolate flavor and just a touch of vanilla and hazelnut. The hops are nicely restrained. They’re like finding a black hole, we can’t really perceive them but know they’re there by the obvious balance. The finish is very dry. There’s a lot going on in this complex porter and it would make a wonderful dessert beer.

Here’s how the brewery describes the beer:

Our famous porter has won at the CAMRA winter festival twice, the only brewery to do so, first in 1998 and again in 2003, also winning the highest accolade Supreme Champion in 2003. Also Supreme Champion at the Chicago International Beer Festival in 2004, in the porter category. A complex, satisfying porter, smooth and distinctive. Roast malt and fruit feature in the palate. The finish is powerfully hoppy with a hint of liquorice.

But back to the story of the reddish purple color.

Before my son Porter was born, my wife and I came up with a list of five boys’ names and girls’ names that we both liked. We had to do both since we didn’t know whether we were having a boy or girl. As perhaps the most anal-retentive couple on the planet we went through months of perusing baby name books and compiling lists, which we would then compare and knock each other’s out until at long last we came up with ones we could each live with to name our child. The idea was that armed with a few names we both liked, we’d see which one best fit after he or she was born. At one point, I even tried to get Bullwinkle on the list, but that didn’t last long. Brewer also made the short list, and I still like the sound of it for a name. Porter, of course, was on the final list, but I honestly didn’t expect it to be the winner. But then my son was born. At our Lamaze classes and in my reading, somehow I missed the information that there’s a point in the birth where the baby isn’t getting any oxygen before it takes its first breath.

So I was quite alarmed when my new son was a dull purple when he first made his entry into the world. As the doctor carted him off for his initial testing, I didn’t even know if he was breathing and was very nearly panicking. My first thought naturally was “is he okay?” After being assured that this was normal and that he was just fine, I began to calm down and drink in the sight of my first born child: the wiggling fingers and toes, the bleating cries and gasps of first breaths, and odd purple discoloration on reddish pink skin. My second thought then was “wow, he’s the color of a nice robust porter.” Later, after we were moved into a room, I was recounting these thoughts to my wife. She just looked at me, smiling, and said “well … I guess we know what his name is.” And that’s how my blond-haired, blue-eyed boy became a Porter.

Porter at his 6th birthday party, in the midst of his own zoo.



  1. Ainz says

    What a great shot and great smile. I hope it was a great day for him and all who ventured to Novato. Sorry I couldn’t make it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>