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Thursday, August 10, 2017

New England Style IPAs


All great super heroes have an origin story: Superman came from Krypton, Bruce Wayne's parents are brutally murdered in front of him, Spider-Man is bitten by a radioactive spider (well, technically, Peter Parker is, but you get the idea). In much the same way, the India Pale Ale (IPA) style of beer (the superman of beers in my humble opinion) also has an origin story which, by now, any self-respecting beer geek is familiar with: basically the style was developed in England (not India) as a beer that would survive the long boat trip to India from Britain without getting skunked, so that the British officers stationed there could enjoy good beer. The regular soldiers could have the skunky beer - after all, rank has its privileges, and the privileged don't have to have the rank (beer, that is). The beer was a bit higher in alcohol and considerably hoppier, both of which helped to preserve the beer. 

Fast-forward to modern times and the Great Craft Beer Revolution which began in the US. As brewers experimented with various beer styles, IPAs came back into vogue to become one of the more popular styles of craft beer. Craft brewers are nothing if not experimenters and they have continued to tweak and play with IPAs. As a result, we have not only the venerable West Coast IPA, but such variations as Black IPAs, Red IPAs, White IPAs, Belgian IPAs, Pineapple IPAs, Blood Orange IPAs, Double IPAs, Imperial IPAs as well as IPLs (India Pale Lagers). A growing style of IPA is the one we look at this month: New England IPAs (or Northeast IPA). 

So what is the difference between a West Coast IPA (sort of the American classic IPA, if you will) and a New England IPA? Both are hop-forward beers, after all. The truth is there is not really a clear distinction, but in general the New England IPA is usually unfiltered, utilizes hops that are more floral and citrusy and has a mild malt profile while the West Coast version has a bit more malt and relies on hops with piney and resinous notes. Often New England IPAs are a somewhat less bitter than their West Coast cousin. in fact many iterations have very low IBUs.

Having said that, the distinctions are becoming more and more blurred. Sometimes it's merely a geographical thing. The classic New England style was popularized by Heady Topper, a legendary Vermont beer so prized that stores often have to limit the number of 4-packs a customer can purchase. We have reviewed Heady Topper  in the past (you can read it here)so we did not review it this month. But we did find a number of great beers claiming to be New England Style. Our humble opinions follow. 


THE BEER FACTS: STYLE: New England Style IPA; BREWER: Eastwood Brewing Company, Syracuse, NY; ABV: 5.0%

COLOR: Very unfiltered apricot, almost orange

POUR: Somewhat decent head, not overpowering

AROMA: Big citrus aroma

BODY: Medium bodied

TASTE: Kind of sweet citrus up front with hoppy bitterness to follow. Big tropical fruit taste with hints of mango and papaya.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: Near "Can't Get Enough!"

COMMENTS: "Tropical fruit - tastes like a dollop of honey in there; Sweet on the front; Real nice summer lawn mower beer; Like the best pale ale you've ever had; Nice hops presence; Doesn't give up the bitterness, although sweet up front; Tastes better than it looks; I'm guessing this is a high fiber beer, high pulp; Really has a wonderful taste, real summery vibe to it; With that orange color, this should be the official beer of the Syracuse Orange."


THE BEER FACTS: STYLE: Northeast Style IPA; BREWER: Night Shift Brewing, Everett, MA; ABV: 6.0%; HOPS: Aztecca only

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "One Hop This Time is a series of IPAs using a single hop each time."

COLOR: Wheat, lemongrass

POUR: Decent, long-lasting head

AROMA: Not a strong aroma but some pine and tropical fruit

BODY: Medium

TASTE: Smooth, piney, dank


COMMENTS: "Light tasting; Would go well with pizza; Would go well with another one; Good summer beer; Boat beer; Kind of reminds me of a shandy"


THE BEER FACTS: STYLE: New England Style IPA; BREWER: Naked Dove Brewing, Canandagua, NY; ABV: 6.2%; MALT: Oats; HOPS: Pekko and Azacca.

