When I read the story behind Darwin's Original Flag Porter, I just had to try it. This porter is brewed to a 19th century recipe using yeast salvaged from a sailing barge that sank in the English Channel in 1825. The barge was carrying bottles and casks of porter and as the bottles were sealed with wax, many of them remained intact when they were brought to the surface in 1988. The yeast contained in the porter was cultured and brewed to produce Flag Porter.
It does make a stunning looking porter when poured into a glass. It's a very dark brown ale with a ruby tinge and a small, loose beige head. The head disperses quickly to leave a patchy foam that congregates around the side of the glass.
The smell is absolutely amazing: it is very malty with notes of liquorice and treacle. It's definitely what I would call a dark and delicious smell and it's right up my street. All of the aromas transfer to the flavour with the malt, liquorice and treacle combining along with a slightly spicy flavour to produce a light, refreshing ale with a dry finish. It's a very well balanced ale that just nudges over into the sweet category but doesn't feel over-sweet as the liquorice flavour develops.
I was torn between wanting to guzzle it all and savouring the small (330ml) quantity I had in my glass. I ended up savouring it and really felt the liquorice flavour developing with each sip, the only downside being it ended up feeling a bit flat and watery as it's very softly carbonated to begin with.
I wasn't surprised to see it stated on the label that Original Flag Porter is featured in the book 300 Beers to Try Before You Die and deservedly so; it's not just a lovely porter, it has such an unusual story behind it's conception. Original Flag Porter, Ale Be Seeing You again and I wholeheartedly recommend other beer lovers to try it.