If you love dark beer, you probably find yourself drinking quite a few strong specimens—luscious barrel-aged imperial stouts and robust porters, rich, roasty...and boozy. But what about the sorts of dark beers that you can drink by the pint all afternoon?
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This may be the time when you can find spiced Christmas beers and hearty winter warmers on the shelves of your local beer shop, but it's also the season to really enjoy the rich, chocolaty flavor of porters and stouts...and their Imperial big siblings. But which are the best of the bunch? And what should you eat with this style of beer?
A shot of Fernet and a pint of beer have long lived in double-fisting harmony. But now, with the release of Odell Brewing Co.'s Fernet Aged Porter, they meet in the rich, glorious chocolate-minty middle.
There are many myths swirling around the origins and evolution of porter and stout. First there is the notion that stout and porter refer to quite different styles; another holds that these beers were always dark, while a third tradition relies on the 'three threads' story to give porter an origin myth. All these tales are largely—and in some cases entirely—untrue.
We drink more than our fair share of oatmeal stout—there's something about the creaminess that always calls to us. But we haven't seen a ton of oatmeal porters, so Widmer Brothers' new release in the Series 924 collection drew our attention.
Given my affinity for holidays that downplay god and family in favor of beer and whiskey, you might think that I go all out for St. Patrick's Day. And for a few years in my late teens and early 20s I did try to get into the full swing of things with lavish celebrations featuring pots of gold and religious intolerance and green puke, but these days St. Paddy's doesn't even crack my top 10 list of favorite holidays.
This Northwest Sour Ale started as a blend of strong dark porters aged in oak, wine and bourbon barrels, then blended with a dark porter that was brewed with vanilla beans and cinnamon. The blend was then aged an additional 14 months with dates.
Baltic Porters almost always give me grounds for nitpicking. I often find the taste too cloying or the alcohol too harsh—one element or another usually throws the beer out of whack. Foothills Brewing's Baltic Porter is a well-balanced exception.
We tasted eight Imperial Porters brewed by American craft breweries and found quite a few delicious examples of this potent style.
American breweries have put their own stamp on the style, experimenting with dark roasted (or even smoked) barley, helpings of piney hops, and extra ingredients such as coffee and chocolate. While some of these beers could still be good for a long drinking session, American porters are often stronger and more intensely flavored than their English cousins.
Though dark in color, English porters aren't very high in alcohol. They have a hint of coffee-like bitterness from black, chocolate, or smoked brown malted barley, but not as much big roasted flavor as most stouts. A good porter is creamy and drinkable—if you think you don't like dark beers, you should give porters a chance.