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "This is our first attempt at a New England Style IPA. Brewed with oats and Pekko and Azacca hops."

COLOR: Clover honey -  not really unfiltered though

POUR: Near Guinness class head with lots of lacing

AROMA: Bread, grassy, piney, bit of grapefruit

BODY: Medium

TASTE: Grapefruit, grassy, herbal, with a backend bitterness


COMMENTS: "Really nice taste; Long lasting taste - really lingers; Perfectly carbonated; Delicious; Finishes clean and dry; Kind of a West Coast taste without the bitterness; Bright; It's not as cloudy or unfiltered as the classic New England IPAs; I'm a fan, it's got a really different taste here kind of hard to put my finger on, but I like it."


THE BEER FACTS: STYLE: New England IPA; BREWER: Madison Brewing Company, Bennington, VT; ABV: 6.5%; IBUs: 70.0; MALT: Pale, Flaked Wheat, Flaked Barley, Oats; HOPS: Mosaic, Citra, dry hopped with Mosaic and Citra Lupulin Pellets."

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "DownTown IPA is a true Vermont IPA with a juicy hop saturation and little to no bitterness."

COLOR: Clover honey, butterscotch, hazy

POUR:  Decent Head

AROMA: Hoppy citrus aroma

BODY: Bit more than Medium

TASTE: Citrus, Grapefruit, juicy with just a little bitterness


COMMENTS: "Juicy IPA; Absolutely delicious; Perfect date beer; Could drink and drink; If we could get this locally I would have this in my fridge all the time; Nice juicy IPA."


THE BEER FACTS: STYLE: New England Style IPA; BREWER: Middle Ages Brewing Company, Syracuse, NY; ABV; 7.0%; MALT: Oats and Malted Wheat.

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "This version of our New England IPA features a grain bill of over 20% oats and 15% malted wheat. The hops are primarily a blend of new age fruity hops with a relatively small amount of dank and piney hops (over 3 LBS per bbl of dry hops alone). Fermented with a proprietary mixed culture of brewers yeast sourced from a brewery famous for their hazy IPA's. Nothing has been done to stabilize or clarify this beer in any way, it is very volitile. Please drink as soon as possible."

COLOR: Grapefruit juice, very hazy

POUR: Decent head

AROMA: Piney

BODY: Medium

TASTE: Citrus, lemon bit of alcohol taste


COMMENTS: "Complex; Damn - that Middle Ages makes some good beers; Very drinkable - not over-the-top, but soooo good; Definitely has that juicy taste you expect from a New England with a bit of the alcohol taste underneath; Nice beer; Middle Ages is able to stay true to their brand while expanding into varying styles, their British roots pair well with this American IPA."


THE BEER FACTS: STYLE: New England IPA; BREWER: Middle Ages Brewing, Syracuse, NY; ABV: 7%; HOPS: Azacca, El Dorado, Mosaic, Colombus.

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "This iteration of New England IPA is dry hopped with Azacca, El Dorado, Mosaic and a touch of Colombus. Fermented with an English Ale yeast that has become one of the most popular for this style."

COLOR: Grapefruit juice

POUR: Decent Head

AROMA: Minty/sweet/piney

BODY: Medium

TASTE: Pine, tropical fruit, hint of clove


COMMENTS: "Even better than Single Batch 10 - a little better mouthfeel or something; New England IPAs are more complex than others, more difficult to brew; Tropics on the tongue; Nice full-flavored beer; Wonder if this will make it into bottles in some form or another the way Late Knight did eventually."


THE BEER FACTS: STYLE: New England Style IPA; BREWER: Full Boar Brewing, North Syracuse, NY, ABV: 7.2%

COLOR: Golden and filtered

POUR: Decent Head

AROMA: A little bready, yeast

BODY: Medium

TASTE: Sweet up front, toffee/caramel, not as fruity as the others

OVERALL IMPRESSION: Very near "Can't Get Enough!"

