When I think of great craft beer I usually picture Colorado or California, not Hawaii. Hawaii seems like a great place for a lot of obvious reasons but it just doesn't strike me as a place you could expect to find a lot of craft beer... On a recent trip to Colorado I stumbled upon a couple beers from Kona and Maui Brewing Co. I figured there might be something to these beers if they've made the costly trip from Hawaii and landed on a shelf on the far side of the Rockies. I picked up these cans of Maui Brewing's CoCoNut Porter because it struck me as the most unique selection that was available. I mean, when's the last time you had a coconut flavored beer?
Avant Peche is a beer I've been waiting a long time to try. Odell first announced this beer about four months ago but up until last week it was only available in Colorado. I happened to be in Boulder last week and picked up a bottle just as the Avant Peche was showing up on shelves back home. What excited me most about the Avant Peche was the style of this beer, it's an Imperial Porter that is barrel aged and blended with peaches. I've had a few peach flavored Wheat beers but never a Porter. This intrigued me because I've really enjoyed the two sour Porters I've had before and I was hoping the Avant Peche would be similar to those beers.
Beers brewed with chili peppers is one emerging trend that I haven't been able to get behind yet. It may be that that the beers I've had weren't great examples of the style, but peppers are definitely a bold and forceful ingredient that have to be handled with great care. The pepper ales I've had thus far have all been too peppery. There's just too much peppery heat that comes from the addition of peppers that overpowers the other flavors and kills my taste buds. Mikkeller is a brewer who has surprised me before and I'm hoping this Chipotle Porter is a different level of chili pepper beer.
Sierra Nevada is a brewery I tend to overlook. Around this time last week I would've been able to count the number of Sierra Nevada styles I'd had before on one hand. It seemed like each one was hoppier than the last... The Pale Ale, the Estate Harvest, the Southern Hemisphere Harvest Ale, the Celebration Ale (08 and 09) and then finally the Bigfoot Barleywine. I didn't care for any of these beers, mostly because I don't dig the super bitter hopped style that made Sierra Nevada famous. Really, it's not you, it's me... I just don't like those styles. Earlier this week I participated in a blind tasting of Sierra Nevada and Left Hand beers. I found most of their seasonal line up to be respectable and I decided to return to their Porter and give it a formal review.
I can't say I've had many Danish craft beers before... In fact, I can't think of a Danish beer other than Carlsberg that I've had in recent memory. I don't have anything against Denmark, I quite like Vikings and Legos, I just haven't seen many Danish beers at the liquor store that caught my attention. This bottle of Skärgaards Porter, from Nørrebro Bryghus in Copenhagen, caught my eye while I was out of town and I decided to bring it home with me. I've found myself liking Porters more and more but what sealed the deal for me was the "brewed with honey" line at the bottom of the label. If there's one thing I like more than Vikings and Legos, it's honey.
The Imperial label carries a bit cache. When I see an Imperial Stout or Imperial IPA on the shelves I know I'm in for a rough ride. Not rough in the sense that the beer is bad, just that it will be big, if not extreme. The nomenclature isn't something I'll bore you with, I'll just leave it at this: seeing the Imperial prefix on a label means the beer is usually double or triple the original. Double or triple what? Well, that's up to the brewer... That's the question I was asking myself when I saw this bottle of Breckenridge's Small Batch Imperial Porter. You don't see Imperial Porters often, and this was my first so I wasn't really sure what to expect. Breckenridge Porters are among my favorites so I figured it was worth the purchase price even if I really had no idea what exactly to expect.
First, you should know I'm not a coffee drinker. I don't like the temperature or the flavor of coffee. I find it too bland or too bitter, so I just don't drink it. I do like Stouts and Porter style beer, even when they are a little more bitter than I'd like. The dark flavors in these beers are often compared to coffees so I guess it only makes sense to brew a beer with real coffee flavors. I've had a number of Coffee Stouts and Espresso Porters but I've never taken much of a liking to them. Usually I'll just take a sip, say it tastes like coffee and move on. I have yet to find a coffee flavored beer I genuinely like.
Everyone seems to love Fuller's London Porter, so I decided to try it out. I've seen it on the shelf many times at the store but never felt compelled to pick up a bottle. Anyway, I've finally come into possession of a bottle of London Porter and I'm kicking myself for not picking it up sooner. If you've had a proper Porter style beer before then you've got an idea of what to expect from the Fuller's. It's definitely dark, roasty and creamy. When I poured this beer into my pint glass I noticed there was a bit of vanilla and caramel in the aroma. These aren't scents which are terribly rare in the world of Porters, but they usually foreshadow a great drinking experience.
There aren't many beers that have a better sounding name. Caramel Porter... it conjures memories of sticky caramel candies and creamy dark Porter beers. Mmmm it just sounds delicious. Perhaps I had unreal expectations of this beer, because all of my hopes were dashes as soon as I took my first sip. Saranac's Caramel Porter was probably doomed long before I picked this beer up from the store. You see, these flavors don't really work all that well together. The creamy and chalky Porter might just be too bitter to play nicely with the caramel. It sounds like it'd be a match made in craft beer heaven, and maybe it could still work... but Saranac wasn't able to pull it off.
Breckenridge's Vanilla Porter was a big surprise to me when I had my first bottle last year. This beer has a generous amount of vanilla brewed in, and this is abundantly apparent upon taking your first sip. You'll notice right off the bat that this beer isn't (as) bitter, despite being a pitch black Porter. Rather, this beer is sweet like dark chocolate with a creamy vanilla element that makes everything go down really smoothly. You don't need a sweet tooth to enjoy this beer though. While you can pick up on hints of caramel, chocolate and bourbon - this beer is never overbearing. There are a lot of different sweet flavors in this beer and that's because it takes a lot of sweetness to make up for the bitterness that usually comes with being a Porter.