Friday, May 27, 2011

Saku Õlletehaas - Porter

I had never seen this beer before in my life so of course I had to try it.  Also, while I have had the porter style before I do not believe I have ever had the pleasure of sampling a beer from Estonia.  In any case, I love a good porter (especially one with 7.5% ABV).  Enough said.  Let's pour!

Picture is my own.  Bottle art image used without permission for educational uses only

Aroma 10/12
Loads of chocolate assault the nose right off the bat.  A toasty, dark malt aroma is behind it, but still very rich.  There are also suggestions of dark fruit, which is a little unusual, but not unpleasant.  As the beer warms and the head settles, warm chocolate, coffee, and oatmeal become more pronounced.  A very nice touch.

Appearance 3/3
This looks exactly like a porter should.  It pours a medium-bodied brew that produces more than a fair amount of head.  Through it is essentially an opaque brown, there are shades of mahogany and dark sienna.  Very pretty.  Head maintains for a fair amount of time, covers the top equally, and remains as a collar throughout the pint.  No lacing.

Picture is my own.

Flavor 18/20
Having no idea of what to expect can sometimes lead to pleasant surprises!  The first sensations are the sweet, dark malt and the tiny, prickly carbonation.  The main structure is toasty, almost smoky malt and the dark caramel carried in the aroma.  After holding the brew in the mouth, an oatmeal sweetness arises in conjunction with the coffee bitters to round out the earlier sweetness, yet the dark caramelly sweetness is still very present.  The finish continues to grow the toasty and coffee flavors, as it should, and then gives way to an after taste that features the coffee, but also includes a light yet distinct hop bitter.

Note: After finishing the review for this beer, I let two things happen that had very interesting results. First, the beer was allowed to warm a bit more than usual.  Second, I drank a bit of the beer directly from the bottle.  The warmth almost completely changed the malt flavor of the beer.  Gone was the caramel dominance!  Now it was a dark, bready wonder.  Drinking from the bottle allowed more oxygenation of the beer (much like a strainer/bubbler pouring gadget on a bottle of wine).  I could not believe how much more distinct the chocolate flavors became!  What was dominant in the aroma and overwhelmed in the chilled backbone of this beer finally reared its head and took a more important role in the overall scope of this brew.

Mouthfeel 4/5
While the carbonation of this beer borders on being a bit too prickly, everything else is spot on for the style.  The body is medium-full and suggests creaminess, but could use more.  The alcohol is hidden well and is not detectable by my palate.  The carbonation, while not abundant, is (as aforementioned) tiny, prickly, and a bit distracting/contrasting from the other smooth, dark complexities in this beer.

Overall Impression 8/10
This beer is extremely solid technically.  It does not add a whole lot to the style, but it takes care of all the essentials with flying colors.  Body is sound, appearance is dead-on, and the flavor is complex and appropriate.

Total 43/50
Despite having never heard of this beer, this score puts it toward the top of the "Excellent" category.  This brewer reminds me of a Samuel Smith's; while it does not add anything fancy or insanely memorable it nails the style so well (and richly) that you cannot dislike this beer.  It's a dang good beer and I would not hesitate to buy another Saku if I should finally find it again in stores.  "Tervist!" to my Estonian friends!  You know a good beer when you have it.  Solid beer.  Amazing price.  I whole-heartedly recommend picking it up.  You will not be disappointed.

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