Tag Archive: Porter

Kompaan: No 45 Vrij Buiter (Netherlands: Porter: 7.1% ABV)

Visual: Very dark red to black. Thin browned head that leaves suds.

Nose: Creamy. Roasted. Liquorice. Coffee.

Body: Creamy. Liquorice. Creamy chocolate to bitter chocolate cake. Smooth. Brown bread. Black cherry delivered slightly tart.

Finish: Bitter cocoa. Liquorice. Creamy chocolate. Bitter chocolate. Slight black cherry. Sarsaparilla. Pepper. Peanut butter.

Conclusion: This is a pretty smooth porter, but still with a bit of a bite. The smoothness is shown from the start, with an initial aroma that is smooth but simple. The oddest tell of more to come is a decent amount of liquorice that manages to show itself here. For some reason liquorice seems to be a popular thing in the Netherlands, with even liquorice ice cream, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised.

The body follows through but with more complexity. The liquorice is heavy, backed by bitter cocoa and this is the main two strings that play throughout the beer – bitter cocoa, savoury liquorice. There are some rounding notes, most notably a creamy smoothness that helps deliver the whole thing in a manageable package, but also a light tart black cherry note that refreshes just slightly. After a discussion, my friend Emerald suggested that sarsaparilla notes were there as well, and I just had to steal that as it perfectly describes the slightly spicy soft drink feel that comes out in the finish.

So a few notes. First, you need to like liquorice to like this as it is very liquorice heavy. Second, it can get a tad wearing at the end of the beer as the smoothness gives way to more of the spicy notes. However, generally this is smooth, very smooth and with good depth of flavour. A lot of the notes are those Marmite like love it or hate it notes but they are very solidly delivered.

So, with that said, look at the notes, if the flavours sound good to you then this is smooth, creamy and well brewed around those notes. If not, ah well, look elsewhere.

Background: Second, and unfortunately last of the tasting notes from my Netherlands trip. It wasn’t really a beery trip but I had to get at least a few in. This was from when, walking through the high street, I spotted a wall of beers inside a shop so stuck my head in. This is a local beer from The Hague, where I was at the time, so decided to grab it and give it a go. It is listed as a double porter, which confused me as the abv didn’t seem in that range – a quick google seems to indicate it intended as a dubbel/porter mix, which is interesting. Again it was very warm while doing the notes, but not as bad as before.


Art Brew: Black Cherry Chocolate Porter (England: Porter: 4.8 ABV)

Visual: Very dark, cloudy brown to black. Thin brown head with white edges.

Nose: Milky chocolate. Light charred bread. Smoke. Lightly nutty.

Body: Subtle black cherry. Gunpowder tea. Malt chocolate drink. Black forest gateaux. Milky coffee. Smoke.

Finish: Slight earthy bitterness. Malt chocolate. Slight black forest gateaux. Slight milk. Tea. Pepper.

Conclusion: Ok, tea notes. I did not expect tea notes to come out in this. Now, checking the bottle’s label as I write I notice that I shouldn’t actually be surprised as it turns out that it is literally made with black cherry tea. I have to admit I did not know there was such a thing. Still this tastes of that – black cherry and, well a kind of gunpowder tea set of notes. Ok, it isn’t an exact match but it is close enough.

The black-cherry varies between subtle notes backing the porter, and heavier black-forest gateaux notes that are much more up front. It is generally nicely present but without being super dominant, with occasional pushes towards either end of the scale.

The base porter pushes a nice bit of milky coffee and milky chocolate but it isn’t super present. The fruit notes seem to lighten it a touch in mouthfeel so it doesn’t have the usual thicker and creamier porter texture. Flavour-wise it helps compensate for this with a slight wisp of smoke, possibly from the tea, which gives more grip – but generally it feels like just the tad thicker texture would really help this boom.

Still, it is a comparatively easy drinking, moderate if not low abv, dark beer that matches the porter coffee notes with just enough black-cherry to give a fruity to dark dessert edge to the beer.

While it could do with a few tweaks it is balanced beer between easy drinking and able to be appreciated for its depths and works well as that.

Background: ART BREW! I still have a soft spot for this lot. In my early days in Bath I used to drink so much of their stuff at the Royal Oak. Times change, and Art Brew vanished for a while, but since they have returned I have picked up a few of theirs every now and then to see how they are doing. This one caught my eye as, well black cherry is often a very nice note in the darker beers, so I was intrigued by a porter that emphasised it more strongly. Grabbed from Independent Spirit, this is made with cocoa nibs, black cherry tea, chocolate malt and lactose. For some reason they put lactose in all caps. I presume because of potential intolerances, however I am head-cannoning that they were just super excited about brewing with lactose and used cap lock to show that to us – the readers. That is what I do. Put on Night Wish – Dark Passion Play while drinking. Well part of it. That is one long album.

