Blackstone: St. Charles Porter (USA: Porter: 5.5% ABV)

Visual: Dark red brown. Medium yellowed toffee brown tight bubbled froth. Quite clean body.

Nose: Light roasted coffee beans and bitter chocolate.

Body: Large bitter chocolate and roasted hazelnuts. Hickory smoke. Slightly milky. Light hop character roughness. Slight toffee sweetness.

Finish: Milky chocolate. Dry and dusty initially rising into bitter coffee. Some dry roasted peanuts. Some black cherry in the background. Light vanilla toffee and a barbecue glaze are all elements that show up at times.

Conclusion: I do like a good porter, and hadn’t yet had one on the trip, so getting one this full of character was a boon. Initially it just let’s loose with the bitter chocolate and coffee over a smooth body. Impressive enough, but not out of the expected. Late body it brings in some toffee sweetness in a way that I would normally expect from barrel ageing, but this beer manages it without any of that being necessary.  What is unexpected is late in the finish where you get an almost barbecued meat affect, tangy and fresh over the bitter chocolate. You may not expect that to work well, but it is so lightly done that it just adds that bit to the character.

These extra touches really mark it out as something special, making it a meaty and sweet beer without needing actual bacon, or barrel ageing or anything but just good brewing. It is very easy to see how this beer won so many awards. Understated and yet with multi faceted sweetness it is balanced just right.

The usual stumbling blocks of many a bad porter is a too gassy nature, here that flaw is avoided entirely with a mostly smooth texture and just slightly roasted rough at times delivery that is perfect for flavour delivery. I take my hat off to this well crafted beer.

Background:  Drunk during the road trip of awesome, this one was one I was really looking forwards to as it is one of Michael Jackson’s recommended 500 beers. Until very recently it was only available on tap, and the recently bottling was very unlikely to reach England so I made sure to grab glass while I was nearby.  The bartender was friendly and I enjoyed some nice seafood while I was there. I also got to talk with another beer writer who was drinking next to me, which made for a nice day.