Larkin’s Porter is definitely one of my all time favourite winter beers. I say “winter” because this rich, luscious 5.2% dark beer only makes its appearance during the period from November to February. I would go so far as to say that the beer is one of the few things I actually look forward to during winter, and the sight of a Larkin’s Porter pump-clip on the bar turns an average pub into a definite destination one for me.
I called into the Greyhound at Charcott this lunchtime (Friday); something which is becoming a habit, but as I desire to support this threatened pub as much as I can, it can only be a good one! Larkin’s Traditional and Green Hop Best were the two beers on, but the third pump had its clip turned round. Without any prompting on my part, the landlord announced that Larkin’s Porter was the beer which would be available on this pump, and he was mindful of putting it on sale that evening.
Disappointed that I would have to wait another week in order to sample this excellent beer, I expressed my surprise that the Porter was available so early in the season. I was referring to the fact that for the last 30 years or so, Larkin’s brewer and owner - Bob Dockerty, has always waited until Bonfire Night before releasing the beer. “Ah,” said the landlord, “You obviously haven’t heard about the Portergate scandal.” Slightly amused, I confessed I hadn’t, but it appears that a well-known local pub, which I won’t name - but it has won several CAMRA awards (both local and regional), broke with tradition by placing the beer on sale a fortnight early.
This left several other regular Porter outlets slightly miffed; so much so that they too decided to break Bob’s unwritten rule by putting the beer on sale as well. This was why the landlord at the Greyhound, which is currently leased by Larkin’s, was also planning to join them.
You could, of course, argue that placing a seasonal beer on sale a couple of weeks early doesn’t really matter; and in the general scheme of things it certainly doesn’t, but embargoing Larkin’s Porter until after November 5th, was something of a tradition locally, and it seems a shame to have broken it. With the exceptionally mild weather at present, it also seems a little absurd, as today I sat outside the pub, without a coat and with my shirtsleeves rolled up, soaking up the glorious warmth of the late October sun and my pint of Larkin’s Green Hop Best in equal measure.
There will be time enough when a warming pint of Larkin’s Porter will be just what’s needed, after a chilly walk up from work to the pub or, on a cold and frosty night, huddled in front of the fire this beer will taste all the better and will certainly be much more appreciated. There are reasons for these traditions, you know, as even if they only date back 30 years, you know full well they are mimicking the perfectly sound practices of our forefathers.