February/March 2008

Porters & Stouts

On a balmy winter evening, the unusually rowdy and always thirsty tasters gave a warm welcome to the Beer Diva as the new coordinator and writer for the Beer Beacon. Not your conventional Prima Donna, The Beer Diva is delighted to share in this opportunity for fostering beer exploration and appreciation. The Beer Beacon goal is to sharpen the tasting knowledge of beer lovers and help guide them on the journey to beer nirvana. The Beer Diva seeks out distinguishing beer experiences. With the beer pleasure of over 150 brewery and brewpub notches (and more beers than I can count or tick), I am racking up my beer diva credentials.
You may notice the lack of ratings in this review. After a rather heated discussion, we've decided to forego the ratings until the next issue. As Beer Diva, I'm known for having high expectations - some might say demanding and hard to please - but we're taking it up a notch for more depth and consistency in our reviews.
We heartily thank all the kind souls that submitted porters and stouts for this tasting and our venerable host, the friendly folks at Pizza Plant. If you have an opinion on beer ratings, suggestions for this column or a group of beer aficionados interested in hosting a tasting somewhere in upstate New York, charm me with an email to beerdiva@brewingnews.com. The next Beer Beacon tasting is Wednesday, Feb 6, at ??

The Place:
Pizza Plant, Williamsville, NY

The Tasters:
The zealous beer enthusiasts, Vinny, Gerg, Johann von Beer and Big Evil.
Also joining us were The Imp - a Beer Beacon grad, and Mensa Dropout - the wily hop-head.

The Method:
The beers are all served at the appropriate temperature in clean glassware.
The tasters are told the style, but not the name of the beer, the brewery nor the location.

The Beers:

Cooperstown Benchwarmer Porter
P.O. Box 276, Milford, New York 13807

The Imp started us off commenting on the nutty nose and roasty, soft apple flavor, with which most of us agreed. Vinny smelled licorice, but described the taste as a bit too syrupy. Gerg found the body thin and overall thought it was rather one-dimensional. Mensa Dropout tasted Kent style hops in a British style porter with a molasses finish. Johann, really liked it, “a great session beer”. He questioned whether the big beers were spoiling us.

Ska Ten Pin Porter
545 Turner Drive, Durango, Colorado 81301

There's love in this beer - so says the label. The panel was in agreement on the predominant flavors of coffee, hazelnut and chocolate - you gotta love that! Gerg said it was soft, with a nice mild roast. The aroma of smoky peat, the creamy malts and the subtlety of the hops all came together to create a very nice beer - one Vinny will no doubt seek out. Evil thought it tasted like too sweet coffee. The Imp and Mensa Dropout liked the fuller body and the chocolaty coffee taste - a sipper to relish and enjoy. Johann thought maybe the dry finish came from the red dust of Colorado. The Garden of the Gods, perhaps?

Otter Creek Sea Otter Baltic Porter
793 Exchange Street, Middlebury, Vermont 05753

Otter Creek's World Tour release is an easy match with food. The upfront caramel sweetness rolled onto The Imp's tongue with a cappuccino, milk chocolate taste and a smooth, rich lingering finish. Vinny likened it to chocolate and licorice jellybeans, soaked in vodka. Mensa Dropout thought it was smooth and silky, a great after dinner beer with some chocolate chocolate chip cookies. Evil called it a Vanilla Porter and wanted to pair it with shortbread cookies. Gerg was coocoo for (the whiff of) Cocoa Puffs - “this is a breakfast that would wake me up!” (Hmm, but would it get him to work any earlier?)

Ska Nefarious Ten Pin Imperial Porter
545 Turner Drive, Durango, Colorado 81301

Utterly immoral or wicked - and Evil likes it! He savored the rich, chocolate smokiness, the creamy head and coriander aftertaste. Mensa Dropout suggested the strong smoky, woody, bacon, cinnamon bark flavors might overwhelm the weaker among us. The Imp, whose love of Imperials is notorious, said the flavor was not earth shattering but surprisingly smooth going down. The espresso peat nose, with a licorice and alcohol tongue coating and a big coffee bitter blast - “this beer has attitude!” declared Vinny.

Ska Steel toe Working Class Milk Stout
545 Turner Drive, Durango, Colorado 81301

“Sweet”, remarked The Imp - a heavy, malty, smooth frappucino. Johann described this one as a big nose and thin sweet body - a kind of Ichabod Crane style. Gerg liked the roasty espresso aroma and was pleasantly surprised by the hops coming through. Vinny detected a smoky, big peat scent with a coffee sweet, almost cloying finish. Not to be outdone, Mensa Dropout named this one the Hombrewing Sheepherder's Ode to the Queen for its funky British Isle connotations.

Cooperstown Strikeout Stout
P.O. Box 276, Milford, New York 13807

The consensus on the aroma was earthy and peat, “like a greenhouse” suggested The Imp. Mensa Dropout perceived a chocolate taste and a bit of smoke at the onset, and then it dropped off too quickly without a satisfying middle. Vinny detected chalkiness on the palate, with nicely balanced hops and a very dry finish. Evil said it was so dry the flavor almost evaporates off your tongue. Odd, but interesting, concluded Gerg and Johann.

Oskar Blues Ten Fidy Imperial Stout
303 Main Street, Lyons, Colorado 80540

Complexity in a can - now that's an amazing feat! Johann appreciated the big earthy, tobacco, cocoa smell and the big, brown beautiful head. The flavors were intense with so much going on: black cherries, anise, molasses, and chocolate raisins with a nice hop bitterness that edges through. Mensa Dropout called it chewy - like chocolate espresso bean bars. “She's certainly not subtle”, observed Gerg. Evil agreed - she's a mighty, mighty, triple espresso brickhouse of a stout. The beer diva has a newfound respect for beer in a can.

--- by The Beer Diva, Beer Beacon columnist

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