Doctor Duvel

I'm like a sommelier, but for beer.

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Location: Upstate New York, United States

Favorite Beers: Orval, Samuel Smith, Duvel, Hennepin, Oude Gueze, Chimay, Dogfish Head, Anchor Steam, and anything made by Trappist monks.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Another Porter Tasting

In an on-going search for perfection, I'm lining my (now slightly more mature) 16-Penny Porter up against another quality porter, this time Smuttynose's Robust Porter, possibly the best bottled domestic porter available. Won a buncha gold medals and such. Try it.


Smutty: Basically opaque. Thin, slightly tan head.

16-Penny: Also opaque, maybe a little redder around the edges. Thin, slightly paler head.


Smutty: Huh. I'm going back and forth and it's remarkably hard to differentiate between these beers for the first few sniffs. Here, I'm getting coffee, a little caramel, rich dark chocolate. Delicate whiff of Cascades?

16-Penny: Coffee, toffee, dark chocolate. Mine got a Willamette dry-hop and I think that's adding an extra little resiny dimension, that, depending on your taste in porter, might or might not be desirable. That's pretty much the difference. It depends on the temperature, but the hopping can be slightly distracting from the primary porter flavors. Although it's a lovely aroma actually. Right out of the fridge they smell damn near the same, but with a little warmer temperature, the hops come out. I added the hops when I smelled the beer coming out of primary and thought it was so roasty as to be vegetal. Figured something needed to compete with that or I was going to be in trouble. That aroma calmed down a ton and now the hopping is just slightly obtrusive. But I like hops.


Smutty: Dry, coffee and chocolate, a little earthy bitterness. Clean, full. Not a ton of body, but enough.

16-Penny: A tiny bit richer, but still the same basic flavor palette. My friend Buck said my porter needed a touch more body, and I'm inclined to agree. Porter is not supposed to be a heavy beer exactly, but a little more crystal malt, a touch of carapils, or a mash that ramped up into the upper 150's 10 minutes sooner, might give me a little fuller palate. But it's hardly a prominent defect.

Overall impressions:

The biggest difference between the grain bills of my beer and theirs is the presence of black patent, which they eschew and I used quite a lot of. This was what I thought made my beer taste a little harsh alongside Anchor Porter. It doesn't really taste harsh next to this one (the Anchor is a relatively effete Porter, not that it's not lovely).

I could easily redo the recipe, using no Black, more dark Crystal, and work in a little Carastan and I'd have something closer to Smutty. I'd also have to lose most of the aroma hops. I like my porter a lot and I'm pleased at how well it holds up, but I might, next time I make a porter, drop the dry-hopping, drop the aroma hopping a little, and even drop the IBU's by 10 or 12, in search of a more balanced beer, and one that emphasizes the malt characters more overall. After all, porter is about those coffee flavors and, though hops can co-exist with them, one might do well to let the character malts really do their thing without potential distraction. Still, I made an awfully pretty beer that maintains its own kind of balance.


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