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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