COMMENTS: "Certainly not the juice bomb you expect from a New England; Dangerously tasty though;  Frickin' good; No bitterness throughout; Nice bit of hoppiness at the end; Kind of a Pilsner taste; Lingering after-taste; Very pleasant."


THE BEER FACTS: STYLE: New England Style IPA; BREWER: Lord Hobo Brewing Company;
ABV: 8%

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Beer for the discerning drinker that appreciates quality and recognizes value."

COLOR: Cloudy orange-ish

POUR: Decent Head

AROMA: Pine, citrus

BODY: Medium

TASTE: Follows the nose: pine, citrus, grapefruit, hint of lemon and a subtle maltiness


COMMENTS: "I really like this beer; Big hop taste, nice pine and citrus flavors in there; Pretty easy-drinking for an 8%er; Little bit of malt gives it a bit more complexity than some of the others; Yeah, it's fairly balanced; Terrific beer, I've been keeping it as one of my regulars."


When we travel, my wife and I make a point of researching breweries and brew pubs near to our destination. At the very least we'll narrow down restaurants we wish to frequent based on their selection of craft beers. This despite the fact that my wife has no interest in craft beer. What a trooper! On a recent trip to Michigan, in the beautiful village of Brighton, I stumbled upon a place called Brewery Becker.

I wandered in one afternoon to check out their brews. As you can see by the beer menu at the right, this might not appear to be a hop-head's dream brewery. With styles such as Kolsch, Dusseldorier Altbier, Pilsner, Dunkelweizen, and Hefeweizen, it was easy to see that the brewery specialized in German-style lagers - not that there's anything wrong with that. Those just aren't the kinds of beers I'm most drawn to. Trust me, I am aware that there is a world of difference between an American mega-brew lager and a true German lager, it's just that my tastes run to hoppy ales. However there were a few names on that menu that intrigued me. Top of the list was a beer called Vargdricka. The brewery description of the beer says it is "A Scandinavian Farmhouse Ale. Based on the daily drink of the Vikings. A gruit ale, it is bittered with Juniper and Bog Myrtle. A Brewery Becker favorite." If you are wondering what a "gruit" ale is, it is basically any ale that does not use hops, but relies on other herbs for flavor and bittering.

Curious, I stopped in at Brewery Becker and ordered a Vargdricka. Right off I was impressed with the place by the generous pour.The beer was a kind of cloudy copper color. It is lightly carbonated with a pleasant aroma, though not one I could quickly identify so I assume it is the Juniper. The taste is initially sweet but rounds off into an interesting spiciness. It is absolutely a unique tasting beer, without being so far out there that it doesn't taste like beer. It really is quite a pleasant and very drinkable beer.
I asked if they had any IPAs and learned that normally they have one on tap but they were out. The interesting thing I learned about Brewery Becker is that they are dedicated to brewing beers based on traditional recipes - like the Vargdricka. Because the Vikings did not have hops they substituted various herbs to flavor their beers. I was then given a few (generous) samples of some of their other unique brews. Entire Butt, for example, is a beer from the Colonial era that is the precursor of Porters and Stouts. It was not uncommon in England for drinkers to combine beers. A typical combination might consist of  ale, which at the time was somewhat sweet, heavy and brewed with little or no hops, beer, which was much hoppier and therefore much more bitter, and Twopenny, a stronger ale. Thus the somewhat intriguing name Entire Butt, meaning the whole barrel. Brewed before the development of black malt, the beer is a dark brown and contains the nice coffee/malty characteristics you expect from a Porter or Stout. It is brewed strictly according to recipes of the time, using only ingredients available then. And it is delicious.
So, if you happen to be in the Brighton neighborhood, stop in at Brewery Becker. If you're a beer nerd like me, you'll find a fun and tasty experience.

