Beer Review: Cape May Brewery’s King Porter Stomp

A break from the Belgians/Belgian Styles on this latest review here at the Tap Takeover…

Name: King Stomp Porter
Brewing Company: Cape May Brewing Company
Location: Cape May, NJ
Style: Porter – Baltic
ABV: 7.4%

 

From Cape May Brewing’s Web page for the beer:

The smooth notes of natural chocolate in King Porter Stomp are in perfect syncopation with the five different malts that provide the bass line of this robust beast. Medium-bodied with a chocolate aroma, King Porter Stomp is smooth as jazz.

I realize it has been less than a year since I last reviewed/highlighted a beer from Cape May Brewery here, but the calendar flipped over and this beer is considered a winter seasonal by the brewery. King Porter Stomp is one of the most important Jazz standards (per that Wikipedia link) and Cape May is home to the Exit Zero Jazz Festival. Jazz Festival, plus a jazz song with “Porter” in the title and you have this beer, which is the official beer of the Exit Zero Jazz Festival with Cape May Brewery as an official sponsor.

Over the past year, Cape May Brewery’s beers have been popping up with consistency in my area which is a very welcome addition to the beer shelves. When I learned about this beer over a year or two ago, I knew I wanted to have it since I enjoy porters so much.  This beer isn’t just a standard porter, it is one of the more unique styles of beer, the Baltic Porter. The Baltic Porter usually has a higher alcohol content than a standard porter and often have an acidic, bittersweet finish that can have hints of licorice.

The beer pours a rich black that gives off a bittersweet aroma. The chocolate is very upfront in this beer, a sweetness that is really nice. The finish, at least cold out of the can, is a little more bitter than I typically like but it balances out the early sweetness present in the beer.

This is a beer I should let warm up a little bit, is what I think after the first couple of sips. Once it settles from the cold from the fridge, the bittersweet finish softens a bit. There was always a hint of licorice, which I typically don’t like, but the sweetness from the start grows as it warms and makes the licorice and bitterness at the end very pleasing. Although the beer is 7.4% ABV, I can see myself having two cans of this over the course of a cold evening. I’d take that second can out of the fridge and let it warm just a bit before cracking open the can.

King Porter Stomp is a fantastic winter seasonal beer. A delicious desert beer, a beer to enjoy over a long night of gaming or watching an epic movie. A beer that shows helps to show the skill that the brewers at Cape May Brewery have over their range of styles.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

To The Port (Level 17)

Dating back to the 18th century, porters remain an extremely popular style to this day. That is 85 different beers with the style of Porter.

Beer Review: New Phone Who Dis? | Evil Genius Beer

Name: New Phone Who Dis?
Brewing Company: Evil Genius Beer Company
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Style: Porter – Other
ABV: 6%

From Evil Genius’s beer page:

CARAMEL MACCHIATO PORTER
Your favorite espresso beverage has now become your favorite adult beverage! Brewed with American barley, caramel and chocolate malt, and a touch of dark wheat. Gently hopped with American and German hops, and then infused with caramel and locally roasted La Colombe coffee. Full-bodied, smooth and robust, with notes of sweet caramel, mocha, and chocolate.

Evil Genius is one of a plethora of fine breweries out of the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania region. Although some may know the brewery from the uniquely named brews, the beers I’ve had have been quite good. After all, the beer names can draw the attention, but the flavor and taste keep you drinking.

As I poured the black beer into my glass, I caught sweet aromas of caramel. Evil Genius calls this a “Caramel Macchiato Porter” and it smells just like that. First sip is a big hit of that caramel, but enough of the porter characteristics are present, too.

This beer is extremely sweet as the caramel is the most prominent flavor component with very little of the coffee flavors coming through initially. After the first few sips of the beer, as the beer warmed to room temperature, the caramel power settled down. Although still definitely present, coffee flavors started to rise. It was then that the porter characteristics of the beer also began to assert themselves, with a slightly roasted finish flavoring the backend of the beer.

