Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Craft Critique: Eel River Brewing Company's Porter

While out shopping at my local Kroger store a few days ago, I decided to peruse the beer section and see if there was anything new and interesting in the single bottles. After being confronted with what felt like row upon row of IPA's during my last trip, I was pleasantly surprised to see a wider variety of brews this time.

I have always been partial to stouts and porters, so when I saw Eel River Brewing Company's Porter on the shelf, I snatched up two bottles. One for me, one for my partner in beer crime. I am not a huge follower of the trend towards an all organic diet, but being able to put two bottles of organic beer into my mixed 6 pack did seem like a bit of steal to me.

Eel River offers this description of their Porter:

"This certified organic Porter uses a complex blend of five malts that compliment and highlight one another in a harmonious mixture. While decidedly in the robust porter category, Eel River Brewing Company's Porter has none of the harsh characteristics often associated with dark ales. Instead, you find a rich, smooth beer with suggestions of chocolate and just a hint of coffee. So smooth and malty, this porter will convert even the non-dark-beer drinker."

While not the most descriptive summary of a beer I have ever read, it is fairly accurate. Here is my review of this beer.

Appearance
This beer pours a dark brown hue with ruby highlights, reminding me of my favorite cola. It was topped off with a slight tan head that quickly fades to a thin ring around the perimeter of the glass. There was very little lacing as I enjoyed my beer.

Smell
The first whiff of my freshly poured porter instantly reminded me of red wine-very cabernet-ish. I could smell dark fruits and a slight musky presence. Upon letting the beer warm a bit, the wine smell dissipated and the aroma became more of what is expected from a porter-dark roasted malt, chocolate, coffee and a faint whiff of vanilla.

Taste
I was instantly put off by the initial taste of Eel River's Porter. It reminded me of black olives, kind of a dark fruit flavor and earthiness with an almost imperceptible touch of brine. Once the beer was allowed to warm, the flavor shifted into something very different. It presents with an obvious dark chocolate flavor with a malty sweetness and a touch of coffee. There is a slight acidic taste on the back of the tongue after drinking this beer.

Mouthfeel
This beer has a nice, medium body as it flows across the palate. It is neither thin and watery nor heavy and syrupy. The carbonation matches the heft of this beer perfectly. It finishes with a bit of a dry, crisp feel.

Overall Impression
My initial impression of this beer was not a good one. Taken straight from the refrigerator, neither the smell nor the taste appealed to me. However, letting the beer warm to the proper temperature for serving porters was a crucial step for my enjoyment. Nothing stood out to me as exceptional about this beer, but I do have to say it is a decent representation of what a porter should be. I would recommend it to anyone who has shied away from darker beers for fear of them being too strong or bitter but is still curious to try them. Food pairings for this brew would include barbecue, ribs, blackened fish or chicken, chocolate-peanut butter desserts, desserts featuring toasted coconut or with a high quality vanilla ice cream in a beer float.

Eel River's Porter is certified organic and has won a number of awards, including Gold Medals at the 2010 Australian International Beer Awards, 2009 Los Angeles International Beer Competition and 2006 California State Fair Commercial Craft Brewers Competition.For more information about Eel River Brewing and their beers, please visit their website, Facebook and Twitter.

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