Probing the world of the supermarket-exclusive beer with a curiously sheepish porter from Asda.
Perhaps missing a trick, but presumably avoiding controversy, by not featuring Whitechapel’s favourite son Saucy Jack on the label (and not referencing itself as ‘a ripper of a beer’), Whitechapel Porter instead comes with a fashionably ‘traditionalist’ label – the sort that immediately tips you off that there is no sense of actual tradition involved. In fact, this is that most modern and potentially soulless of things, the Supermarket Own Brand beer – in this case part of Asda’s Extra Special Range, brewed by Shepherd Neame and selected by Leiths School of Food and Wine – though what sort of qualifications that organisation has to approve of a beer remains a mystery. Given that it seems to retail for the same price as most other ales in Asda, I’m not entirely sure what makes this either extra special or extra bargainous, but there you go.
On pouring, it seems to be a solid black – though holding it to the light reveals the colour to be more of a dark brown – and it develops a decent head that lingers for a few minutes. It seems a little thin when poured, and on first taste, this seems confirmed as it slops around the mouth in a watery fashion rather than providing the substantial mouthful that you would hope for from a porter. The taste is not unpleasant, having a definite coffee and chocolate buzz to it, but the flavour is not exactly overwhelming. My reaction was more of a shrug of acceptability than a gasp of revelation. As this is a 5.2% beer, you might expect a little more kick.
However, after the initial sense of feeling underwhelmed, I have to admit that the beer is a grower. It definitely seems to develop a distinctive, if not spectacular flavour, and the promised spices are certainly evident, giving it an extra kick, and making it a suitable beer for enjoying on a Christmas Eve (as I have done).
All in all then, a beer that doesn’t exactly overwhelm, but certainly satisfies. There’s a fair chance that there will be something some exciting on offer alongside this, but if you are looking for a reliable porter, then you probably won’t be too disappointed in this.
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