I can get why the sweetness of the caramel and cocoa in this beer might be too cloying for some. If you don’t like caramel, obviously stay away from the beer. For my tastes; however, the caramel notes were just enough. If you like dark beers like porters and stouts that include coffee in the brewing process or evoke the taste and feel of coffee, you’d probably like this one.

More caramel than coffee, but definitely a uniquely flavored porter, New Phone Who Dis? is a tasty dessert beer that won’t knock you over the head too strongly with the sweetness. For me, one was enough at the time I drank it, but I would return to this beer after a slice of rich chocolate cake to polish off the evening. This beer is continuing proof that Evil Genius’s experimentationial brews live up to their wacky names, which is a nice thing indeed.

Recommended, link to Untappd 3.75-star rating, a beer I liked enough to try and buy again. I can see myself enjoying this one more on a second try at a later date, too.

Beer Review: River Horse Chocolate Porter

Name: Chocolate Porter
Brewing Company: River Horse Brewing Company
Location: Ewing, NJ
Style: Porter
ABV: 6.5%

The yellow “Coaster” is from the River Horse 6K I ran with my wife in brother-in-law in April 2016. At the end of the race, everybody got a pint of Summer Blonde. Logo on the glass is the old-school, pre-2007 logo.

The beer’s description on River Horse’s Landing Page for the beer:

We start with a brown porter brewed with dark roasted malts, and add one pound of chocolate per barrel. We then throw in some Madagascar Vanilla beans to accentuate the chocolate flavors, resulting in a decadent porter. Available February – March.

As one of the oldest micro-breweries in the state, River Horse Brewing Company is a New Jersey Brewing institution. Originally started back in 1995/6 in Lambertville, NJ, new ownership took over in 2007, and they moved to a larger facility in 2013 in Ewing, NJ. Their mascot Brewtus (a stylized cartoon hippo) appears in various guises appropriate for each beer of the line-up (with cow markings for the Milk Stout, googly eyes for the Hippotizing IPA, etc).

Although I’ve mentioned their beers and the brewery in a few posts here at the Tap Takeover, I’ve had intentions of giving one of their beers a full review for a while. Initially determining which beer from their portfolio to highlight  first was a minor challenge since River Horse brews quite a few beers I like including the excellent Oatmeal Milk Stout and Tripel Horse, which was awarded a Bronze Medal at the 2017 Great American Beer Festival. In the end, I figured I’d highlight one of the special beers they consider a seasonal and available throughout their distribution footprint.

On to the delicious Chocolate Porter…

Popping open the cap, the beer pours into the glass a silky dark brown that smooths into black when the light hits it the right way. Poured properly, there’s a small light brown or tan head. Once fully poured into the glass the beer practically screams: Drink Me!

Some porters can have a powerful (or overpowering) smoky element, which is not the case for this beer. The “one pound of chocolate per barrel” sweetens the beer and eliminates some of that bitter smoke/roast flavor. If anything, the roast/smoke is akin to the edges of a freshly baked brownie, but the overall flavor, if we’re continuing with the brownie analogy, is like the gooey, slightly under-baked deliciousness at the center of the brownie.

The texture of the beer is really smooth with only minimal carbonation; just enough that it still feels like a beer.  For me, this is a beer that works better when it is colder rather than warming to room temperature like many darker beers.  At 6.5% ABV, it isn’t too heavy, so you don’t have to take your time with drinking it for those reasons, but the decadent, sumptuous flavor makes you want to take your time with the beer you just poured. Even if you have another four or five in the refrigerator from your six pack.

River Horse’s Chocolate Porter is most definitely a dessert beer, if that hasn’t become evident at this point. In other words, if you could take the best brownie you’ve ever had and transformed what makes it so good into beer form, chances are you’d have yourself a bottle of River Horse’s Chocolate Porter. First brewed and bottled in 2015 (I think), the beer has become a highlight of River Horse’s annual lineup in February, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

If I were to build a shelf of Essential NJ Beers, River Horse’s Chocolate Porter would definitely have a spot. From River Horse’s long history in the state to the pure wonderful taste of this beer, I’ve had this in my rotation of beers since I first had and enjoyed the beer. I know I raved about Kane’s Sunday Brunch Porter a couple of weeks ago and don’t get me wrong that is a fine, fantastic porter. However, the simple elegance of chocolate makes this beer stand on its own and make it a sought after beer in the region.

