Another malt-heavy brew from Scotland, Harviestoun Brewery’s Old Engine Oil: Engineer’s Reserve is the subject of this week’s review. An offshoot of Harviestoun’s 6.0% ABV Old Engine Oil, Engineer’s Reserve boasts a ramped-up ABV of 9.0% in response to feedback from U.S. consumers. Stylistically, Engineer’s Reserve falls under the category of porter, though its higher gravity, greater bitterness (40 IBUs), and stronger ABV are atypical. Since stouts were historically a stronger version of porters―though nowadays the distinction is widely contested―Engineer’s Reserve might easily be classified as a stout. Furthermore, given its use of oats (which contribute to a fuller, silkier body), one might wonder whether it doesn’t belong with the oatmeal stouts. But suffice it to say, it fails to fall neatly under any of these categories. I mention all this merely to point out that although it has been dubbed a porter, it is by no means a typical example of the style.
Broadly speaking, Engineer’s Reserve is an English ale which uses three varieties of hop: Fuggles (spicy, woody), East Kent Goldings (flowery, spicy), and Galena. (Incidentally, the latter is an American variety commonly used for bittering.) Porters in general have a roasted malt character with moderate to no hop aroma or flavor. Other aromas and flavors that may be imparted by the malt include chocolate, nuts, caramel, and toffee. Even before tasting, the basis of the beer’s name is apparent. As it runs down the side of the glass, the liquid appears to have an almost oily texture. The body is opaque and virtually black, while the head has a deep mocha hue. Its rich aroma is reminiscent of brown sugar, cocoa, dark roast coffee, and rye bread.
There is lots of roasted malt in the flavor (more burnt coffee than chocolate), but it stops short of being dry and astringent. Prune, molasses, and burnt bread crust also come to mind. There is some alcohol, though not that much considering the 9% ABV. The hops add a bitter, grassy, spicy dimension. The texture, as expected, is velvety and viscous―right up there with imperial stouts like Old Rasputin―with only minimal carbonation, making it remarkably smooth.Entirely deserving of its name, this full-bodied beer is thick, rich, and intense. The aroma is appetizingly sweet and malty; and the flavor, though considerably boozy and bitter, is complex and delicious. This one is for the malt-lovers out there.
Today’s beer was purchased at Tanakaya in Mejiro, just a couple minutes’ walk from Mejiro station in Tokyo.
―The Mad Capper