This is a shift. I am going to include true six packs which are not necessarily pale ales when cause warrants. This one does.
It is the first Sleemans signature series brew, out for a limited time only and it is a porter. Interesting stuff but, first, look at the outside - they are blinding me with science. If packaging were up for a prize, this one wins. Beer porn. I could photograph it all day. Textured packaging, a sticker across the top and a flyer inside. Real corrigated cardboard. It made me get out the damask as a background and makes me feel like the photography studio needs an ungrade - or maybe a start.
The beer is in the style of Burton Bridge porter, highly hopped and only then malty brown. Not the other way around as modern porters would have it, like, say, Cooperstown Benchwarmer. That is good, legit. But it may make for issues with the expectant market. But who cares. This is a page from the recipe book, the Sleeman's artifact from its 1800s heritage that is a glimpse into south-western Ontario brewing as it was over a century ago.
The brewery gives its pitch at the website:
Taken right from page 68 of the family recipe book, it pays homage to the original Porters of Great Britain, and was brewed by George Sleeman back in the 1800’s.The book is a big thing with Sleeman. It was passed to the current owner two decades ago by an elderly relative who had held it since the demise of the brewery in the Great Depression fifty years before:
John Sleeman, great-great grandson of the first Sleeman Brewmaster, revived the family business, locating its new facility just a few miles from the site of the original Guelph brewery. Pure spring water from Guelph's celebrated deep wells again provided the first ingredient. Rare, small batch brewing vessels, similar in size to those once used by John H. himself, were imported from Europe. In 1988, Sleeman Cream Ale went on sale in Ontario for the first time in over half a century. Brewed according to the recipe found on page 64 of George Sleeman's personal notebook, and sold in distinctive clear glass bottles reminiscent of those used by earlier Sleeman brewers, the refreshing ale soon earned a loyal following among the growing circle of premium beer fans.So, one wonders what is on the other pages.
My tasting notes are not necessarily as loving as either the packaging or the story. This is a challenging style. It is not as big in terms of mouthfeels as I might like but we have to trust that the brewer is being faithful. It is somewhat sharp and decidedly hoppy. I wonder what hops were used in 1864 and how these modern hops were chosen to reflect that. I wonder if the attenuation would be as great in 1864 as 2004. Attenuation is the ability of a yeast to consume as much of the sugars as possible and determines both how dry the finish ends and how high the alcohol is. Current production would greatly change what was to what is. When a beer ends up at 5.0%, the Canadian standard, I do not think there is much chance it is honouring any tradition. This beer is at 5.5%. There is hope.
The beer advocatonians are on the case.