Nottingham Road Brewery puzzles me, to be honest. Once a year, they set up their stall at Splashy Fen Music Festival just outside Underberg and I drink their porter and pilsner with glee while treading through muddy trenches in an attempt to see some folk band whose instruments consist entirely of cutlery. They bring alcoholic ginger ale and I’ll sit on their plastic chairs and have three of them while some guy does a Tom Waits impersonation on the main stage to five hundred stoned middle-aged couples.
For at least five days every year, either out of desperation or the joy of the moment, Nottingham Road Brewery becomes my favourite brewery in the world. But whenever I try to enjoy their beers at home, it’s a travesty. The bottled Pickled Pig Porter, a beer I usually drink with great vigour at Splashy, is a case in point.
Perhaps its the lack of drizzle, wood smoke and drug addicts surrounding me, but this just doesn’t seem to be the same beer. It pours with a thin head and a thin brown body that smells and tastes thin too. There is evidence of a deep roasted malt, but it’s watery. It’s somewhat sweet and somewhat bitter, but the leathery and coffee notes from the draught I’m used to just aren’t present here.
What it boils down to is that the bottled Pickled Pig Porter is OK, but certainly nothing special. The large plastic bottles are very good value for money, much in the same as Mitchell’s bottles are, but they don’t keep well at all. Although they should keep for about eight weeks, you might find they’re undrinkable after a month. Maybe it’s because some plastics can’t be or haven’t been UV-proofed, meaning light can easily destroy the beer inside, or perhaps because the seals aren’t great, impinging on the integrity of the beer.
Which is so incredibly sad, because a part of me does love Nottingham Road’s beers. I’ve drank them longer than any after craft beer: at seventeen, walking in the rain with a plastic bag over my head, sipping the Pye Eyed Possum Pilsner; at nineteen, glugging down Whistling Weasel Pale Ale in the blistering autumn sun; and at twenty sharing a few of their 3% ginger beers with my buddy Kyle until closing time.
But until Nottingham Road bottles their alliteratively-named beers effectively, I’ll save drinking them for over the Easter Weekend in the misty Midlands. That’s probably not such a bad thing - beer is sometimes all about place, after all - but it means a lot of people won’t find out how good this brewery can be.
Nottingham Road Pickled Pig Porter, 1.5l bottle, 5.5.% a.b.v.
Pros: Good value for money; not bad if it’s fresh.
Cons: Inefficient packaging; inconsistent product; not the retail beer it should be.