Porter reviews

Discussion in 'Beer Forum' started by AVB, Mar 31, 2012.

  1. AVB

    AVB Jesus of cool, I'm bad, I'm nationwide

    Nov 14, 2003
    Near York, PA.
    If you don't get the Times, here is a reprint of a story they just did.

    Ale to Usher in Baseball Season


    I’VE been a baseball fanatic most of my life. When I was a child I knew the starting lineup of every team in both leagues. Statistics slipped through my lips as easily as lies would through a politician’s.
    Those were simpler times, of course. While opening day still excites me, nowadays sabermetric terms beyond my ken like WHIP and Pecota have supplanted the simpler E.R.A. and R.B.I. as meaningful discussion points. Rather than debase myself arguing with teenage stat wizards, I’ve shifted my concern to other important baseball-related issues, like beer.
    The relationship between beer and baseball still recalls those easy days before personal computers and steroids, when players spent entire careers with one team and you could actually afford to take your family to the ballpark and sit in the good seats. The only smudge in this rosy vision of yore is the beer itself.
    Back then, the beer served at ballparks was awful, because American beer in general was awful. The Yankees were sponsored by Ballantine and the Mets by Rheingold, but you wouldn’t actually want to drink either of those bygone beers. Then came the craft beer revolution. Today, world-class beers abound. You can buy them at your corner deli. But at the ballpark?
    In New York, the situation has been dire. The selection has never been good at Yankee Stadium, where you were lucky to find a Guinness Stout among the mass-market brands sold at absurd prices. It was scarcely better at Citi Field, where the big breweries buried an initial effort to sell local craft beers.
    That grim outlook is easily remedied at home, in front of the television set. No, it’s not ideal. Nothing beats baseball live. But the beer is so much better, and cheaper. So, I’ve happily considered the alternatives. A snappy, bracingly bitter pilsner seems perfect for a day game. I’d be overjoyed as well with a Kölsch, the extraordinarily pleasant German ale from Cologne, or a zesty American pale ale. Each of these styles is refreshing, with plenty of character but mild enough to permit several servings over the long nine-inning haul.
    Yet most games are played at night, which puts me in mind of dark beers. As I was daydreaming about the coming season I found myself craving porter, the classic British dark ale, which had largely died out in Britain until North American craft brewers revived the style.
    What could be better than porter and a night game? I love the roasted grain flavors, the mild, chug-worthy weight and reddish-black color of a good English porter, like those from Samuel Smith’s, Fuller’s and St. Peter’s. The beer world has a term for brews like that: sessionable, meaning they are generally low enough in alcohol, 4 to 6 percent, not to overpower you during a drinking session.
    American versions are more varied, as inconsistent stylistically as a rookie pitcher. They range from close facsimiles of the English style to interpretations that anyone would be hard-pressed to identify as porter.
    Still, it’s an American game, so the beer panel decided to focus on American porters, 20 in all, at a recent tasting. Florence Fabricant and I were joined by Kirk Kelewae, the dining room manager at Eleven Madison Park, who oversees the restaurant’s beer list, and Hayley Jensen, the beer sommelier at Taproom No. 307 in Kips Bay.
    Our tasting coordinator, Bernie Kirsch, was careful to seek out American porters that at least adhered to the spirit of the English style while avoiding American versions of Baltic and Imperial porters, powerful brews that, centuries ago, were strengthened to withstand shipping to the Baltic states and Russia. Because creative American brewers have latched onto that style, Bernie said it would have been easier to find 20 Baltic-style porters than the milder porters he assembled.
    Nonetheless, one of the 20 beers was a little bit higher in alcohol, at 7.5 percent, than the others. And this, Speakeasy Payback Porter from San Francisco, turned out to be our favorite. It was the most complex, with roasted, smoky, spicy, grainy flavors. Yet it offered another order of power than the others; a delicious beer, though I would think twice before choosing it as my ballgame brew.
    For that I would turn to our No. 2 beer, the Otter Creek Stovepipe Porter, which offered classic, perfectly balanced flavors of malt, coffee and chocolate at a mild 4.4 percent. It was as fresh and lively as if it had just been pulled from a brand-new keg.
    Many of our favorites offered savory, roasted malt flavors, which Kirk called grain-driven and Hayley referred to as umami notes. American porters generally diverge from the classic formula by using American, rather than English, hops. Depending on a brewer’s choice, the American hops can add herbal nuances or can completely dominate.
    For me, hop dominance was a deficit, blurring the distinction between porter and, regardless of the color differences, pale ales. Several beers didn’t make our top 10 because they were too hoppy. Others, like the Firestone Walker’s Reserve and the Southern Tier Porter, we ranked at 8 and 9 respectively, despite their hop dominance, because they were nonetheless so pleasing.
    Still, we preferred beers where the hoppiness was less pronounced, like the Rogue Mocha Porter, with its dark roasted flavors and refreshing bitterness, and the Sierra Nevada Porter, in which the subtle use of West Coast hops emphasized the classic porter flavors. We also very much liked the earthy, smoky Steelhead Scotch Porter from Mad River, and the smooth, straightforward Silk Porter from Hoppin’ Frog.
    Sadly, one of my favorite American porters, Black Butte from Deschutes Brewery in Oregon, is available only in selected parts of the country, not including the New York region. That’s too bad, because the Black Butte combination of roasted malt and delicate hop bitterness strikes me as a benchmark American porter. Guess I’ll have to save it for away games.

