Category Archives: Porter

Connecticut Valley Brewing 1901 First In Flight Coffee Porter

Our panel was “wowed” by this creamy coffee porter, from Connecticut Valley Brewing of South Windsor, Connecticut. Smooth mouthfeel, huge coffee notes with a trace of smoke.
92 points

Harpoon Maple Tap

rating_excellent87 points

We’ve long known that Harpoon crafts quality brews. But when native New Englanders wander into Harpoon’s Vermont brewery and see the word “maple” on a beer label, all logic and reason goes out the window, and you grasp wildly at the bottles and frantically throw money at the register.

harpoonmapletapOkay, that’s an embellishment, but we’re suckers for a good porter, and anything that has maple in it, so we had to bring Harpoon’s Maple Tap back to the panel to rate.

We’re sure glad we did, because Harpoon hit a homerun with this imperial porter.

Maple Tap pours a dark reddish-brown that culminated in a lacey tan head, garnering near-perfect appearance scores from our panelists.

The aroma is malty, with notes of maple and molasses. The taste of alcohol is strong, but pleasant. These flavors fade into a delicious smoky aftertaste with overtones of coffee.

Drinkability was rated very high by the panel. The beer is thoroughly pleasant through the entire glass. But this imperial porter is not meant to be consumed fast. It’s a sipper, to be consumed slowly over the course of an evening.

If you’re a New Englander at heart, with a soft spot for porters and all-things-maple, you’ll definitely want to tap into one of these.

(Appearance 9.67, Smell 8.83, Taste 26.17, Aftertaste 17.33, Drinkability 25.17)

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Founders Porter

rating_excellent83 points

For his Wild Card tasting, panelist Bob Bowden decided to explore the offerings by Founders Brewing Co. of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The first beer of the night was Founders Porter,  a dark-as-night porter described by the brewer as having a “strong chocolate and caramel malt presence.”

foundersporterThe panel did pick up on the chocolate and caramel notes, but what really stood out was the rich aroma of coffee and smoke complemented with light hops.

This beer pours absolutely black with no light filtering through it, though not thick or syrupy as you might expect with a beer this dark. And with the described nose, you might also assume the Porter is going to pack a punch…or, at the very least, be a “sipper.”

But therein lies a pleasant surprise. This porter is a drinker, with one panelist affectionately referring to it as a “porter light.”

Tastes of chocolate trailing into a coffee bitterness were well-noted, with some panelists detecting a ashiness that quickly dissipates. A couple of panelists who are fans of heavier porters, stated that they wished the taste hung on a little longer, but still reported high scores on taste.

Most of the panelists agreed that Founders Porter’s balance of complex taste and a lighter body made for great drinkability.

If you’re looking for a dark beer with rich taste to enjoy around an evening  campfire, this is one you’ll be able to enjoy all night without fear of falling asleep by the coals.

(Appearance 8.17, Smell 7.17, Taste 26.17, Aftertaste 15.67, Drinkability 25.67)

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Tasting Notes – Semi-Blind Wild Card


The second tasting of each month is a “wild card” tasting.  A panelist volunteers to supply all the beer, and has free reign to determine the beers, a theme, or any other idea.

For the March wild card, Jon decided to supply an eclectic mix of beers, connected by an interesting theme: the other panelists had to rate the beers before learning what they were tasting.  Welcome to The Basement Beer Tastings’ first semi-blind tasting.
(Panelists: Jon Graney, Mike Festi, Rick Czapla)

