Porter (The Session #109)

This is my entry for the 109th Session, which I am in fact hosting, on the topic of porter. My post will cover some tasting notes of several different porters. We drank a couple vintages of Bend Brewing’s Lovely Cherry Baltic Porter and I had three different porters from the Guinness boxed set, The Brewer’s Project.

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

See here at Brookston Beer Bulletin for an intro to The Sessions.

Bend Brewing’s Lovely Cherry Baltic

On Sunday, 28 February 2016, the wife and I compared a 2013 and a 2016 bottling of Bend Brewing’s Lovely Cherry Baltic. BBC is the third oldest brewery in Central Oregon and the second oldest in Bend proper. They celebrated their 20th anniversary in 2015 on my birthday, which means they are now over 21.

I respect the hell out of Lovely but it is one of my wife’s favorites, not mine (because of sour cherries). The label states that it is an Imperial porter aged on Montmorency cherries but makes no mention of yeast used. Is it truly a Baltic? Who knows? And it would depend on whose style guidelines you used anyway.

We had a bottle we acquired in October 2013 and another we just got on 13 February during Zwickelmania at the brewery. We asked the brewer’s wife, Jen, about the origins and she asked Ian (the brewer) and they confirmed it was bottled this year, which I assume means it was actually brewed sometime in 2015.

This is a beer that was originally brewed by Tonya Cornett before her departure for 10 Barrel. See this post at New School Beer for a profile of her from shortly after her departure.

For a profile of current head brewer, Ian Larkin, see “Bend Brewing anniversary and profile of Head Brewer Ian Larkin” at The Brew Site.

See Jon Abernathy’s post, “Lovely Cherry Baltic Porter,” also at The Brew Site, to read one of the earliest reviews of this beer and learn a bit about its bottling history.

We compared them head-to-head and tasted them with assorted cheeses, chocolate, and roasted sweet potatoes, apples and pecans.

Two photos of a glass and a bottle each of 2013 and 2016 Lovely.

2013 on left; 2016 on right. artist Ken Knish of Sisters; styled realism of the 1940-60s. http://www.knish-artwork.com/

They were definitely different beers but clearly also the same beer. The wife, who will be writing her own [guest] post, definitely preferred the 2016 bottling. I guess that means we best drink the other 2013 and the two 2014s and the other “random” one we found in our refrigerator.

For the record, I am not the biggest fan of sour cherries or even cherries, period, although I like the sweeter cherries more. But considering I am not a huge fan that then makes them an ingredient that, while I agree they can work in beer, I am not usually a fan of in beer. Nonetheless, this is a well-executed, award winning, beer.

Awards:

  • 2013 GABF Gold Medal in Aged Beer
  • 2012 GABF Bronze Medal in Aged Beer

I wrote a lot of notes on both of these beers but I just don’t know …

I kept waffling between them depending on temperature of the beer as it varied from cold to warm (and back to cold … as we refilled our small snifters) and as paired with different foods. I started out preferring the 2013 and at the end of the night just when I thought I was preferring the 2016 I decided to drink the rest of it off so I could finish with the last of my 2013. Different in lots of ways but sort of a tie. In the end though I think I prefer the older version. If I had to drink them by themselves and not together then I would choose to drink more of the aged one.

Tasting Notes:

2013

Aroma:

cold: med low sour cherry; med dark fruit

warm: med sour cherry

Color: Clear dark red-brown with dark tan head, extra fine with some small fish eyes, non-persistent

Taste:

cold: Full-bodied and creamy; initially sweet with slight sour bite from cherries, quickly moves to darker malt flavors arriving at chocolate in the swallow. Finishes dry with lingering light-med sour cherry and darker malt flavors of chocolate

warm: Tastes much thinner; but, in fairness, most of the carbonation would have been swirled out at that point. I believe it is a combination of the temperature of the beer and all of the swirling.

2016

Aroma:

cold: dark malts but far from prominent; can’t find cherry

warm: very light chocolate and cherry

Color: Clear dark red-brown (carbonation interfering with visual inspection; head same as 2013

Taste:

cold: Full-bodied and creamy; less sweet than 2013 at beginning; goes into darker malts rapidly; some very light cherryish notes in finish. A bit more bitter; from malt? [Didn’t seem a hop bitterness.]

warm: no notes

They were vastly different with assorted foods:

  • Egmont cheese
  • Beecher’s Marco Polo cheese
  • Rosey Goat cheese (rosemary): No! enhances soapiness of the rosemary
  • Roasted sweet potato
  • Roasted apples
  • Roasted pecans

The 2013 was more complex than 2016; while in the 2016 the cherry, which was very subdued, came out nicely with assorted foods.

Again, I have the utmost respect for this beer but the cherry is not my thing. Give me BBC and Ian’s Big Bad Russian or The Raven Baltic Porter or Currant Volksekt or Salmonberry Sour or Ludwig German Pilsner. Ludwig is one of the very best Pilsners available in Bend, which is something with Crux’s amazing Pilsners available here, which also makes it extremely good. Period.