Back in 2016, River Horse bottled an Imperial version of this Porter, I hope they do again and I hope I get to sample it.

Highly Recommended, link to Untappd 4.5-bottle cap rating.

Beer Review: Spellbound Brewing’s Porter Aged on Palo Santo Wood

Name: Porter Aged on Palo Santo Wood
Brewing Company: Spellbound Brewing
Location: Mount Holly, NJ
Style: Porter
ABV: 6.9%

From the beer’s description about halfway down the “Our Beers” section of Spellbound Brewing’s Web site:

Our year round porter aged on palo santo wood. The palo santo brings out more of the chocolate flavor. The beer changes flavors and aromas as it warms. Most notable are chocolate, vanilla, anise, and even hints of mint.

Spellbound Brewing is one of many independent craft breweries to open in New Jersey over the past couple of years. I’d been curious about their output since learning about them. From what I’ve gathered they make well-received beers and have a fairly diverse portfolio of beers. Also, they have one of the best logos of any NJ Brewery. My interest was piqued further when the great Pete Genovose (NJ food writer) had good things to say on twitter about the brewery. Then a couple of months ago, this beer was awarded a Gold Medal at the 2017 Great American Beer Festival in the “Wood Aged Category.” I knew I had to try at least one of their beers sooner rather than later, especially this one. My only issue with the brewery is that Spellbound is a relatively long drive for me, but fortunately one of the folks on the team I began managing in November lives close to Spellbound, knows the brewers and was able to get me a four pack, as well as the IPA, which is also quite good

Two porters in a row under review here at The Tap Takeover, I know, but this is such an outstanding beer I wanted to write about it immediately. The beer has the great black look of most porters and the aroma as you crack open the can hints at chocolate and a bit of roast. The first sip is just … everything I ever wanted in a porter. Perfect mouthfeel (I almost hate typing that, if I’m still to be honest), but this one definitely feels exactly how I expect a porter to feel.

As the beer evolves over the course of drinking it, both on the sip and as it sits in the glass, sweet chocolate flavors emerge making this into something of a dessert beer. Upon finishing and getting the full array of flavors, something magical happened. Letting the beer age on Palo Santo wood gave the beer sweet, slightly bittersweet, cocoa flavors. I didn’t get the mint that the label suggested, but maybe a little bit of anise.

The drum I continue to beat about a lot of the beers I’ve reviewed here is to let them warm in the glass from fridge temperature to room temperature before finishing the beer. The label even suggests you do this with the beer and I can only agree. As wonderful as the beer was on the first pour into the glass, the complexities, sweetness and sheer deliciousness of the beer only increased as it settled to room temperature. The only slight I can give to the beer, and the minimal element that keeps it from getting a perfect score, is a very slight lingering bitterness after the finish. Again, it was only very minor so the fact that it gets a 4.75 out of 5 and that it won a Gold Medal at the Great American Beer Festival should let you know this is a World Class Beer and a “must try” if you have the opportunity.

I haven’t had Spellbound’s standard porter so I can’t compare this wood-aged version to the original version. What I can say is that this is the absolute best porter I had in 2017, an all-time best porter for me, and beer that will sit very, very high on the shelf of “New to Me” beers for 2017.

Highly Recommended, link to Untappd 4.75-bottle cap rating.

Beer Review: Ballast Point’s Victory at Sea

Name: Victory at Sea
Brewing Company: Ballast Point Brewing Co.
Location: San Diego, California
Style: Imperial Porter with Coffee and Vanilla
ABV: 10%

From the beer’s description on Ballast Point Brewing Company’s Web site:

A big porter crafted to weather any storm.