Next month: Seasonal Ales

The BOTB Guys

Thursday, June 8, 2017



What exactly is an Amber Ale besides a beer that is, well, amber in color? An Amber Ale is a form of Pale Ale. Think of a Pale Ale as a sort of broad category of beer. If it gets hopped up considerably, it becomes an IPA. If, on the other hand, it leans more toward the malty side of the beer spectrum you might have an Amber Ale, or possibly a Red Ale (a sort of blushing cousin of Amber). Amber Ales and Red Ales tend to be malt forward with varying degrees of hops settling into the background. But, like so many beer styles since the Craft Beer Revolution, strict adherence to a particular style profile is often tossed aside in favor of creating something that might set one's Amber apart from everyone else's. One of the things we (the BOTB Guys as opposed to the Royal We) discovered early on in our Craft Beer journey was the frustration with reviewing certain beer styles such as Octoberfests because they all were so similar it became pretty repetitious ("Yup, tastes just like the last three we tried.") 
 All this is to say: we dove into some interesting and diverse Amber Ales. Our humble opinions follow. I suggest you give them a try yourself and see how your opinion compares to ours. After all, when it comes to taste, the only thing that matters is how it tastes to you.


THE BEER FACTS: BREWER: 14th Star Brewing Company, St. Albans, VT; STYLE: Amber Ale; ABV:  5.4%

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "14th Star Brewing Co. is a veteran-owned craft brewery in St. Albans, VT with a mission to brew high quality craft beer while enriching our community."

COLOR: Unfiltered amber

POUR: Slight head with some lacing

AROMA: Mild, bit of bread

BODY: Light

TASTE: Balanced, malty, bread


COMMENTS: "Not much of a nose - sort of malty; Neutral, easy drinking beer; Not objectionable; Nice refreshing feel; Solid bitterness at the end; Refreshing beer; A solid beer; A bit fruity up front; Tastes like what I think an amber should taste like; Not real hoppy."


THE BEER FACTS: BREWER: Caldera Brewing Company; STYLE: Amber Ale; ABV: 5.6%; IBUs: 24; MALTS: Premium two Row, Crystal; HOPS: Centennial, Cascade; AWARDS: Gold Medal Amber Ales - 2016 World Beer Cup.

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Caldera's Ashland Amber is a crisp refreshing amber, balancing premium imported malted barley and Cascade whole flower hops. Simplicity is the key to this recipe."

COLOR: Deep copper

POUR: Decent head

AROMA: Yeasty, bready

BODY: Medium

TASTE: Balanced - malty, nutty bready with some hoppiness

OVERALL IMPRESSION: Just shy of Can't Get Enough

COMMENTS: "That's got a lot of flavor; Could drink this along the Oregon Trail; This is a good beer; The picture of the hops on the can is a bit misleading, to me it tastes like thin flavored water; Oh man, I like this beer; Full-flavored; I really like the brewery so I expected more; Sort of the star of the day for me;"


THE BEER FACTS: BREWER: Full Sail Brewery, Hood River, Oregon; ABV: 6%; IBUs: 31; MALTS: 2-Row Pale, Crystal, Chocolate malt; HOPS: Mt. Hood, Cascade.

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Anyone remember the grocery store cooler back before it turned into a kaleidoscopic fantasy world of beer options? You pretty much had two choices: Regular or Light. In 1989, when we brewed our first batch of Full Sail Amber ... two things became immediately apparent. It wasn't Regular and it sure as heck wasn't Light. Our amber is a sweet, malty, medium-bodied ale with a spicy, floral hop finish.

COLOR: Copper

POUR: Decent Pour

AROMA: Caramel

BODY: Medium

TASTE: Malty with strong flavors of bread, nut, toffee and caramel

OVERALL IMPRESSION: Between "I Could Drink This" and "Can't Get Enough!"

COMMENTS: "British!; It's got that kind of Pilsner taste; Really nice; I like this; You could sit down and have several; Very smooth; It's definitely got that British vibe; Evening-on-the-deck beer; Good boat beer; Fruity nose, lacks hops; Kind of typical amber."


