My friends, the future of beer is here, and it is the growler. At least that’s the case here in Georgia, where draft beer has certainly taken off in availability and is spawning a renaissance of small brewers. Draft beer selection here is nothing new, thanks to the Taco Mac chain of restaurants, each with over 100 taps. Now, though, growler shops are popping up everywhere in the state, and you can take out a growler of your favorite fresh draft beer to enjoy at home.
Of course, growlers are nothing new, and the tradition of bringing home a pail of fresh draft beer (referred to as a growler in their day) dates back to the 19th century. Today, we have more effective bottles that protect the beer and keep in the carbonation. Growler sizes are changing, though. Here in Georgia, growler shops can sell 64-ounce and 32-ounce bottles to go. The city of Canton allows 16-ounce plastic growlers to be sold and carried about downtown for consumption during special events, and I for one think that is simply amazing.
It’s the natural progression of the growler I think, and I expect one day to-go pints will be legalized to bring home as well. Imagine walking into your local growler shop and picking up several pints of fresh draft beers, all different, to enjoy when you get home. My local growler shop is Stout’s Growlers, partly because it’s local, partly because they bring in some great beers, but mostly because it’s run by some really great people.
Just the other day I walked into Stout’s for a fill, and was happy to find a delightful real ale from the Reformation Brewery of nearby Woodstock: Reformation Cask Vanilla Porter. This is a variation on the brewery’s year-round offering Stark Porter, with vanilla taking the place of toasted coconut. The cask conditioning is a real plus, and I was excited to see the keg lying on its side with a peg in the bung and tap in the front. I knew I was in for a treat, and I was not disappointed.
True cask ales undergo a secondary fermentation in the vessel. Along with bottle-conditioned beers, they make up what the English call “real ale”. Often times, the first pint drawn from a still-living cask of ale will not taste quite the same as the last as the beer continues to mature. Back in the 90s, I lived a few scant miles from the gone-but-not-forgotten Emerald Isle Brew Works, specialists in cask ales. They were, sadly, before their time but their wonderful cask ales such as Bank Street Ale and Emerald Isle Porter still live on in my mind’s palate.
But let’s come back from memory lane to the Reformation Cask Vanilla Porter. This is a very rare brew that Reformation offered up for First Friday in Canton, and I was glad to try it. The beer has an alcohol content of 5.5% by volume, or at least that’s the normal amount for Stark Porter.
Reformation Cask Vanilla Porter pours to a jet black color with an almost non-existent head (cask ales will be lower in carbonation of course) and a soft chocolate, vanilla and pear nose. Taking a sip, the beer has a medium body, wonderful light chocolate, and hints of pear fruit, subtle vanilla, and a delicious balancing roastiness with a subtle hint of hops in the finish. I found this to be a truly delicious cask ale, with the vanilla playing off perfectly against the natural roasty chocolate of a porter. I hope to see more cask ales from Reformation.
I thought the beer could use just a bit more carbonation (but only a bit friends). It was otherwise truly delightful. Smooth and easy drinking like a cask ale should be, a beer to enjoy over an evening with good conversation. Don’t miss it if you get the chance to try it.
And remember, try a new beer today, and drink outside the box.
*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.
Cask Reformation-photo courtesy of Stout's Growlers.
32-ounce growler and a 16-ounce growler.
Reformation Cask Vanilla Porter