Sometimes you just have to go for it. Those bottles you've been hoarding will be forgotten about or, worse, opened and emptied by somebody else should you drop dead of an afternoon, and it is this dark but opportunistic thought that occasionally drives me to pop the cap or cork on a beer I had hitherto been saving.
On this occasion, the beer is Odell's Fernet Aged Porter, a 9.4%-er aged in barrels from the Leopold Bros. run of fernet, and surely a prime example of the sort of beer you should be committing to 750mls of on one of those dark, damp early Irish summer days. Expect weirdness, I thought to myself, and weirdness is more or less what I got.
A surprisingly dry and mildly roasty porter is the bones of the beer, unsurprisingly backed with a tingle of mint and a lick of liqorice. It's all very pleasant going on first impressions. There's plenty of herbal leafy greens throughout too, and I'm left reflecting that Odell were probably wise to only include 50% barrelified porter in this bottle, with the other 50% made up of the unadulterated base porter. This is not only because of the intensity of the herbs and spices - which, it must be said, is quite well restrained and enjoyable - but because of the sharp, tart blackberry turn the thing makes right at the finish. At first this is jolting; an unpleasant and rude interruption to the cool calmness of the rest of the beer. But, once it sinks in - and you sink into the bottle - this becomes more complimentary to the taste and indeed refreshes the palate after every sip. On later tastings the bitter, tangy and lightly sweet dark chocolate analogies just write themselves, as do the references to black pepper, stalky raw mint leaf and dry, old pinot noir. For all the weirdness, it's a wonderfully interesting and drinkable beer, and keeps Odell's name very much in my good books.
A good idea would be to replace it in the cupboard to see how the tart, tannic barrel effect develops in time for a rainy day a few years down the road...