Tag Archive: Porter


Northen Monk: Northen Star – Mocha Porter (England: Porter: 5.9% ABV)

Visual: Black. Moderate dark brown head.

Nose: Big bitter coffee. Charring. Smoke. Brown bread. Very bitter.

Body: Creamy. Slightly thin until it warms. Milky chocolate. Sweet milky coffee. Condensed cream. Soft treacle. More bitter coffee over time.

Finish: Condensed cream. Sugar dusting. Milky coffee. Milky chocolate. Slight treacle. Chocolate liqueur. Lactose. Bitter coffee and cocoa. Coffee liqueur.

Conclusion: Ok, I had to recalibrate my exceptions for this a few times while doing these notes – so, let’s look back at what we have and see how it all hangs together in the end.

First up – the aroma – bitter coffee as fuck. So, I thought I had a handle on this already. Let’s face it – it didn’t try to hide it – we have a super coffee dominated bitter porter on our hands. Job done. Notes over, right?

So, I took a sip. Then I took a few more as it too a few sips to build up – the first was a tad thin but it quickly gained a bit more weight and hit its stride as … well a condensed cream and milky chocolate sweet centre. WTF? So, nothing like what I expected. This actually initially comes in too sweet with sugar dusting style dusted over it. It was ok, but seemed a bit unbalanced in the completely opposite way to the aroma. So, erm, ok, and this then followed on into the finish. So, the aroma was the odd point, now we have it all worked out, right?

The thing is, after drinking a bit more, and letting it warm, the bitter coffee came straight back in – riding above over the sweetness. Not removing it, but squatting bitter coffee and cocoa into the heart of the beer. I’m now 90% sure this beer is just fucking with me.

So, here I am, at the end of the beer – what do I think? Well, it is a tad over sweet – almost milk stout style – but generally it is a good one. A slight more subtle use of the sweetness would have made it a great contrast to the very bitter cofee and would have been a better beer. As is the coffee is very well expressed, and so – yeah – kind of the uber coffee take on a milk stout. Interesting – not a favourite but interesting. As always, depending on how much that ideas sounds good to you will depend on how much you will like it. You mileage may vary and all that.

Background: This is the last of the beers my mate got me from Honest Brew‘s as a present. Many thanks again. I may have not been quite 100% in the zone as I went to drink this. I say that as I took out my bottle opener to try and get into the can. Anyway… Drunk while listening to Nine Inch Nails – The Fragile – good background drinking music, and not one I’ve gone to for a while.

shepherd-neame-sainsburys-taste-the-difference-london-porter
Shepherd Neame: Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference: London Porter (England: Porter: 5% ABV)

Visual: Black. Creamy inch of mounded brown froth.

Nose: Grated chocolate. Brown bread. Milky coffee.

Body: Bitter chocolate. Lightly earthy. Milky chocolate. Slight chalky texture. Bitter coffee.

Finish: Bitter cocoa. Earthy bitterness. Turmeric. Slightly chalky. Coffee cake. Light vanilla. Peppery.

Conclusion: We have been discussing (well, more correctly I have been monologuing about) earthy bitters recently. While doing so it is easy to overlook that, with the mass of easily available earthy hops in the UK, the earthy beer take has turned up in quite a range of styles over here.

This is a moderately earthy porter, though not dominated by that fact. The standard bitter chocolate and coffee notes you would expect of a porter are also there. However it is a lot more grounded than a lot of porters, with an earthy and peppery finish giving it a very savoury lead out. Also it gives it a bit more of a robust texture, rather than the smooth porter style it has a slight chalky texture and a rougher, but not unpleasant feel.

Over time the earthiness does become more present though – not a bad thing for the most part to my mind, but your mileage may vary. This has a lot of notes that I would associate with a more traditional bitter than a lot of porters, and that may not be up everyone’s alley. Apart from that it pretty much does the standard porter thing. I think if this was a cask real ale I would be giving it more time, the texture feels like it would slip into a cask beer nicely.