THE BEER FACTS: BREWER: New Belgium Brewing Co., Fort Collins, CO; ABV: 5.2%; IBUs: 22; MALTS: Pale, C-80, Munich, Victory; HOPS: Willamette, Goldings, Nugget.

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Fat Tire's unique flavor profile originates from the late 1930's, when local Belgian breweries aimed to satisfy the tastes of visiting British soldiers. English floral hops, subtle malt sweetness and spicy, fruity notes from Belgian yeast made for a balanced yet magical combination."

POUR: Decent head

AROMA: Malt, hint of clove

BODY: Medium

TASTE: Balanced with malt and clove, bit of banana


COMMENTS: "It's not bad, Kind of British thing on this one too; Some caramel; Definitely can taste the Belgian yeast, very distinctive flavor - I like it much better when paired with a big hop presence; I'm a fan of most New Belgium beers, but this one isn't my favorite even though it's their most popular; It's okay, but not my first choice."


THE BEER FACTS: BREWER: Empire Brewing Co., Syracuse, NY; ABV: 5.6%

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "East Coast Amber is clean and refined, with just the right balance of English Malt and American Hops. It's not too sweet and not too bitter, just like our beloved East Coast brewers."

COLOR: Amber

POUR: Decent Head

AROMA: Malt, bread, yeast

BODY: Between light and Medium

TASTE: Somewhat sweet, malty with clove


COMMENTS: "Kind of light; Not a lot of flavor; Some malt, hint of cloves, not much of a hops presence."


THE BEER FACTS: BREWER: Switchback Brewing Co., Burlington, VT; STYLE: Amber Ale; ABV: 5.0%; IBUs: 28

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Switchback Ale was developed as a flavor concept, not adhering to any style guidelines. Using only traditional ingredients, Switchback Ale is an unfiltered, reddish-amber ale which is particularly well-balanced, allowing for complexity of flavor coupled with an unusually smooth and refreshing character."

COLOR: Unfiltered honey wheat

POUR: Better than Decent head

AROMA: Bready

BODY: Medium

TASTE: Balanced with malt, bread, nut and clove, some toffee sweetness


COMMENTS: "British yeast; Nice backend bitterness; If i go out to dinner in Burlington, I always start out with one of these; Really good beer; Kickback to the old Genesee bottles; Not terribly hoppy, but really tasty beer; I like a lot; Could drink several; I also like the retro, squatty bottle."


THE BEER FACTS: BREWER: Modern Times Beer, San Diego, CA; STYLE: Hoppy, Dank Amber; ABV: 6.8%; IBUs: 85; MALTS: Two-Row, Munich, Midnight Wheat; HOPS: Nelson, Simcoe, Mosaic

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "This beer is the stickiest of the icky. It's a luxuriously hoppy amber loaded up with intemperate quantities of Nelson, Mosaic, and Simcoe hops, which are some of the fruitiest, dankest hops sweet, sweet money can buy. Despite its amver hue, Blazing World is pleasingly dry, sproting a lightly bready malt backbone that serves as platform for the huge and complex hop profile."

COLOR: Amber

POUR: Decent head

AROMA: Big grapefruit aroma

BODY: Medium

TASTE: Grapefruit, pine, with solid malty base


COMMENTS: "Best nose of the day; Awesome; That's like an IPA; Right next door to an IPA; I am impressed; Nice pine finish; Delicious; Fantastic; Nicely hopped without having the 'edge' of an IPA; Sooo drinkable; Nice and hoppy without sacrificing the basic Amber-ness."

While we are admittedly fans of hoppy beers, we found these Ambers to be pretty enjoyable, easy-to-drink beers. After sipping these amber waves of fermented grain, our collective opinion of how they fared is below:

1. Blazing World from Modern Times Beer - Admittedly, they had us at "It's a luxuriously hoppy amber loaded up with intemperate quantities of Nelson, Mosaic, and Simcoe hops." It was by far the hoppiest of the beers and therefore appealed to our bias toward those lovely flowers.

