Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Part 1: Return of the day of the living dead, or “Okocim Porter’s finally back.”

Actually, it’s been back for a while. As is generally the case in such matters, it took a few months of mixed signals and dropped balls between importer, wholesaler and retailer, but finally we have received cases of a product that must be ranked among the finest Baltic Porters currently (again) available.

Verily, beers have been known to come back from the dead.

A. le Coq’s classic, long forgotten Imperial Extra Double Stout disappeared decades ago before being revived a few years back.

Samichlaus and Thomas Hardy’s were both unceremoniously euthanized by bean-counting corporate brewing assassins, but their rights eventually were sold to other independent regional breweries more in tune with the possibilities afforded by niche brewing, marketing and exporting.

Of course, legitimate questions remain. Can the “comeback beer” in question really be the same as before?

There are obvious differences between resuming production of a beer three or four years after its demise and attempting to faithfully resurrect something that was last brewed a century or more ago.

After all, the natural ingredients have changed in various ways through genetic modification, although one can point to the occasional stray example typified by Flag Porter, which is fermented with an archaic yeast strain that was unexpectedly preserved in a bottle of beer found in an 1800’s-era sunken ship.

The Austrian brewer Eggenburg’s success at replicating Samichlaus certainly has had much to do with obtaining the leviathan’s original yeast, which was developed by the lab at Hurlimann, a gorgeous and now sadly defunct brewery in Switzerland that developed Samichlaus precisely as a showcase for its slow-working, high-yielding wort fuel.

The Okocim Porter I drank a few nights back tasted the same as I remember it. It’s a lager, not an ale, and the character overall is clean, with numerous and delicious dark, enriching malt tones (toffee, chocolate) that combine with a firm 8.3% alcohol content to produce a silky, contemplative experience.

I wish Okocim Porter hadn’t gone away, but as with Samichlaus and Thomas Hardy’s, I’m content to have it back.

Tomorrow: Rebuffed at the source, circa 2002.

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