Black Creek Historic Brewery is a tiny, draft/growler brewery in Black Creek Village, a local attraction that demonstrates how pioneers lived in Ontario in the 19th century. The brewery contracts out some of its brands for bottling, and the porter is one. For some years, according to all the buzz, it’s been brewed and bottled by Trafalgar Brewery in Oakville, ON.
The current bottling is very good. The beer clearly uses some brown malt – I was at the brewery once in Black Creek Village and was given some to crunch in my mouth, I recall the taste – and this helps the authenticity. Brown malt was once 100% of the grist for porter, but starting in the early 1800s, pale and other malts were used to supplement the brown. Good porter can be made just with pale malt and a small amount of malt roasted black much like coffee is made. Using some brown malt though always boosts the authenticity of flavour in historical terms, all things equal.
This batch has the perfect balance of woody, lightly smoky taste from the brown malt, and yet good residual sweetness which porter should have IMO. There is good gathering bitterness in the background but of a neutral type – not aromatic and certainly not citric – as is appropriate for real porter.
The brew also contains a malt darker than brown malt, both for colour and probably some taste contribution. The website refers to “roasted malt” for the porter, which is barley malt kilned black. But the bottle label speaks of roasted barley. Roasted barley usually means raw, unmalted barley. It’s not clear which is in the current recipe, perhaps the brewery alternates one with the other, as some English breweries used to do. I’d bet on roasted malt for the current batch, as roasted raw barley often leaves an unpleasant burned vegetable taste in my experience, and I don’t get that taste in this beer. But the flavour is excellent either way so if blackened raw barley is indeed used, I’m good with it, in this case.
I am drinking mine with just the lightest chill, it’s basically room temperature in fact – all the flavour elements shine most in this form.
I used to think I could detect a Trafalgar house taste in the contract bottlings but I don’t get that in this one. Either the current bottling is not made at Trafalgar, or Trafalgar’s house profile has evolved, or there is some other explanation. Anyway, the porter is nigh on perfect as it is.
One would hope for a similar recipe but made richer and rather stronger: a double or even Imperial porter, that is. That would be outstanding.
Finally, please note I’ve not mentioned coffee, tequila, lemon, peppers, ginger, green herbs, Mars bar or other chocolate, or other exotica. Good porter doesn’t need it and rarely is improved by any of these things, IMO to be sure.