Sunday, February 11, 2007

Post-Tut: Thos. Hooker Imperial Porter and Tough Steak

The family took in the King Tut exhibit at the Franklin Institute today. Well, wow. Even though I was somewhat disappointed -- the showpiece for the exhibit advertising, the famous gold and lapis sarcophagus, is not part of the exhibition -- the exhibit was still phenomenal and very educational. My daughter has always had an interest in the whole Egyptian history/mythology thing, and she loved it. Me, I was blown away by the idea of seeing real 3,200 year old stuff that looks like it could be on the shelves of a vintage jewelry store today. It's just tremendous how the things have held up, amazing. And the political history of the time, how Tut was restoring the traditional religion of Egypt after it had been torn out by its roots by his predecessor, Akhenaten, very interesting.


But, you know, to paraphrase Douglas Adams, Egyptian civilization was advanced for its day, but we're civilized enough that the enduring question becomes Where are we going for dinner. There were several possibilities out there by the Institute, but we needed easy parking: we were there with friends in two cars. We put them in the big lot at 23rd & Fairmount, by the London Grill, and happily strolled inside, looking forward to their justly famed burgers...but there was no room at the inn. No problem! We split up: the rest of the group walked up to Rembrandt's while I walked down to Bridgid's. I struck first: walked in the door to an almost empty dining room (and a happy Tom Kehoe (is there any other kind?) at the bar), hit redial, and homed 'em in on a table for seven at Philly's original Belgian cafe.


I shot the breeze with Kehoe till they got there (no inside dope, sorry, just two friends talking), and we got situated. I ordered a pint of Thomas Hooker Imperial Porter, my first, wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I won't keep you in suspense: woof! THIP is a great big glass full of beer, a very worthy claimant to the "imperial" porter style indeed. My only complaint was that it tended a bit towards the imperial stout style, but you know? That's nit-picking. Damned nice glass of beer, and at its size, it kept me through the whole meal.


Which was delicious. I got the smoked fish appetizer, cuz I'm a sucker for smoked feesh, and it was delish, with a ton of nice greens underneath, plentiful capers and grated horseradish, and three good chunks of smoked trout (might have been four, I think my son moved fast on me) and plenty of delectably-thin-sliced smoked salmon piled appetizingly on top. Follow that with Bridgid's signature "tough steak", a purely delicious piece of beef just bursting with flavor (my son ate it up, and he's not really a steak kind of guy) flanked with some great garlicky sauteed vegetables, a solid little mixed greens salad with plum tomato, and some unfortunately thawed steak fries (frites? Anyone here ever heard of frites?), and I was a reasonably happy guy. That tough steak's still a steal at $10, by the way.


A good evening, and a museum experience I can heartily recommend...especially with a good dinner afterwards (don't forget: Jack's Firehouse and Aspen are also in the neighborhood).

6 comments:

Stonch said...

What exactly is the historical basis for differentiating between a "stout" and a "porter"?

Lew Bryson said...

Oh, my goodness, that's a huge kettle of fish, Stonch. The pat answer is very simple: Porter pre-dates stout, and stout was 'created' when Arthur Guinness put roasted barley in his porter to escape malt taxes.

I strongly suspect things were not that simple and direct, but that's not really here nor there, because in the intervening years the line between stout and porter has become a very blurred divider indeed. The only thing I AM sure of is that people who offer sharp, clear differences between stout and porter don't know enough about the topic. I view stout and porter as part of a continuum of dark ales, without sharp dividers.

Dr. Michael Lewis (an American brewing academic) rather contentiously said that, judging from the array of commercial beers, stout apparently is any dark beer the brewer chooses to label as "stout." That's a bit facetious, but there's a HUGE nugget of truth at the core.

That's going to have to do for now, as this is definitely something I can and plan to sell writing on, and it behooves me to shut up so I can continue to make a living!

Stonch said...

Thanks Lew - I look forward to hopefully reading an article by you on this subject. Your brief response is more informative than any other explanation I have seen, that's for sure. My previous understanding was that "stout" was just an adjective (meaning "strong") Arthur Guinness applied to his porter (producing the full name "Extra Stout Porter"), and that over the years the porter was dropped and the term "stout" began to be seen as a style, where in fact it's just an alternative name for porter.

Lew Bryson said...

"My previous understanding was that "stout" was just an adjective (meaning "strong") Arthur Guinness applied to his porter (producing the full name "Extra Stout Porter"), and that over the years the porter was dropped and the term "stout" began to be seen as a style, where in fact it's just an alternative name for porter."

Well, hang on. You're right on porter being dropped over the years, but dry stout, the beer Arthur Guinness created (or caused to be created, more accurately) is definitely a different beer from any porter I've ever had. Porter does not have the burnt bitter bite of a good dry stout. There is a difference...the problem lies in that the difference is more pronounced in some beers than in others.

The whole continuum issue is more a result of the wide variety of beers called "stout," ranging from dry stout through "foreign export" stout, oatmeal stout, milk stout, chocolate stout (anyone else feel like a cookie?), oyster stout, imperial stout, Russian imperial stout, and even imperial oatmeal stout...brewers have found stout a fun style to experiment with.

But stout and porter are not simply alternative names for the same beer, and I didn't mean to imply that. There is some overlap, but that's more down to brewers being sloppy, ill-informed, or just plain uncaring. It gets even more complicated when you find out that some porters are brewed with lager yeasts -- legitimately, in my considered opinion -- and even some stouts -- not so legitimately, in my humble opinion. Much of this goes on 'under the radar' of the typical beer drinker, and even the typical beer enthusiast, but of such stuff is the more interesting bits of my job made.

Stonch said...

Thanks again Lew - write that article soon. I want someone to clear this whole thing up once and for all!

Loren said...

"My only complaint was that it tended a bit towards the imperial stout style, but you know?"

Because of the chocolate wheat used, probably. Tends to add more roast than smooth chocolate sometimes. Plus this years Impy Porter is less hoppy and it shows, like you said. It used to be a Tettnang driven hop bomb malt monster. Very Porter-ish. But now it's mellower and Stout-ier. But still a killer brew like you said.

Glad you enjoyed!
Cheers!