2/13/19: North Pier Brewing Co.'s Old Shuck

3:38 PM

It's February. It's meant to be cold and dark, with some snow, or sleet, or fog to make it drearier. Sure Valentine's Day is tomorrow, but I've always taken that to be a bright point in an otherwise dreadful month.

And, yeah. We've experienced cold, dark, foggy, snowy, and sleety days here in the last week. We've also hit unseasonably warm weather (60°) and cloudless, sunny days. In fact, today was one such of those cloudless, sunny days. But, I think I have a cure. I think I've found just the beer to knock this month back into its place: North Pier's Old Shuck. So, join me as I pull the curtains closed and put on some creepy music. Hopefully, all this is befitting this porter.

Hailing from Benton Harbor, MI, North Pier Brewing Co. is helmed by Jay Fettig and Steve Distasio. Their "Brewery" page states that North Pier wants to be a third place in your life--if home is one and work is two, the brewery wants to be that go-between place. They're also dedicated to crafting European beer styles--specifically Belgian-inspired ales.

Old Shuck (found on North Pier's "Beer" page), while not Belgian-inspired, is a variation of a beer from across the pond. It's a London porter--made with English hops--that holds a steady 5% ABV. It's been on my radar since last June, when my dad texted me a picture of a can and a brief description/review of its contents. I've only recently been able to track some down for myself. This ale has coffee and earthy notes and was named after Old Shuck, the ghostly black dog that prowled England in the 16th century (also known as Black Shuck, this spectral death-bringing hound was presumably the inspiration for a classic Sherlock Holmes story and the basis of my favorite Harry Potter animagus).

You know what? I get that coffee earthiness from my can. It smacks on the nose. It's deep and somewhat mossy, like what you'd find if you stumbled into an old-growth forest in the middle of the night. It's also, somehow, managed to capture that decaying leaves aroma that accompanies a brisk fall day. The bouquet definitely fits a porter bearing Shuck's name. I love it and, against all odds, so does Purrl. She gave my can thirteen whiffs and seemed almost reluctant to stop.

The roasted malt hits heavy in the porter's flavor. It's coffee upfront, yes, but not like what you'd find in some porters. It's a subdued flavor. There's a pull of savoriness here, as well, that settles in with the earthiness of the hops right after the coffee washes away. This London porter is a very strong tribute to the style. There's a slight maltiness kicking around in the can, lending some mild caramel to its overall flavor, but that really only serves to improve the beer.

To go along with that maltiness, Old Shuck has just a mild carbonation, akin to what you'd find in a good lager. It's an immensely drinkable beer and, with an ABV like what it boasts, I'm absolutely okay with that.

You might blame this on the creepy mood I've successfully set for myself. Or, you might blame it on the beer, its flavors, and its namesake. I'm currently reliving a time where I had to traverse a woods alone, far removed from civilization, in the dark. Have you ever done this? It's an experience that might just be worth doing once, if only to say you have.

There's something unnerving about it. Something spooky. It's like that primal feeling you get when you turn out the lights in a room before you leave it. Like something's watching you (and, in the woods at night, a lot of things are probably watching you). Any unfortunate thing can happen in a dark wood. Granted, the odds of being attacked by an animal are incredibly slim, but maybe you could take a bad fall after tripping over a tree root and twist your ankle. Maybe you choose to experience this sensation in a supposedly haunted woods, which may only add to the creep factor. Regardless, it's a feeling your not like to experience anywhere else.

I have to say, I'm blown away by Old Shuck. It's my first North Pier brew and I'm looking forward to trying more. I'm giving my can a 9.0/10. I don't know if it's a year-round release and I don't know what its distribution is like, so you really ought to try it if you get the opportunity. Buy a four-pack, go back home, put on some creepy music, turn out the lights, and let your mind wander.

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