    Tasting Report
    Speakeasy Payback Porter, $8.75, *** ½
    San Francisco, 22 ounces
    Lovely, savory flavors of roasted grain, smoke, spices and chocolate, but powerful at 7.5 percent alcohol.

    Otter Creek Stovepipe Porter, $3, *** ½
    Middlebury, Vt., 12 ounces
    Fresh, lively and mild with smoky flavors of soy, coffee, chocolate and malt.

    Rogue Mocha Porter, $3.50, ***
    Newport, Ore., 12 ounces
    Refreshing with meaty, dark roasted flavors and a pleasing bitterness.

    Sierra Nevada Porter, $2.25, ***
    Chico, Calif., 12 ounces
    Classic rich flavors of roasted grains, coffee and chocolate.

    Mad River Steelhead Scotch Porter, $2.80, ***
    Blue Lake, Calif., 12 ounces
    Earthy, grainy flavors with a mild hint of chocolate.

    Hoppin' Frog Silk Porter, $12.50, ** ½
    Akron, Ohio, 22 ounces
    Straightforward, with smoky aromas and flavors of espresso and soy.

    Founders Porter, $2.95, **
    Grand Rapids, Mich., 12 ounces
    Deep, smoky flavors of dark coffee and chocolate.

    Firestone Walker's Reserve, $8, **
    Paso Robles, Calif., 22 ounces
    Pleasing, though aromas and flavors of American hops stand out.

    Southern Tier Porter, $2, **
    Lakewood, N.Y., 12 ounces
    Rich coffee flavors, but American hop aromas dominate.

    Eel River Porter, $7, **
    Fortuna, Calif., 22 ounces
    Balanced, with strong chocolate flavor and a touch of sweetness.
  2. rx2man

    rx2man Banned

    Jan 7, 2012
    Glad I saw this thread. I typically drink a pils, either Kona or if I fill the keg Gordon Biesch Golden Export. But the beers always seem over powered by the sticks. I was thinking its time to get some porters. I also dont want something dominated by the hops. Having lived in Seattle where almost everything is over hopped I understand the comparisons they were making in the article. Will be on the look out for the favs as I want something ballanced. Seems like a cream/milk stout or oatmeal stout would also go good vs. a dry Irish style stout. Bevmo is to far for tonight after work, hopefully the local grocery has a couple decent porters to pick from as I cant remember what they carry.
  3. The Black Cloud

    The Black Cloud Well-Known Member

    Aug 2, 2006
    Los Angeles, CA
    Good stuff
  4. rx2man

    rx2man Banned

    Jan 7, 2012
    Got lucky last night.......no not that way she got mad at me at the store. But I did have 2 choices, Black Butte and Anchor. Went with the BB as I drank a lot of this in the late 90's. Was a good choice. Unfortunatly my Kristoff Britania was a little on the wet side otherwise would have been perfect. 10 hrs in the dry box was not enough.

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