Question: What kind of beer would a beer blog blog if a beer blog could blog beer?
Why porter? Unless you’re reading this from Argentina the weather has just reached t-shirt territory, the pubs have unfolded their patio umbrellas and sweaty people start thinking about ordering a cold weissbier with a slice of lemon. Maybe I haven’t gotten around enough, but Hoegaarten does not interest me that much and I’m still trying to erase that awful Coors product from my memory. A good porter, on the other hand, makes me a happy blogger indeed.
The hallmark of a porter is the deep black color that comes from roasting the barley malt, and/or using a dark-brown strain of barley (depending on where you’re brewing). The upside of toasted malt is a slightly-burnt flavor that lets a brewer can get away with quite a number of goofs without anything showing too much in the final product, making porters a popular first recipe for new homebrewers. See wikipedia for much more on the whys, whens and wherefores of the porter beer.
A few of the porters which have stood out in my memory:
Baltica Porter – I honestly have no idea whether the eastern Europeans at the Baltica brewing company spent years as a communist government monopoly, ‘disappearing’ the competition and reeducating masses who had the temerity to complain, but it sure tastes like it. In the linked article Wikipedia claims that many eastern European porters made an effort to match the intimidating strength of the Russian Imperial Stout. Super, great, make it so dark that astrophysicists have to guess whether it really exists at all, but you don’t do that by just dumping a bunch of sugar into the tank and hoping that toasted barley covers up the cloying sweetness. Ech.
Yuengling Porter – One of the best buys in beer, the Yuengling brewery doesn’t try to load you with expensive, complex barley/hops combos like Samuel Smith’s but instead presents a simple, workingman’s porter that goes with anything. Two kielbasas up.
Samuel Smith’s Tadcaster Porter – No offense to English brewing in general and to a very good porter in particular, but for that price I’ll buy a Chimay blue label. To be fair Smith’s Oatmeal Stout remains one of the definitive examples of the genre.
Weyerbacher Heresy – Now we’re talking real beer. Midnight-black, Weyerbacher makes a great first impression with a pleasant dark-brown head and an array of bold spices that assault your palate with the first sip. Unfortunately the head quickly dissipates to a thin rim and the aftertaste comes across surprisingly hollow, or at least too mild compared with the intense aromas up front. Still worth what I paid for it.
Great Lakes Brewing Co’s Edmund Fitzgerald – Homina. The guys at Great Lakes consistently put out quality brew that their hometown of Cleveland simply doesn’t deserve (Pittsburghers get Iron City, which we don’t deserve). Edmund Fitzgerald comes on strong thanks to the malted aroma and just keeps on going, its stout head leaves lacing and the not-overpowering strength allows you to consume all you want, unlike most stouts. Hints of chocolate, caramel and a hoppy finish come across in ways better described by the experts at Beer Advocate. This would definitely be in my fridge more often if Yuengling did not have a strong product of its own.