Woodstock Inn Brewery Pig’s Ear
Dark. So dark. Almost black, but most definitely brown. I can tell because, along the outside of the glass, light shines through with a faint brown color. But the center, the middle, the body of this thing is just so dark. This has got to be some kind of cock-up. Some kind of mistake. Some kind of… pig’s ear.
The Urban Dictionary defines a pig’s ear as just that. A mistake, or “right mistake,” or “faux pas,” made while at work or driving or in the midst of some other activity. However accurate this definition or suggested meaning may be, what the folks over at Woodstock Inn Brewery have come up with in this dark, dark brown ale, would not suggest a mistake upon a sip and consideration. While in terms of color, and even flavor profile, this brown ale does rather tip-toe towards the realm of a porter, it remains light and crisp enough to where you would not likely mistake it for such upon a taste.
With a somewhat nutty, slightly malty sweetness, the Pig’s Ear presents a rich, dry mouthfeel with only the slightest inkling of an aftertaste resin. Low in alcohol, registering at 4.3%, the Pig’s Ear is an easy sipper with a subtle hop profile and a fine, lasting carbonation. Altogether smooth, it causes a curious wonder as to the nature of the name.
Was this an error of some kind? Did they perhaps over-roast their grains to get this dark color in pursuit of a lighter brown ale, or maybe they were under-roasting whilst attempting to brew a stout? Did someone just draw a cartoon pig and decide to give it a catchy name…
I just don’t know. In either case however, this, unlike some other copper ales or even some browns, presents a very subdued bitterness, as well as subdued sweetness, with much of what you might expect of a darker ale, all but missing. Instead a curiously balanced, almost too well-balanced brew glides effortlessly across the palate, enticing it in its various capacities between hop and malt and sweetness, without ever presenting a serious boldness that might serve to singularly define it.
Not unpleasant to be certain, and also by no means flat or simple, this brew lacks definition in a way that most others strive for. It is almost too easy to drink. There is a maltiness to it, which is pleasant but lacking. There is a bitterness to it, but one which is subtle and underwhelming. The sweetness therein is present, but as understated and in terms of mouthfeel and aftertaste as it is, it comes across as gentle. All in all, its too gentle.
Though highly drinkable and still leaps beyond the standard watery lagers of the domestic and import varieties, most often found in large cardboard suitcases with often poorly thought-out slogans and ad campaigns, the Pig’s Ear remains somewhat ordinary in its taste and impression. Seeming to stop short of its own potential, it is a victim of overzealous subtlety and balance.
This is a beer which while good, falls short of great. Not bad, not unpleasant, but sadly not particularly stunning in respect to what it seems as though it could be. So perhaps, in respect to our established yet undoubtedly incorrect definition for Pig’s Ear, the mistake, or faux pas, or cock-up here is simply the steps beyond the simple, easy to drink ale were never taken.
Nicholas Goroff is a beer lover, writer, actor, ex-political professional and devoted anti-ideologue. Follow him on Twitter @wizardofcause.
Read more beer reviews from Goroff by clicking through the gallery below.