So, pretty simple for a porter but not badly done – the earthiness could be better used – early on the balance between it and the normal porter notes make it interesting, they grow and, while working for most of the beer, by the end it still isn’t bad but the earthiness does end up dominating and doesn’t let the porter notes flow well.

So, ok, but I would be interested to see what a more polished earthy porter would end up being like.

Background: This was a Christmas gift from my mate Tony – many thanks. Shepherd Neame used to do their own beer called Original Porter which I thought was the same as this one – looking up online though their version seemed to be 4.8% abv or 5.2% abv depending on when it was brewed, so this must have at least a slightly different recipe. Broke out the porter designed craft beer glass for this. Don’t know really if it makes a difference but it is fun.

tiny-rebel-stay-puft

Tiny Rebel: Stay Puft (Wales: Porter: 5.2% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Moderate creamy brown head.

Nose: Chocolate milkshake. Creamy. Kind of marshmallow like. Vanilla.

Body: Smooth mouthfeel. Dry roasted nuts. Popcorn. Light bitter chocolate. Vanilla. Quite dry. Gelatine sweets. Sour dough.

Finish: Lactose. Chocolate milkshake. Light roasted character. Unpopped popcorn kernels. Roasted character grows over time. Slight bitter coffee.

Conclusion: Since this is described as a marshmallow porter, I have to admit I was expecting a sweeter beer than this.

My first encounter with this gave an impression of it actually being a bit thin, so very much unlike those fluffy marshmallows. However a bit of time definitely let it gain in body, but with that also seemed to become drier in taste. Despite heavy amounts of vanilla in the flavours, the dryness actually seems to call to the drier Irish stout interpretations in a lot of ways – with that vanilla laid atop that in stark contrast.

There is a softer chocolate and the aforementioned vanilla – in fact there is even what can be interpreted as marshmallow in a pinch – if you are feeling generous. So the needed flavours are there, but I find it off that the base is so grounded – with cereal like feel and an unpopped popcorn kind of character. Which I guess would just be corn. Hopefully you get what I mean.

There is also what feels like a lactose touch to the texture (Though I do not think lactose was used in making this) and that gives it some of the mallow like contrast it needs – but never quite enough to feel like its namesake, So, it does not really meet my impressions of what a marshmallow porter would be. So, is it good as a beer in itself?

It is a solid, quite dry porter, with sweet notes laced through – kind of halfway between a sweet stout and a dry stout – but in a porter. Pretty easy to drink despite the grounded character, but slightly over grounded in that base flavour for me to put it as a special beer. Apparantly there is a nitro version of this, and that may give it that bit bigger texture I think it needs to work – I will keep an eye out for it and let you know if it works out if I find it.

Still, I am sure that such a harmless thing from my childhood could never destroy me.

Apart from the alcohol. That is a mild poison.

A tasty, tasty poison.

Background: Ok, I bought this because of the picture of Stay Puft with the Tiny Rebel mascot’s head. I am very simple to sell to and a huge ghostbusters fan. Drunk at Small Bar, where I discussed with the staff on how exactly does a marshmallow porter work? It is made with marshmallow according to the ingredients. Are they added early on to ferment with? Is it made with actual mallow plant stuff? I have no idea. Anyway, one I loved the idea of.

Wiper and True: Porter: Plum Pudding (England: Porter: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Opaque black. Large creamy brown froth head.

Nose: Grated chocolate dust. Roasted notes and crushed peanuts. Slightly wheaty. Slight cloying sour touch. Mulled wine. Slight tart berries.

Body: Bitter cocoa. Roasted nuts. Coriander. Slight charring. Cinnamon sticks and light greenery. Slight sour berries.

Finish: Grated bitter chocolate and cocoa dust. Coriander. Light chalk. Cinnamon sticks. Toasted teacakes. Greenery. Slight tart berries.