Guinness The Brewers Project Taste-Off

We saw our friend, Ryan Sharp, at Broken Top Bottle Shop & Ale Café last Friday evening and he told us Costco had Guinness’ The Brewer’s Project 18-pack in and he had only tried one so far but was looking forward to the other two. I went to Costco Saturday morning and got one.

Picture of a carton of Guinness' The Brewers Project box

Here’s an article about this project at Ad Age.

And here’s a 0:30 video from Guinness, which truth be told irked me after giving up an exact birthdate for age verification. In particular, my gripe is that that is it for info available there. Um. OK.

Photo of description of the beers on the carton

Yes, they used “brewers,” “brewers’” and “brewer’s” and they left a period off one description. Grammar? Sort of. Sad they can’t get the name standardized.

Dublin Porter [1796]

ABV 3.8% “Dublin Porter is inspired by a reference in our historic brewers’ diaries dating back to 1796. It is a sweet and smooth beer with subtle caramel and hoppy aroma notes and burnt biscuit finish.”

Aroma: Sweet; very light grape. Slight tang emerges as warms.

Color: All are about the same color but lighting was also sub-par; very light tan, fine-bubbled head, non-persistent.

Taste: Very slightly vinous, very light smoke, definitely light tang?, very light grape; finishes very lightly sweet and then dries out long. Thinnest of the three.

West Indies Porter [1801]

ABV 6.0% “A style with origins from our brewer’s diaries dating back to 1801, West Indies Porter is complex yet mellow, hoppy with notes of toffee and chocolate”

Aroma: Light smoky sourness.

Color: All are about the same color but lighting was also sub-par; light brown, fine-bubbled head, non-persistent.

Taste: Light but lingering smoke; med dry finish with light astringency. Light chocolate as warms.

Guinness Original [1800s]

ABV 4.2% “Guinness Original is the closest variant to Arthur Guinness’ original stout recipe and was first introduced in Dublin around 1800’s as a premium porter. Still sold today in the UK as Guinness Original, this brew is very similar to Guinness Extra Stout. It’s hoppy, roast and crisp with a bittersweet finish.”

Aroma: Very light chocolate. Extremely light grape as warms.

Color: All are about the same color but lighting was also sub-par; fine-bubbled head, non-persistent, in between other two in color

Taste: Creamiest [mostly due to carbonation]; very light sweetness and extremely light tang across middle; finishes with hint of chocolate, med dry but sweeter than West Indies Porter. Very light astringency and mild chalkiness late in the finish.

Comparison. Color of the beers and all aspects of the head were pretty much the same with the biggest, yet still small, difference in head color. As for body, all were very similar yet different.

None of them are really that good but they are respectable. I will most likely use the remaining 13 for cooking with unless I have a friend visit who simply must taste them.

Concluding thoughts

I am looking forward to seeing everyone else’s thoughts on porter and in how they interpreted the fairly wide-open prompt.

I adore some porters and if you include stouts as forms of porter, as Terry Foster and Martyn Cornell do, then I love lots of them but I much prefer some forms of porters and stouts to others, to say the least, and even then I don’t love every example within each sub-style. As for “regular” porters I prefer them to be sliding into stout territory in body and roastiness along with a slightly broader range of bitterness acceptable.

Even if none of these are my favorite examples within their various sub-styles I quite enjoyed spending some time tasting and comparing all of them while trying to work on my sensory perceptions and translating those into words. Usually a good exercise.

See you in a couple days with a Session #109 Roundup post. Cheers!

My “8 Ways To Celebrate Oregon Craft Beer Month”

A few days ago The New School tweeted a link to an article at Gadling.com (travel blog), “8 Ways to Celebrate Oregon Craft Beer Month,” by Anna Brones on 6 July 2013. Since I was on my way to Corvallis for a few days I found its timing serendipitous, especially suggestion #2. Thus, I thought I would use it to build a post around.

I had never heard of the Gadling travel blog before or of the article’s author, Anna Brones. Poking the site and especially her byline link, I must say I am slightly confused. It states that,”Anna Brones is a food and travel writer based in Paris, France. In her spare time, she heads up Foodie Underground.” Most of her articles are about Europe, although I did see one about train travel in the Pacific Northwest so perhaps she gets out here once in a while. Not a complaint at all. Just seems a bit random to me but then, hey, I’ll take folks talking up Oregon Craft Beer Month on a wider basis.

