Monday, October 21, 2013

Pretty Things - Once Upon a Time - 1855 East India Porter

Pretty Things 1855 East India Porter

Brewery: Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project (MA)
Style: English Porter
ABV: 6%
Grade: A

God bless Pretty Things, and god bless Ron Pattison, a beer historian who has basically made a career pointing out how interesting and varied historic brewing traditions used to be. The two collaborated on this porter, attempting to recreate what the style was like circa 1855, back when it was as highly hopped as today's double IPAs and shipped across the ocean to the rum-guzzling troops in India. The result clocks in at 6% ABV and 93 IBU. According to the bottle, it was packaged in December of 2012, but seems to have just hit store shelves. Did they even age this for a historically-appropriate length of time before distribution? If so, that is awesome. And this beer is awesome.

The modern American pallet may register this initially as a black IPA, and that's probably fine, because the East India Porter was basically black IPA before anyone thought to call something a black IPA. Roasty, creamy, bitter, hoppy — whatever you call the mix, it's super tasty. The beer pours with a nice head, nice lacing, and opens up with typical portery aromas: rich malts pushing coffee and chocolate, spicy / earthy hops, a subtle suggestion of citrus, and a bit of bitter roast. The color is a dark brown mahogany — a shade below your average American porter — with some opacity at the edges.

Comparisons to modern styles aside, 1855 EIP drinks more like a porter than an American IPA, creamy and rich with those perfect roasty notes, but the hoppiness is unmistakable as well, bolstering the bitter qualities of the brown malt while adding welcome depth beneath the smooth, silky body. Coffee is quite dominant, and if you agree with me that bitter coffee malts and bitter earthy hops are a lovely pairing, then you will enjoy this as much as I did. With such balance and complexity, this isn't just good as an historical curio; this is simply fantastic as a beer, period.

Availability: Rotating limited release. 22 ounce bottle.


  1. I remember meeting them once upon a time and tasting their first batch of historic IPA before it was officially released. Certainly nothing like a modern IPA. It was more like ashy-meat-coffee drink. Super cool.
    Never tasted this one, but I think I know what you mean in your description. Wish more brewers would brew historic beers at least once in a while!

    1. Wow, that sounds really interesting. Hopefully they rebrew that too!

  2. Hi, I love historic beers, there are a few breweries here in Britain doing the same and I keep meaning to have a go but never seem to get around to it. I've made one historic IPA which was amazing, and I plan on doing another and aging half of it with some Brett C for 6 months before bottling.

    There are some great recipes and research in this book. All recipes are for 1 imperial gallon so some scaling/unit conversion would be necessary if you were to brew them on a homebrew scale. But I thoroughly recommend it if you're interested in this kind of thing.

    These are pretty interesting too.
    You can also get the durden park one through amazon



  3. I brewed the homebrew recipe from SUABP, which I assume is the same as this beer, given Ron's involvement. It's quite good-- if absurdly bitter--at 6 weeks. Unfortunately, I doubt I'll have the patience to wait out the batch for another 7 months.

    1. Yeah, I did some research back when I picked this up, and I believe it's probably the same recipe. I'd be curious to try brewing it too, at some point. Glad to hear it's tasting good!


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