Just over one week to go before Christmas, and the shoppers in Manchester are in full swing, dashing round town, bags in hands, pensive thoughts on faces. A few spouses are holed up here at Port Street Beer House enjoying some peace and quiet, and some great beers. A lot of darkness in glasses, the cold weather is properly upon us. Dark nights, dark ales. Heavy beers to warm us slowly from our core outwards. And with that context in mind, I'm about to have my personal and loose definition of ‘beer' stretched a little bit.
Nestling at the bottom of one of the fridges behind the bar is a brown bottle with a black label and, with that label announcing "Kuhnhenn Brewing Company, 4th D Olde Ale, 13.5% ABV, aged for 9 months", quite possibly dark secrets. Sitting down at the table, I'm taken completely off track, although not unexpectedly. This old ale sits in the glass like liquid mahogany, barely a trace of head, and what head there was after pouring has quickly dissipated and become a tan ring round the glass. Before I even get the brew to my lips, my nose is hit by the heady raisin, rum and bourbon tones which are as sweet as they are boozy. This is very clearly a sipping beer – hardly any carbonation, and very heavy. So I ready myself for the first sip … and it's like a Cadbury's Caramel heavily diluted with bourbon and black cherry liqueur. Gosh. The mouthfeel is just the same, a syrupy malt lacing that fades delightfully turning from obvious sweet to muscovado.
This Old Ale, properly called "Fourth Dementia Olde Ale", is from the Kuhnhenn microbrewery, in Warren, Michigan, a town due north of Detroit. Looking at the beers on offer, this dark, strong malty and caramel ale fits right in, with Imperial Creme Brulee Java Stout, Bourbon Barrel Barley Wine, Sticke Alt and Hairy Cherry coming from the same stable. That stable was originally a family run hardware store, and when faced with the prospect of losing out to a larger hardware chain that had moved into the area, the Kuhnhenn family, specifically two brothers Bret and Eric, decided to turn their home brewing know-how into a brewery business and reinvent themselves. It wasn't as unusual a transition as you might expect: Eric had been bitten by the home brewing bug at college, and selling home brewing supplies had eventually become a significant part of their hardware business. Having made the transition to a full brewing business, Kuhnhenn's is now a highly industrious eight barrel microbrewery.
The folks at Port Street Beer House have a knack for sourcing beer from passionate brewers, and this is no exception. If you're passing by, or wanting an escape from the cold outside (or the heat and chaos inside the myriad shopping areas) come in and spend a half hour getting to know this old and dark ale. You won't regret it. And you'll leave with a warm glow from within, like so many Ready-Brek kids of yore, but with a smile on your face.
- Brewer: Kuhnhenn Brewing Company
- Brew: Fourth Dementia Ole Ale
- Style: Old Ale
- ABV: 13.5%