On to the article and what I am already doing that fits her suggestions:

1. Go to a festival

While not making it to the big one this year (Oregon Brewer’s Festival), we did attend the Whole Foods Summer Brewfest on Saturday, 6 July, which benefitted the Humane Society of Central Oregon. We tasted all of the following beers and one mead from Nectar of the Gods:

  • Deschutes Belgian Baroness
  • Stone Oak-aged Arrogant Bastard
  • Fort George 3-Way
  • Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere
  • Crux Castor Weizen
  • Hop Valley Vanilla Infused Porter
  • Full Sail Bohemian Pilsner

It was small but included these breweries and around four to six more. It was a tough choice for which beers to try and several we would have liked to sample we had to pass on since we were going to a movie afterwards.

2. Plan a road trip that involves at least five breweries

While I hadn’t actually “planned” out a road trip, per se, it is always my intention to visit the breweries when I go to Corvallis. And this trip was going to include one brand-new brewery, Mazama Brewing, and one new to me, the OSU Fermentation Sciences pilot brewery, where I had scheduled a visit for a tour and tasting. The following is a list of the breweries I visited in the order I got to them this time:

  • Mazama (brand-new; soft opened 31 May)
  • Block 15
  • Flat Tail
  • OSU Fermentation Sciences pilot brewery (new to me)
  • McMenamins Corvallis Pub (new to me)
  • Oregon Trail

I intend to write a post each about my visit to Mazama and the OSU Fermentation Sciences pilot brewery.

3. Buy beer and other assorted goods

The Fourth of July is mentioned so I will mention the 4th of July Coming Out Stouts party we had with 7 of our friends. Its name, which had a couple different variants, was in celebration of the Supreme Court’s DOMA and Prop 8 rulings and of my recovery from my recent surgery. We sampled 12 stouts and one porter while enjoying food, conversation and companionship on our back porch. Most of the stouts were already present although I did pick up another Cavatica Stout from Fort George (it comes in 16 oz cans and not 22 oz bombers like the others) and a Rogue Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout to pair with the other oatmeal stout I already had.

On 2 July I picked up bottles #7-12 of Black Butte Porter XXV from Broken Top Bottle Shop to round out my case. While I couple of days later I bought a Deschutes Teku goblet at the brewery to compliment the BBPs and other big dark beers from Deschutes.

No doubt other beers have and will be bought over the remainder of the month. As for other beer gear, yesterday I ordered a new Danby 11 cu ft DAR1102WE fridge to replace my much smaller Danby DAR440W as The Cellar. It won’t be delivered for two more weeks but I got an amazing price from Standard TV & Appliance who has it for 15% off through this Monday. Even without the sale it would have been much cheaper then Amazon or Home Depot.

4. Plan a weekend of “research”

The suggested “research” is browsing this Portland monthly article, “50 Best Oregon Beers,” to see which you can get if you live elsewhere. Since I do live in Oregon, I thought I’d see how many I have had so far. It looks like I have had 18 of the 50 so far, although I am fairly certain I have tasted 2-3 more of them.

As for research, especially if you put scare quotes around it, well, that’s what I do. Each week I have scheduled a minimum of one hour/day for four days of beer studying and research. I read beer books and magazines and websites and blog posts and so on. I try to review some of them and hope/intend to review more.

While in Corvallis I got 3 books from OSU Valley Library and bought 2 books and a magazine at The Book Bin. I am currently reading Bamforth, Charles W, ed. 2006. Brewing: New Technologies. Woodhead Publishing in Food Science, Technology, and Nutrition. Cambridge, England: Woodhead Pub. and I am re-reading Bamforth, Charles W. 2009. Beer: Tap into the Art and Science of Brewing. 3rd ed. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press. I intend to write reviews of both.

Numbers 5 and 6 are run and drink, and bike and drink but due to my surgery I can neither run nor bike currently.

7. Try a new style of beer

This one is in theory harder to pull off than any of the others but succeed I did. At Block 15 in Corvallis I was able to try their IMP, a Belgian enkel or single. While touring the OSU Fermentation Sciences pilot brewery I was able to taste their Standard American industry lager and a Nordic Farmhouse Rye. That’s three new styles.

One could argue that I have drank plenty of standard American industry lager, which would be true, but I haven’t in a decade or two and I certainly  haven’t since I started seriously drinking craft beer. I still think I need to give the ubiquitous PBR a try soon but I can in reasonably good faith consider myself to have tried Bud/Miller/etc. and even a variant made with 016 hops instead of Willamettes.

8. Learn to homebrew

I tried this myself once back in the mid 80s while in Belgium with a British homebrew kit. It did not turn out well. I did help a friend on brew day with a Russian River Blind Pig clone back in June but I doubt I will get a chance to do so again this month. The books and magazine that I bought at The Book Bin are all on homebrewing, though, and one of the books from Valley Library is, so in essence the attempt is there.

No doubt I have missed something or the other but there’s my list of things done to celebrate Oregon Craft Beer Month as bounced off of some list of ideas.

The most important thing, though, is missing from the list. That is simply to experience and (responsibly) enjoy some tasty Oregon craft beer this month. Along with every other month of the year!

What are you doing to celebrate Oregon Craft Beer Month?