Monday, 8 April 2013
Beers Of London Series
7. Howling Hops - Smoked Porter 5.2%
Hackney has become a bit of a centre for beeriness recently. Alongside such aspiring newcomers as Crate, London Fields, Signature Brew, and Hackney Brewery, Howling Hops, based at The Cock Tavern on Mare Street is about as slap-bang central as you can get, situated as it is just around the corner from Hackney Central station. I used to work in Hackney back in the early 1990s and the Cock Tavern was just across the road from my office, in fact it was the only pub I could see from my desk. It was a dark and dingy place thick with cigarette smoke and with the seemingly permanent feature of pubs of that time (and some Wetherspoons now), four blokes and a dog mumbling into their pints of Guiness (obviously just the blokes were mumbling, the dog was often asleep). It basically wasn't very inviting and as there were many more hospitable watering holes nearby, it wasn't a regular haunt. It's different now. Stripped back and basic inside, it's the beer that's the star here whatever your favoured method of dispense, cask, keg or bottle, and the welcome is very friendly indeed with the staff, and brewer Ed Taylor, are always willing to swap stories and talk you through the beers on offer. This is unsurprising when you consider that it's big sister is the renowned Southampton Arms in Highgate. The range and style of house beers is impressive and well worth trying and I seem to find myself drawn there whenever I'm in London at the moment, it's just a nice relaxed place to drink and chat. The bottle of smoked porter that I'm reviewing was given to me just as I was leaving recently. There was no mention of me reviewing it, just a simple "there you go" as I was getting ready to leave. I really appreciated that. I felt like it was a 'thanks for dropping by' thing. Here's the review.
The beer throws a big beige head into the glass upon pouring. There's a smoky chocolate aroma with a slight rusty iron tang to it. The colour, when it all settles down, is a deep rich milk chocolate brown with a ruby red edge. It scrapes the roof of the mouth and across the tongue as you drink it, there's a bite of bitter liquid chocolate, a drop of espresso coffee and burnt toast, crisp smoked bacon rasher and the kind of woodiness than you inhale when standing too close to old oak panels. The finish has a hint of salty Frazzle crisps and a little cocoa powder. This isn't a beer for everyone especially as smoked beers, or more accurately beers using smoked malts, are an acquired taste but certainly one thats well worth persevering with.
If you're ever if the neighbourhood or want to head somewhere a little off the beaten track then I'd recommend a visit to Howling Hops at the Cock Tavern, but be prepared, your 'swift half' could last long into the evening.