Friday, May 20, 2011

Stone - Smoked Porter

Well, friends American Craft Brew Week is almost ended.  I hope you did it up right by drinking tons of your favorite AND LOCAL craft beers this week.  Extra brownie points if you shared a few with a friend or two.  I'm about to share some with a friend in a few minutes, but right now I'll write a review for a brew I shared with my long-time friend Jon who was back in town from Washinton DC.  Jon loves his nut brown ales, porters, and a good stout.  I picked up a few brew selections and this was one of them that we sipped on catching up on new stuff and reminiscing about the old.  What more could you want?  Let's pour!
Picture is my own.  Bottle art image used without permission for educational uses only.
Aroma 7/12
Starts with a dark, bready malt that mixes with a spicy smokiness.  The hops are nonexistant in the aroma at first, but eventually show up as a little earthy and spicy after the head dissipates.  Some distinct, comlplimentary flavors, but ultimately not a lot going on here with regards to complexity.  I think it mainly lacks the chocolately sweetness to go hand-in-hand with the malt.

Appearance 3/3
This looks like a perfect beer.  I mean, look at it.  The beige head is the proportionally perfect size and it leaves ridiculous amounts of lacing on the way down.  The dark brown color is very nice in this porter, yet still leaves ruby glints at the bottom of the glass.  The head pits dramatically and has an unusual texture (lumpy gravy?) before settling across the top of the beer.

Picture is my own.
Flavor 17/20
It is a pleasant discovery to find that the flavor profile is much more complex than the aroma.  The beer's first sip instantly relays its creamy texture which, in turn, blends with the first flavors.  The first sip hides how truly brown the malt is in this brew, but eventually it fades into a sweet, traditional, dark malt flavor.  The backbone is extremely malt heavy and leaves little room for other flavors to shine through it.  There are bitter dark chocolate notes, but the creaminess contrasts with it and the other dark flavors that this beer offers.  The longer it is held in the mouth, the more the complex chocolate bitters and coffee notes rise to the forefront.  The finish focusses more on a bold coffee note and a hop bitter, though with the strong malt presence from earlier, this is anything but a bitter beer.  In case you hadn't noticed, there is not much written in regards to the smoke in this "smoked porter."  The smoke flavor is moderate in the of beginning bottle, but your palate and nose quickly become accustomed to it and it is barely more than a suggestion as you continue.  It is still present, but extremely mild.

Mouthfeel 3/5
The light mouthfeel was one of the first noticeable traits about this brew.  For a traditionally dark, robust style, the body was lighter than expected.  However, it has redeemed itself with its abundance of creaminess.  The beer is smooth as silk and goes down remarkably well. 

Overall Impression 7/10
Some really good flavors are present(malt, dark chocolate), but noticeably absent in others (smoke, caramel).  The "cream/milk" flavor seems to dominate the backbone which lightens this beer considerably.  Unfortunately, light is not what one often seeks in a porter and conflicts with the dark delicious flavors that this beer stuggles to wholly deliver.

Total 36/50 (Very Good)
True to its scoring, this is a "very good" beer, but not as exceptional as everyone claims.  I feel like the bitter from the finish and after is supposed to influence the drinker to think that the whole brew was a very robust porter.  In fact, the backbone is quite creamy and malty leaving the bitter, dark, robust flavors to be handled by the finish and aftertaste.  The main structure of the beer had potential to offer a lot more strength that it did and it seems as if the contrasting "milky" flavors were meant to compliment the chocolate and coffee flavors, but ultimately ended up watering it down.

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