Conclusion: Ok, I think by naming this Plum Pudding they were misleading expectations. Not too much, they were aiming for a Christmas theme it seems and this is a Christmas themed beer – but it feels more like mulled beverages than it calls to mind plum anything for me.

So – Setting myself a new rule 1- now I have mentioned that fact, and now I will here express mild disappointment in that fact – with that done, now I will look at it as how it works as a mulled spice beer and judge it as that rather than as a Plum Pudding beer.

Ok, now that is done, let’s split this into how well the porter base works, and how well the spice and pizazz on top of that works. The base is very solid – bitter cocoa and chocolate, slightly roasted with a well balanced mouthfeel. Not light, not thick – a good look when you are doing a porter rather than a stout, something smooth, but with just a bit of weight. It leans towards the darker, more bitter and charred flavours without being dominated by them. Not much in the way of sweetness and a surprising lack of coffee notes considering how popular that has been with porters for a while now. It, like a lot of Wiper and True stuff, is utterly rock solid and works its slight harsh edges well.

However the base, solid as it is, is not special. As just that I would be impressed but not enthralled. The spice is, well, the spice to the meal. I’m not a huge spice beer kind of guy, but here it is present while avoiding omnipresence. Kind of my preferred use for spice. Lots of cinnamon sticks in there – not sweetly done – kind of done drier, mixing in with coriander and greenery flavours that come out. Very much an understated mulled beer, which works a lot better than I expected it to on the first few sips.

On top of that there is even -and I don’t know if this comes from base malt, hops or extra ingredients – a light tart berries character that just about manages to keep the spice and dark notes from becoming too harsh.

So, not a … forgive me for this … not a plum choice (Oh I am going to hell for that one. And for being an atheist), but solid as hell, very high quality mulled style porter. Not quite must have, but you won’t regret giving it a go.

Background: Grabbed from Independent Spirit, this is one of my semi regular returns to Wiper and True’s stuff. They are a very solid one to return to and tend to go from good to exceptional. This is a porter made with mixed fruit, cinnamon and lemon zest. I have no idea if any of the mixed fruit is, in fact, plums. Not much else to say apart from I was expecting this to be at least good going in.

Scuttlebutt: Porter (USA: Porter: 5.5% ABV)

Visual: Black. Dark brown at edges. Thin beige head.

Nose: Roasted. Nutty. Dry roasted peanuts. Creamy yet slightly dry. Praline and bitetr chococlate. Mild coffee. Slight sour cherries.

Body: Slightly chalky. Bitter and slightly soured. Slight sour black-cherries. Slightly light when chilled. Thin malt drinks. Somewhat roasted. Bready.

Finish: Chocolate bread on brown spread. Light chalk. Bitter and charred. Popcorn. Bitter cocoa dust. Sour cream and chives touch. Smoke and burnt wood.

Conclusion: Pretty savoury for a porter this one is. There are nuts, bready character, a sour cream twist touch, slight smoke – It is low on sweetness and quite dry. Chilled it can come through a tad thin as well. It feels pretty attenuated for a porter, definitely a much drier experience than normal, with smokey notes filling the finish, rising up to fill the gap the lightness gives. Also in odd notes, there is even a slight sour character that comes through sour cherry style. All in all an odd take on the porter so far.

At first I thought all this may be because I had it too chilled – but I’ve let it warm over time, and while it no longer feels so thin, it still feels like an odd mash up of notes. The aroma promises a fairly standard, chocolate, roasted and coffee heavy porter – albeit a good one. The closest the body comes to a standard porter is the roasted character and a malt drink presence.

The flavours tend towards the harsher ideas, without being too harsh in the implementation, if that makes sense. Slight sour cherries, slight rough chalk, slight roasted notes – harsh but all slight. The biggest element is the smoke in the finish which is very present and mouth filling.