2. Ashland Amber from Caldera - By no means unanimous, one of us rated it toward the bottom, but it garnered enough 1's and 2's to land it in second place. It's a balance brew with a nice nutty, bready taste.

3. Full Sail Amber Ale - The first American brewer to bottle an Amber, Full Sail is one of the early craft beer driving forces. Full Sail Amber is solidly a British inspired Amber - very good.

4. Switchback Ale - A very tasty, wonderfully drinkable beer. The equivalent of a really nice table wine in that it goes well with a meal.

5. Valor from 14th Star Brewery - We felt this was pretty much exactly what one should expect from an Amber - malt forward with a hint of hops. Nice beer.

6. Fat Tire from New Belgium - An Amber with a strong Belgian vibe - hints of clove and banana. Wouldn't be any of our first choice, but drinkable. We all have other New Belgium's we much prefer.

7. Empire Amber - We felt this suffered from being a bit light, without anything to really make it stand out. 

Next Month: New England Style IPAs (AKA: Northeast Style)


The BOTB Guys

Saturday, April 29, 2017

A Pack of Porters


Been seeing a lot on this trend lately and for me it's a bit of a head-scratcher. As I'm sure you know if you've followed us at all, we (that's both the royal 'we' and the inclusive 'we' meaning all of the BOTB Guys) are big fans of IPAs. While we certainly enjoy and appreciate other beer styles as well (note this month's foray into Porters and next month's Ambers) IPAs and hoppy Pale Ales are our go-to beers. After a lifetime of boring mega-brew American lagers the introduction of Pale Ales and then IPAs was like Dorothy stepping out of her black and white world into one of technicolor. The taste-buds sang with joy. The intense citrus, pine and floral flavors imparted by the hops were just glorious, but wonderful bitterness that accompanied these flavors just amped up the intensity. For us, the bitterness is part and parcel of what makes an IPA a great beer. Now a number of brewers are experimenting with IPAs that have the hop flavors without the bitterness. To me it's almost like saying: "We're going to make a Sour beer only we're going to make it so that it's not, you know, sour." I like my IPAs with solid IBUs. Without the bitter bite is it really an IPA? Not having had the opportunity to have tried a zero IBU IPA, I reserve judgement. But I remain skeptical. 


Night gathers, and now my watch begins.
It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children.
I shall wear no crowns and win no glory.
I shall live and die at my post.
I am the sword in the darkness
I am the watcher on the walls.
I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guard the realms of men.
I pledge my life and honor to the Night's Watch, for this night and for all nights to come.

Thus is the pledge recited by those who "take the black" in Game of Thrones. To join the Night's Watch and become one of the Watchers on the Wall means a life bereft of carnal pleasures. But at least they have beer. We at BOTB won't forego earthly pleasures (we're not dead yet!) but we will delve into darkness this month as we check out some tasty Porters from traditional to New World interpretations. 


THE BEER FACTS: BREWER: Greenport Harbor Brewing Company, Greenport, NY;  STYLE: Porter; ABV: 4.7%;

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "A black ale that puts the flavor of the malt front and center. It has a mild hop character that balances strong notes of cocoa and hints of coffee. A full bodied roasty treat that finished dry."

COLOR: Walnut

POUR: Decent porter head, a dark ecru color, long lasting with good lacing.

AROMA: Coffee with cream

BODY: Fairly full-bodied

TASTE: Coffee with hints of chocolate - kind of mocha flavor

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: Between "I Could Drink This!" and "Can't Get Enough!"

COMMENTS: "Very tasty; Smooth; Not as creamy as some; Really? I thought it was quite creamy; A little more carbonated than many; Could drink more than a couple of these; Really nice, smooth Porter."