Our Ballast Point Victory at Sea Imperial Porter is a bold, smooth brew with just the right amount of sweetness. We infused this robust porter with vanilla and San Diego’s own Caffe Calabria coffee beans. The subtle roasted notes and minimal acidity of the cold brewed coffee, balances perfectly with the sweet caramel undertones of the malt, creating a winning combination for your palate.

Ballast Point is one of the largest craft brewers in California, although no longer “independent” since the brewery was acquired by Constellation Brands (who also own Modela Negro, Corona, Funky Buddha in beer and Modavi wine and Svedka Vodka, among others) in 2015. Regardless of that, Ballast Point has been crafting popular and acclaimed beers since 1996. I’ve had a handful of their brews and liked about half of what I’ve had (especially their California Kölsch and Piper Down Scotch Ale) but of everything Ballast Point brews, this beer appeals to me the most.

Porters are one of my favorite styles and I’d wanted to give this well-regarded interpretation of the style a try for a while. I has a little hesitant to commit to full six pack at the price point, but fortunately, my favorite bottle shop (Gary’s in Hillsborough, NJ) sells some single bottles which is how I procured this one. Like most porters, this one pours a deep black and tops off with a slightly tan head. As a dark beer lover, it looks appealing and the aromas of coffee and vanilla are really inviting. The first taste gives off strong vanilla and coffee flavors with ample sweetness. The beer is relatively full bodied and definitely full of flavor. The flavor that lingers the most; however, is the vanilla. Even more than the coffee.

I’ve come to realize that vanilla, for all the suggestions and metaphors for vanilla being plain and boring, is a tough flavor component to pull off successfully. Especially in beer. I’ve had quite a few vanilla porters and stouts and more than one has given a really strong unpleasant aftertaste with few exhibiting a perfectly balanced vanilla component of the beer. Here with Victory at Sea, for my tastebuds, it is a nearly perfect execution of the vanilla. There’s only a slight lingering aftertaste from the vanilla, but the pleasant taste up front far outweighs the lingering at the end and kept my rating at a 4-bottle-cap review for untappd.

The ABV of 10% in this one isn’t too pronounced in the flavor profile. Then again, I took my time drinking the beer as a “dessert” so the alcohol didn’t affect me too much. However, that relatively high ABV should be taken into consideration if you’re having more than one or two of these dark, delicious beers.

At one point in Ballast Point’s brewing history, this beer was available only as a 22oz bomb and on draft, but a year or two ago, the beer became available in 6 packs.. It has since become an extremely popular seasonal favorite and I can see why. There are a few variants, including a barrel aged variant to help celebrate Victory at Sea Day making this an “Event Beer” for Ballast Point and folks who enjoy the beer around the country

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer

Heavy Weight (Level 49)

You like it thick and dark. Your beer! What did you think we were talking about? That’s 245 different beers with the style of Porter or Stout.

Sky’s the Limit (Level 18)

You don’t always intend to go for beers with a double digit ABV, but when you do, you make it count! Cheers to you, but be careful, 10% and up can really pack a punch. That’s 90 different beers with an ABV of 10% and up.

Victory at Sea (Special/One Time Badge)

Prepare the ballast and hoist the sails. You’ve made a date with darkness, so you’re in for a decadent journey through notes of vanilla, roasted cold-brew coffee, and caramel. A bold and rewarding choice you’ve earned the “Victory at Sea Day” badge for your treasure chest!

Beer Review: Heavy Seas Blackbeard’s Breakfast

Name: Blackbeard’s Breakfast
Brewing Company: Heavy Seas Beer/Clipper City Brewing Co.
Location: Baltimore, Maryland
Style: Porter / Imperial Coffee Porter
ABV: 10%

From the beer’s description on Heavy Seas Brewing Company’s Web site:

Blackbeard’s Breakfast is a robust porter with a new world twist. Aged in bourbon barrels and brewed with Chesapeake Bay Roasting Company’s Dark Sumatra coffee, this porter is flavorful and complex. Featuring unique English malts, this brew will have strong notes of caramel and a slight nut character. Paired with bourbon notes and the sumptuous Sumatran Coffee, Blackbeard’s breakfast will please coffee and beer connoisseurs alike.