It all ends up feeling slightly neutral, but the harsher idea flavours means it doesn’t manage for easy drinking either. Too rough to be easy going, but too restrained to boom. It feels like a half way porter with no home to go to. Not repulsive but a very meh porter.

Background: Grabbed from Brewdog’s Guest Beer selection, this was a bit of a random grab – don’t know anything about the brewer – just felt like grabbing a more normal beer than all the weird oddities flying around these days. Sometimes you just want a beer made with malt, hops, water and yeast. Drunk while listening to some 8-bit takes on Bad Religion – because I love punk and I love fun chiptunes.

Old Chimney King Alfred's Cake

Old Chimney: King Alfred’s Cake (England: Porter: 8.2% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black. Still. Thin brown dash of a head.

Nose: Sour dough. Cream cheese and chives. Chestnut mushrooms. Orange rind.

Body: Bitter cocoa. Condensed cream. Chocolate. Liqueur. Chocolate cake. Dandelion and burdock. Wine soaked raisins. Chestnut mushrooms. Glacier cherries. Milky coffee.

Finish: Milky, rich coffee. Cinnamon. Dandelion and Burdock. Spicy red wine to port. Cherry aid. Rum and raisin ice cream. Chocolate orange. Chestnut mushrooms.

Conclusion: Unusual, yet mixed with the usual. The familiar and the profound side by side. Let’s start with the unfamiliar stuff in the main body and work our way out from there.

So, yeah, the first and second odd notes are a mix of Dandelion and Burdock, and mushrooms – ok, as explained in the background one may be psychosomatic, but I’m fairly sure that not both are. It definitely has that distinctive, oddball, tangy D&B character that then slips easily into more spicy wine and wine soaked raisin notes that I would associate more with the heavier end of the ESB style, or with an Imperial Stout than I would a porter. However, I would say that that soft drink character previously described leans it closer to an ESB that a imperial stout in the expression of it. Fascinating, no?

The mushrooms are then a more rounding note – that kind of chestnut mushroom meatiness and a savoury backdrop to the sweeter main base. The chestnut mushroom character comes out more in the finish as the sweetness finally drips away.

Heading the other way, into the aroma, we find the more traditional notes – the sour dough, cream cheese and chives, thick, slightly soured aroma. It declares a certain kind of robust, traditional, porter is to follow. Then spends the rest of the time undercutting that image, the big liar.

The other familiar notes comes from the last word of this beer’s name. Cake. Cake is evident in both coffee and chocolate format, nice sturdy, heavy notes to ground the fresher and unusual D&B notes. Quite the layered, non standard porter then. Mostly it works. – you have to be able to enjoy dandelion and burdock but it isn’t totality dominated by it. It is basically a very ESB influenced porter – a few of the fruitier and fresher notes definitely call to the ESB style but without betraying the heavier porter style. Not a beer I would have often, mostly as I feel D&B is enjoyable but only in moderation, but taken once in a while? Very enjoyable.

Background: Old Chimney! Makers of Good King Henry Special Reserve – still one of my top three Imperial Stouts. Love those guys! Even if their stuff doesn’t turn up locally often. So, King Alfred’s Cake is an inedible fungus. I never knew that. Because of that word “Inedible” I am fairly sure none is used in the making of this beer. Fairly sure. Still, because of that mushrooms were on my mind while doing this, so could be a touch of influence on my notes there. Drunk while listening to Garbage’s new album: Strange Little Birds. This was grabbed from Independent Spirit.

Cervecería Regiomontana Ocho Reales Porter

Sierra Madre : Ocho Reales Porter (Mexico: Porter: 5% ABV)

Visual: Dark black cherry to black. Thin brown head.

Nose: Fruitcake. Madeira and port mix. Blueberry. Figgy pudding. Tannins. Marzipan. Fruity. Almonds. Pencil shavings and sulphur eggs.

Body: Roasted bitterness. Slightly thin feel when cool. Chalk. Very light red wine notes. Tannins. Light figs. Liquorice. Light fruitcake.