THE BEER FACTS: BREWER: Breckenridge Brewery, Littleton, Colorado; STYLE: Vanilla Porter; ABVs: 5.4%; IBUs: 16

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Deep in the jungles of Papua New Guinea and Madagascar grows the perfect ingredient for an extraordinary Porter brewed in Colorado. Breckenridge Brewery's Vanilla Porter. An ale that has all the chocolate and roasted nut flavor of a classic Porter, with an enigmatic surprise thrown in for good measure."

COLOR: Mahogany

POUR: Decent Head

AROMA: Not a real strong aroma, hint of vanilla

BODY: Full

TASTE: Initially pretty sweet, with coffee/mocha notes to start followed by vanilla

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: Between "I Could Drink This!" and "Can't Get Enough!:

COMMENTS: "Coffee/mocha at the front - vanilla at the end; Creamy, somewhat thicker than the Black Duck; Not as carbonated, gives it a richer feel; Bitter in the back; Vanilla is not overpowering, which is a good thing. I've had a few vanilla porters that are just too much vanilla so it ends up with a kind of sicky-sweet taste. This is nicely subtle."


THE BEER FACTS: BREWER: Bell's Brewery, Comstock, MI; STYLE: Porter; ABV: 5.6%

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Our award winning Porter bridges the gap between malty brown ales and heavily roasted stouts. Notes of chocolate, coffee and roasted barleey are offset with just a slight hop bitterness. Enjoy any time of the year."

COLOR: Black - inky and opaque

POUR: Near "Guinness Class" head - thick head with an attitude

AROMA: Dark chocolate

BODY: Full

TASTE: Sweet dark chocolate, malty, borderline burnt roasted barley

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: Near "Can't Get Enough!"

COMMENTS: "Right at my limit for burnt taste; A bit carbonated; Chocolate cherry taste at the end, giving it a sweetness; Decent; Wouldn't expect less from Bell's."


THE BEER FACTS: BREWER: Alewerks Brewing Company; STYLE: Porter; ABV: 5.6%

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "This particular beer is known as Paycheck Porter. It's a Robust Porter, boldly American, and big in all the right places. We brew this beer for, and with, rough hands and hearty appetites. Look for notes of roasted coffee and toasted cocoa."

COLOR: Black Walnut

POUR: Decent Head

AROMA: Malty

BODY: Between Medium and Full

TASTE: Sweet malty with hints of cocoa, dark chocolate and bit of sweet cloves.


COMMENTS: "Tastes like a Sugar Daddy but with chocolate (maybe Black Cow?); Sweet on the front  - pleasant aftertaste; Too sweet for me; British vibe with the clove taste; I couldn't drink a lot of it; I could drink this, but I wouldn't actively seek it out."


THE BEER FACTS: BREWER: Maui Brewing Company, Kihei, Maui, HI; STYLE: Porter; ABV: 6.0%; IBUs: 30

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "A robust dark ale with hand-toasted coconut and hints of mocha."

COLOR: Opaque black

POUR: Between "Decent" and "Guinness Class" head

AROMA: Coconut

BODY: Near Full

TASTE: Sweet with strong hints of chocolate and coconut

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: Between "I Could Drink This" and "Can't Get Enough!"

COMMENTS:"Coconut taste is not overpowering, but it is there: Mounds Bar - coconut and chocolate; I'm not a big fan of coconut (or fruit) in my beer - I would leave this one on the shelf; Head dissipates all too quickly; I like the vanilla better, but I like this second best so far; Too light and watery; Not as creamy as I was hoping for; Not bad, though."


THE BEER FACTS: BREWER: Grindstone Farm Brewery, Pulaski, NY; STYLE: Porter; ABV: 7%

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "We liked the idea of taking a Porter and hopping it up a bit. It's a bit of a bitter take on the traditional Porter.

COLOR: Black walnut with a ruby glint

POUR: Decent Head

AROMA: Somewhat neutral, not a strong aroma

BODY: Near full

TASTE: Malty with hints of chocolate but with more hop presence. Less sweet than the others.

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: Near "Can't Get Enough!"