Staggeringly Good: Post Impact Porter (England: Porter: 5.4% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Large creamy brown loose bubbled head that soon has large holes in the bubbles as it collapses.

Nose: Roasted character. Light lactose. Crushed peanuts. Milky coffee. Charred oak. Slight musty brown bread. Mint leaves.

Body: Bitter coffee, with milky notes behind. Frothy feel. Bitter chocolate. Light chalk touch. Light sour cream and chives crisps. Light toffee.

Finish: Lactose. Chocolate milk. Sour cream and chive crisps. Light milky coffee, into bitter coffee.

Conclusion: This is a nicely solid porter. Now, despite the oddity of a real ale in a can, I will say – flavour wise at least – porters seem to be a style with little difference between the craft and real ale interpretations. However in the mouthfeel this definitely delivers that bit extra thickness that a real ale tends to give, so it does seem to be doing its job there.

The beer opens up in a very roasted way and keeps that a a solid layer of the character throughout. It is that base that the mix of bitter to milky coffee character works from – a kind of lactose touched element but far from as sweet as a milk stout would be. Though it does have another layer of weight behind it apart from the roasted character, an element that I am going to give up and just describe as “like sour cream and chives crisps” It is a light savoury and sour mix that really helps the feel of the beer. The nice savoury elements especially work well to give a more neutral middle between the other elements.

Overall it is solidly flavoursome – creamy with lots of coffee and chocolate notes against that savoury and roasted backing. Nothing too unusual but does the job of standard real ale porter well.

Background: OK, I bought this because it has dinosaur on the can. Can anyone fault me for that? Dinosaurs are awesome. Also if you look closely, you realise that, while the dinosaur in the picture is holding the same can it is on, its fingers are over the pictures of the can that the dinosaur on that can is holding – so to prevent infinite recursion of can images I would presume. A cleaver design choice that I approve of. Now, the can calls this real ale – it doesn’t have the CAMRA logo, but based on the experience I had when drinking it I trust them. Real ale in a can, oh what a future we live in that has such things in it. Went a bit into the past for music with this one – A best of Meat Loaf CD. While I enjoy Meatloaf, people have pointed out what I actually enjoy is Jim Steinman music as sung by Meatloaf. Which is fair. His non Steinman songs tended to be nowhere as near as good. Anyway, this was another one grabbed from Independent Spirit.

3 Fonteinen: Zwet.be (Belgium: Porter: 7% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black. Thin to middling creamy brown head that leaves suds but has a quite short lifespan.

Nose: Sour red wine. Black cherry. Coca dust. Rum soaked raisins. Chocolate liqueurs.

Body: Tart black cherry. Charring. Black cherry sour sweets. Salt water. Cold stones. Touch of Pocari Sweat drink. Bready. Soft pineapple. Dry raisins. Lightly tart.

Finish: Charring and bitter character. Oats. Bitter cocoa dust. Brown bread. Salt water. Cloying coffee notes. Soft pineapple. Dry Madeira. Tart apple.

Conclusion: The sour stout, or in this case sour porter, is one of the odder styles to have come out of recent years. In fact if anything this is somehow both more odd and more restrained that previous examples I’ve tried. Maybe it is more odd because it is more restrained. Which may need some breaking down to make sense.

The nose provides full on mix of sour wine, fruity experience with chocolate hints – it is something really fresh and bursting with flavour. Unfortunately the rest of the beer is not that.

The body is drier, with charred notes and even a slightly salty character – it is full of the heavier, rougher notes that can come with a porter. The tarter notes are there, but as gentle additions not super sour intrusions – it gives dark fruit early on, but somehow late on lambic like green fruit and pineapple hints give very subtle fresher notes.

Warmth gives it more of what you would expect – tart black cherry and spirit soaked raisins – chilling really hurt this, making it far too pedestrian. Warmth makes this reasonable – still quite dry, but with fruit range of both dark and light fruit. The biggest disappointment is the porter backing to that. The porter character is often relegated to a dank (in the cold wet cave style of the meaning, not the resinous hop style of the meaning) background that seems to bring down the sour notes rather than enhance them.

Overall an ok beer, but one of the weaker sour stouts/porters I have encountered.

Background: So, something more than just a bit unusual here – a beer from 3 Fonteinen, celebrated sour beer makers, but according to a quick google brewed at De Proefbrouweij – a famed contract brewer. I’m guessing they did that to prevent yeast infection issues from the wild yeast. Anyway, this one is a porter brewed with lambic yeast. So, yeah, odd as heck. Drank while listening to some Siouxsie and the Banshees for appropriate backing to that oddness. This was another one grabbed from Independent Spirit.

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: 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 (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

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

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.

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