Finish: Chalky. Roasted. Tannins/tea. Liquorice. Red wine. Dusty and mothball like. Light tart apple.

Conclusion: Ok, I definitely need to let this one warm up before doing a full opinion. Chilled this ends up very thin, with only a slight roasted bitter and chalky body and finish, but little else.

While I am waiting, let’s talk about the good parts so far – the aroma! Definitely not a traditional porter in style – it is closer to an ESB with strong red wine, fruitcake and dark fruit amongst the mix. While not porter like it still promised a fine beer, and far more than the chilled beer body experience delivered.

Ok, warmth has entered the beer, as ever warmth is the friend of the dark beer. It has helped. A little. It gains thickness and hints of the red wine and fruitcake that the aroma promised. However, as if it compensate, the finish becomes must and dusty as hell, a genuinely bad feeling at the end of the beer, and worse still one that lasts a long time.

Aside from that it does give some ESB like saving grace to the body, it is still very little like a porter outside of the roasted character, but it is more acceptable as a beer – there is actually a hint of a good beer trying to break out. However, this is one of the rare beers that, overall, I feel is actually pretty bad. It has a few redeeming points, the aroma for one, and it does have hints of promise of what it could be. Generally though, nope, this is a bad example of the style and a bad beer.

Background: I hope the brewery name is correct, I have found conflicting reports. Anyway, grabbed this from independent spirit, you don’t see many breweries from Mexico so I thought it was worth a try. Drunk while listening to a band I just found called “The Algorithm”, kind a mash up of metal and electronic, kind of weird but fun.

Brewdog Alice Porter (Export version)

Brewdog: Alice Porter (Export version) (Scotland: Porter: 4.6%)

Visual: Black with dark brown edges. Inch of creamy brown froth that leaves sud rings.

Nose: Coffee. Sour dough and cream cheese. Crushed nuts. Light strawberry. Cut grass. Cloying. Vanilla.

Body: Vanilla. Chocolate. Somewhat thin but oily character. Roasted bitterness. Chalk touch. Cardboard.

Finish: Oily. Light bitterness. Nuts. Chalk. Milky coffee. Roasted. Vanilla toffee. Light strawberry. Chocolate. Cardboard.

Conclusion: While high abv bombs are awesome, the beers that get you through a session are the more gentle and restrained ones, in alcohol content at least. Therefore I was interested in trying the lower abv export version of Alice Porter. If they can pull off the character of full strength Alice Porter but at lower abv we could be looking at one special beer.

Aroma wise this is very promising. Thick and robust, full of porter like notes such as coffee and sour dough and full of that sweet vanilla full strength Alice Porter has in spades. Everything you could ever want, an effortless recreation at a manageable abv.

The body is, well, less than robust, I guess it had to give somewhere, and here it is. It has calls to the good stuff – some chocolate, some vanilla, but a lot of the energy has gone, leaving an empty cardboard touched air in the gaps. Considering what Mikkeller has managed to do with a 0.3% dark beer, this display is disappointing.

The finish recovers a little bit with a nice oily character and with some bitterness but it still feels lesser. In fact the beer feels a lot less robust that a lot of lower abv porters that have been put out there. It feels more like a good beer that has been cut down to a worse state, than a beer polished to match the malt load it was given.

If you can get proper strength Alice Porter go for it, if you only have access to this, go for a different beer.

Background: Wasn’t sure if I was going to do notes on this one as I had already done Alice Porter before. This is a lower abv export version, I presume to get it into places that don’t allow higher abv beers into main stores. In the end I decided to give it a run, I thought the difference the abv can make would make an interesting compression. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. Drunk while listening to the awesome Svalbard – check them out.

Zmajska Pivovara Porter
Zmajska Pivovara: Porter (Croatia: Porter: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Black. Moderate brown froth that dims to bubbled islands pretty quickly.

Nose: Light liquorice. Malt chocolate and chocolate cake. Milky coffee. Cream cheese.