COMMENTS: "Smooth, creamy; Hoppy at the end; Unusually bitter for a Porter; I like it - a nice twist on Porters which can be a bit too sweet at times; Good beer, it's one where you could enjoy more than one because it's not so sweet."


THE BEER FACTS: BREWER: Yard's Brewing Company; STYLE: Porter; ABV: 7.0%; IBUs: 40; MALTS: Crystal and Chocolate malts; ADDITIONS: Molasses

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "LIQUID COURAGE. Detailed in a letter from the General to his officers during the war, Washington's recipe employed molasses to aid fermentation and give rich caramel notes to this robust, roasty ale. The recipe reflected his admiration for Philadelphia-style porters, especially those brewed by Robert Hare (whose original brewery stood just blocks from wherre ours is now). Our Tavern Porter, inspired by Washington's, is dark, smooth and complex with just a hint of dried fruit in the finish."

COLOR: Black

POUR: Decent Head

AROMA: Toast - biscuit

BODY: Full

TASTE: Hints of molasses, maybe licorice, dark fruits, roasted malts with a little chocolate

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: Close to "Can't Get Enough!:

COMMENTS: "Enough malt presence to support the alcohol; Nice beer; Very tasty; Nice - a little sweet, but not cloyingly so; The molasses gives it a kind of interesting depth; Easy drinking because it's not overly sweet; Nicely balanced beer, very enjoyable."


THE BEER FACTS: BREWER: Stillwater Artisnal Ales at Crazy Mountain Brewing Company, Denver, CO; ABV: 7%

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Old World Porter Fermented with Brett. Playing off the English bent of our Baltimore brothers Oliver Ales, this Old World Porter brings a little bit of the Stillwater funk to the party. Drink it and don't feed the vultures."

COLOR: Near black

POUR: A bit more than Decent

AROMA: Yeasty

BODY: Fairly full bodied

TASTE:Somewhat sour, bit of roastiness, malt dominates, yeast

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: Leave it on the shelf

COMMENTS: "It would take a real pirate to drink this; Cross between Dr. Pepper, Coca Cola and a Porter; Not a fan; Not one I'd go after; It has a taste almost like a sour; Got that barnyard funky, musty thing going I just don't care for; I think it's the Brett - I just can't seem to develop a taste for beers that rely on it; The 'yeast' of your problems."

Since all the beers were Porters this month we could in fact compare apples to apples. In fact we even put it to a vote, each of us rating the beers 1 - 8 with 1 being our favorite. Ergo, as in golf, low score wins. Here's the results:

THE WINNER: Yards Brewing George Washinton's Tavern Porter. We found this beer to be a perfectly balance Porter - not too sweet but with all you would expect from a good Porter. (16 pts)

2. Grindstone Brewing's General Pulaski's Porter. A very close second, we liked this for many of the same reasons - a nice hop presence making it not too sweet and a pleasing maltiness as well. Very rich and creamy Porter. (17 pts)

3. Breckenridge Vanilla Porter. A very tasty Porter with just the right amount of vanilla to give it a little different twist. Smooth mocha followed by vanilla. (21 pts)

4. Bell's Robust Porter. Delicious dark chocolate notes with hint of cherry and roasted malt. (23 pts) 

5. Greenport Harbor's Black Duck Porter. Tasty, smooth and creamy though a bit more carbonated than many Porters. Low ABV makes it a good sessionable Porter. (24 pts)

6. Maui Brewing Coconut Hiwa Porter. No consensus on this one. Coconut was not overpowering, but those who didn't like that taste in beer didn't care for it while others found it an interesting change-up (30 pts)

7. Alewerks Paycheck Porter. While no one actively disliked this beer, most felt it was a bit too sweet - okay for an occasional sipper, but not one we'd seek out. (37 pts)

8. Stillwater's Tuppence Porter. This was the only one with consensus. We all gave it an 8. No one particularly cared for the Brett yeast. Still love ya' Stillwater - just not this beer.

Next month: Ambers
The BOTB Guys