Heavy Seas has been brewing beer out of Maryland for over two decades and their beers can be found on shelves up and down the East Coast. I’ve had a couple of their beers, found them tasty (especially The Greater Pumpkin) so when I saw this beer at my local bottle shop a few weeks ago, I knew I’d want to give it a try especially since Porters are one of my favorite styles of beer. There have been debates for years in the beer community about the differences between porters and stouts, I just know I like both.

I’ve had my fair share of “Breakfast Stouts” the best of which come from Founders. Not many Breakfast Porters, though. As the description above indicates, this one has the added complexity of having been aged in bourbon barrels.

The most noticeable element of this beer is how dark it is. The beer pours even more black than the Allagash Black I reviewed a couple of weeks ago although not quite as thick. The head on Blackbeard’s Breakfast is a tannish brown and makes for an appealing looking beer. The second most noticeable element is the aromas of coffee and bourbon.

The bourbon and coffee elements hit you straight away and are present throughout the beer. I’d say the two flavors blend together to the point that they are one flavor. Usually when beers are aged in liquor barrels, the liquor is a secondary presence. Not quite the case here, for me they came together as one flavor, or at least two halves of a whole flavor rather than a layered set of flavors, if that makes sense.

The 10%ABV for this beer isn’t immediately noticeable, although the bourbon presence lets you know this isn’t a beer to drink quickly especially given that it was in a 22oz. bottle. I find myself saying this often, but I took my time with this one, enjoying the beer over the course of well over an hour. The flavors came out only a little more as it warmed, which made for a really consistent flavor for all 22oz of the beer.

I appreciated that the aging in bourbon barrels really reduced the bitterness of that coffee can sometimes impart in a beer. If anything, the coffee-bourbon flavors overpower the flavor of the beer a little bit. Coffee and bourbon are flavors I happen to enjoy a great deal, so that was fine by me.

All told, Blackbeard’s Breakfast is a flavorful beer that should please beer drinkers who enjoy coffee-infused beers, porters, or beers aged in bourbon barrels. At the price point I purchased it (only $8.49 for the bottle) I would consider it a bargain. I know I’ll be grabbing a bottle next year should Heavy Seas brew it again.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

Draught Diversions: Sierra Nevada Beer Camp 2017 The Overseas Six

Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and posts that don’t just focus on one beer here at The Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…

This is the second of two posts focusing on Sierra Nevada’s annual collaboration beer project, Beer Camp. Today, I’m going to finish off my thoughts on the 2017 Beer Camp variety pack with the collaborations between Sierra Nevada and breweries from Overseas. Like last week’s post featuring collaborations with US breweries, I’ll go from the one I enjoyed the least and finish it off with the one I enjoyed the most.

White IPA with Yuzu – A collaboration with Kiuchi Brewery (Ibaraki, Japan)

I think my stance on IPAs is clear at this point… so I was pleasantly surprised by this White IPA. I enjoyed it, but it didn’t wow me like any of the other brews in this entire 12 pack. The White IPA was tasty and really low in bitterness  for an IPA (only 20 IBU) while the hop profile definitely imparted what it should for an IPA. The Japanese brewer, Kiuchi, brews a fairly well recognized Witbier (Hitachino Nest White Ale) which seems to be their contribution to this brew and provides a nice balance to the IPA profile complemented by the addition of the citrusy yuzu fruit. This was an interesting beer, but unfortunately, not as good as the other brews from overseas.

Campout Porter – A collaboration with Garage Project (Wellington, New Zealand)

Porter is one of my go-to styles of beer, especially in cooler weather, so I was looking forward to this one. I liked it, but as with some porters, there was a bit too much roastiness or smokiness in this beer. I expect that strong presence of smoke/roast in porters, but it is the quality in porters I like the least. The vanilla and honey were subtle, but I think their sweetness calmed the smokiness.

