A few weeks ago, A Good Beer Blog asked whether brewing historic beer styles was becoming a new trend, and pointed to Pretty Things KK as one example. The beer, a recreation of a dark-yet-hoppy ale originally brewed in London in 1901, was a collaboration with Ron Pattinson. Pattinson’s blog, Shut Up About Barclay Perkins, has long been essential reading for those interested in beer history – using primary sources from brewery archives, he’s managed to dispel quite a few myths about brewing in the past and has exploded less-than-evidence-based theories about beer styles. Obviously, as an ex-archivist, I have a lot of time for this sort of work – more breweries should hire archivists (and pay them reasonably well) – but I digress.
As a longtime reader of Pattinson’s blog and a fan of some of his previous historic recreations, brewed in partnership with Brouwerij de Molen (especially the 1914 London Porter), I was pleased to have the opportunity to try this beer. I admit to no small level of Pretty Things fandom going in (their St. Botolph’s Town was one of my favorite new beers when it launched), so my expectations were very high for this beer – and I was not disappointed.
The physical description is simple – it’s essentially black, with quite a fluffy off-white head, and the hops and malt aromas swirl together. The taste is harder to pin down – it’s much simpler to sum it up as ‘tasty goodness,’ as some of its complexities are a bit difficult to detail. It’s roasty and malty, but almost chocolately as well; my co-conspirator suggested that it tasted not unlike Theo Chocolate’s Bread and Chocolate bar, and this was a very apt comparison (minus the hops, of course) – it had dark chocolate notes with earthy undertones. But then, of course, there were the hops; in a marked difference from most black IPAs (or Cascadian Dark Ales, or whatever you’d like to call them), they were much grassier and lacked the citrusy punch that American hops tend to impart. I did wonder, however, whether the English hop varieties employed (Bramling Cross and Kent Goldings, if you’re keeping score) have changed much over the past century – it’s entirely possible that the flavors have shifted somewhat over time as growing conditions have altered.
It might be said that KK has a bit in common with Tröegs Dead Reckoning Porter (in that both have a darker base style with a lot of hops added in), but they head in different flavor directions – and KK is considerably stronger, though it’s rather deceptive in that regard and eminently drinkable. Given the success of this beer, I am now very keen to track down the other Pretty Things/Ron Pattinson collaboration – an 1832 Mild that would readily confound those who adhere to the modern definition of the style.
On the whole, the endeavor can be summed up thusly: beer + primary sources FTW!