Body: Roasted character and milky chocolate. Brown bread. Frothy, mostly thick texture but with a few thin spots.

Finish: Frothy chocolate and peanuts. Nice roasted character. Feels thicker than the actual body. Chocolate cake. Light cream cheese and chives.

Conclusion: Porter, not just a song by Scroobius Pip, but also a beer style, and one that often delivers solid beers. This is a solid beer -very much aimed at the middle of the porter style range, mainly chocolate backed by slight kind of cream cheese and chive notes and underlined by a solid roasted character.

It feels pretty restrained though – the body has a few moments of thick frothiness and a few thin spots, but is generally just slightly less present than would be expected for a porter.

That kind of restraint continues throughout the beer – each flavour is definitely present, but most don’t boom. It feels like someone is following up the idea of a session IPA with a session porter, but at over 6%. Which kind of hurts that idea. Oh well.

Not to be too harsh though, there is a place for less forthright porters, but because of this being less forthright there is also less to rave about – though equally less to criticise I guess.

So, solid, but not stand out – concentrates a bit much on the lower roasted and slightly soured notes without giving the high notes that could take advantage of that base. You won’t be disappointed but neither will you be excited.

Background: Ok, after accidentally selecting the highest rated beer from Serbia to drink, it turns out I also brought back the highest rated beer from Croatia. According to ratebeer anyway. Huh, cool. Anyway, so the final beer from the Belgrade trip, drunk after I got back to the UK. Because my friends are from Belgrade I was determined to like this beer more, just to piss them off. So, yeah, bias warning. Kidding. Mostly. Drunk while listing to B. Dolan’s Kill The Wolf again – that guy smashes live gigs so it brought back good memories.

Noble Pig - Mocha Porter

Noble Pig: Mocha Porter (Canada: Porter: 5.5% ABV)

Visual: Black, massive frothy cinnamon to brown frothed head. Ruby red at edges of the body.

Nose: Bitter coffee. Milky chocolate. Smooth. Light roasted notes as it warms.

Body: Smooth. Roasted hazelnut backing and low hop bitterness. Light cream cheese and chives. Bitter back. Milky coffee.

Finish: Milky coffee. Low roasted character. Light cream. Bitter chocolate.

Conclusion: I’m sensing a trend in Canadian beers so far. They don’t push against your expectations, but they do deliver on very well crafted examples of existing styles with well balanced flavours.

I base this insight on about four days drinking. I may turn out to be wrong. Let it never be said that the English are afraid to make wide sweeping assumptions from ignorance. Wait, what do you mean no one ever said that anyway? Huh.

This is a creamy coffee heavy porter, very smooth up front, but has a delicate use of hop roughness to roast it up a bit at the back end. It is a good balance, and one I respect as heavy dark beers can get sticky and oppressively hopped very quickly, but here it just complements the roasted nut character used as a backing. I’ve seen great smooth porters in my time, and far more rarely good hopped porters, but rarely something that mixes the two.

While it doesn’t break boundaries, this really pushes the strength of the porter style over its stronger stout cousin – despite the big flavours it still slides down so easily. The most noticeable flavours are from where it pushes the coffee – smooth and milky, yet still with bitterness to show it isn’t afraid of some bite to back it up.

A seriously well balanced porter, and one that shows a bit of hops in your porters doesn’t hurt and can in fact help. Very nice for that and for a decent flavour as well.

Background: Tried at the Noble Pig Brewpub in Kamloops – was a bit of a walk from the hotel, up a freaking hill no less, but wasn’t too bad considering I basically grew up on one big hill. Again, really friendly staff, and they had awesome mac and cheese with pulled pork. It was a lovely goopy, probably terrible for me mess of taste joy. I hadn’t seen many darker beers yet on the trip so decided to grab the porter. After this I was wandering back when I saw a coffee store with a hardcore punk gig going on in it, so I joined in. of course. Canada is cool.

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