With Campout as the name of the porter, the smoke and roast elements were not a surprise. This was not a bad porter in any way, a very good one in fact. Just a little more smokey/roasty than I typically like in my porters but by no means is this a dud. I’d drink it again were it made available outside the 12-pack.

Hoppy Belgian Style Golden Ale (Brewed with Lemon Peel) – A ollaboration with Duvel Moortgat (Puurs, Belgium)

I’ve come to enjoy Belgian beers and beers brewed in the Belgian style/with Belgian yeast quite a bit as of late. Duvel is one of the more respected and well-known Belgian breweries in the world, so this one was right up my alley. A really nice balance of hops and Belgian yeast make this a beer I could have in constant rotation in my refrigerator. Don’t let that statement or the golden color fool you, this is no lightweight beer. At 8% it does have a kick that will catch up with you but is right in the sweet spot for hop profile.

Atlantic Style Vintage Ale – A collaboration with Fuller’s Brewery (London, UK)

Fullers is one of the big boys of British brewing, their ESB is the equivalent of an institution. The ESB stands for “Extra Special Bitter” so with that in mind, I was a bit cautious about this beer. I was expecting something bitter, but I was pleasantly surprised by the beer that poured out of the bottle. Barely any bitterness, but I expect that’s due to the plums added to the brewing mix.

This was a very complex beer that worked really well for my tastebuds. I’d love to have another bottle or three of it. A beer that exemplifies what one should expect in a mix pack of collaboration beers.

Thai-Style Iced Tea Ale – A collaboration with Mikkeler Brewery (Copenhagen, Denmark)

I had no idea what to expect with this beer. An American and Danish brewery collaborating on an Asian inspired beer? I was completely taken aback by this brew, there’s such a wonderful sweetness throughout that isn’t cloying nor does the sweetness overpower the profile. Rather, is still noticeable and pleasing. Additional tasty flavor components are citrus as well as the dark tea infused throughout.

This would make for a fantastic annual summer seasonal beer. Such a unique and different beer that really exemplifies experimental beer at its best – smart flavor enhancements without throwing in different flavor additives just to be crazy or experimental. I’m writing about it a couple of weeks after drinking the beer and I really would like to have another one.

Dunkle Weisse – A collaboration with Ayinger Brewery (Bavaria, Germany)

Of all the beers in this variety pack, the Dunkelweizen was the beer I was most anticipating and the beer I drank first. I love the German beers and German-inspired styles, but unfortunately for me, there just aren’t that many Dunkelweizens on beer shelves or on tap in bars. A shame because the style is quite complex and works in both summer, due to its similarity to Hefeweizens, and fall because of the darker color. This collaboration between Germany’s Ayinger and Sierra Nevada is a wonderful, perfect interpretation of the style. The yeast Ayinger uses is on full display in this beer that, coupled with the clovey and banana-y/bready hints, gave me everything I hoped it would give me when I popped the cap and poured it into my glass.

If you like Dunkelweizen, or haven’t tried the style and enjoy Hefeweizens, chances are you’d really enjoy this beer. I would buy this one by the caseload were it to become available by itself. This was one of the best Dunkelweizens I’ve ever had. I think the one I had that was better came from Erdinger, a German brewery known primarily for their wheat beers.

To sum up the Sierra Nevada 2017 Beer Camp Across the World variety pack, a very good mix of brews. I have to give the Overseas half the edge in terms of overall quality and consistency largely because I poured out one of the Stateside collaborations. There was a better balanced mix on the Overseas collaborations, even the one I liked the least from Overseas was drinkable.

On the whole, the Stateside Six had a more noticeable hop profile, while the Overseas Six seemed to have a greater range of flavor profiles.

My favorite from the Overseas (as the list above indicates) is the Dunkle Weisse collaboration with Ayinger, but the best beer overall was the New England IPA collaboration between Sierra Nevada and Treehouse.

If you have the opportunity and the 12-pack is still available in your local beer merchant, it is well worth your beer buying dollar to pick up this pack.