Tasting Notes

rating_verygoodSamuel Adams Harvest Saison . . . 73 points
The panel found this Belgian style pale ale to have good aromas of spice and orange with overtones of caramel. Carbonation was lively with an appealing color than was slightly more amber than a typical saison. While the flavor didn’t “wow” the panelists, they found it solid and tasty, with notes of clove and slight hoppiness. On panelist noted a similarity to Hoegaarden white ale. Aftertaste was dry and hoppy with notes of grapefruit, though a bit metallic. It’s light body and good carbonation makes it very drinkable.
(Appearance 7, Smell 8, Taste 22.67, Aftertaste 14, Drinkability 21.67)

rating_verygoodNight Shift Morph Rotating IPA . . . 72 points
Night Shift Brewing of Everett, Massachusetts offers a unique take on the American IPA. The recipe for its Morph Rotating IPA changes each time Night Shift brews it. The panel rated the Feb. 20, 2015 batch a mere seven days after canning. This fresh beer impressed most the panel with huge hops balanced with citrus overtones. As one panelist noted, “Welcome to Hoptown. Population? This beer.” The aroma begs you to drink it, and it’s light and tight carbonation is attractive as well. The notable hoppy aftertaste was smooth, but a bit grassy. The taste fades a bit the more you drink it, which affected overall drinkability to a degree.
(Appearance 7.67, Smell 9, Taste 21.67, Aftertaste 13.67, Drinkability 20.33)

rating_verygoodWeihenstephaner Hefeweissbier . . . 72 points
Hefeweissbier, or Hefeweizen, is a Bavarian unfiltered white beer, about as far from the Morph IPA as you can get. But, as you see, the panel enjoyed this smooth wheat beer nearly as much. Weihenstephaner traces its roots back to 768 and was licensed in 1040, which allows it to boast its claim of being the oldest brewery in the world. That much practice pays off, because the panel overall found the brew to be enjoyable. Pale in color and in an unremarkable bottle, the beer offered a citrusy, yeasty aroma. The beer was soft and velvety with hints of grapefruit and pear. While it was light and drinkable with a smooth, oaky aftertaste, the light body also caused the taste to fade a bit too quickly.
(Appearance 6.33, Smell 6.67, Taste 21.67, Aftertaste 13.33, Drinkability 23.67)

rating_goodStone Smoked Porter . . . 67 points
Luckily, the panel saved the Stone Brewing Company’s smoky concoction for last in the Wild Card tasting, because this beer had intense smokiness, like a campfire in a bottle. The light scent of smoke and coffee belies the intense flavor this porter dishes out. Pouring a deep reddish-black with a good head from a screen-printed bottle, the brew impressed. But “light smokiness” is an understatement on this beer. The panel noted that the charcoal bite and smoked intensity were prominent, but the panelists agreed they wanted to see a more balanced flavor. Drinkability was impacted as well, because the panel agreed that this is a one-and-done type beer…and one that would probably pair nicely with barbecue.
(Appearance 9.67, Smell 6, Taste 19, Aftertaste 16, Drinkability 16)

rating_goodLong Trail Stand Out . . . 65 points
New this season from Long Trail is an American pale ale they call Stand Out. It has an inviting night sky label and a foamy, soapy head when poured. It also features light cloudiness, a pale orange-brown color, and an a hoppy nose. But while it’s light and drinkable, the taste falls flat fast. The panel noted a burst of citrus flavor on first taste, but it seemed to lose taste quickly, leaving a bland aftertaste. The panelists agreed that it wasn’t a bad beer, it just didn’t live up to its namesake. One panelist noted, “If I was in a bar, I’d be looking for something else for my next round…though I wouldn’t be against having another.”
(Appearance 6, Smell 7.67, Taste 18.67, Aftertaste 11.67, Drinkability 21)

rating_goodBallast Point Sculpin . . . 60 points
Jon chose this West Coast IPA for his Wild Card, because it has been receiving a good deal of hype in the trade news. Winning a gold medal in competition, Sculpin is hopped at five separate stages of brewing. It garnered attention, so the panel gave it a shot in semi-blind tasting. The panel enjoyed its slightly cloudy amber color and nice head. The aroma was faint with light hoppiness and definite orange notes. The orange overtones were pronounced further on first taste, with a slight hop bite. But the panel expected a deeper taste for an IPA. It seemed to get less enjoyable as the panel drank it, which put drinkability at average. One panelist noted that previous experience with the same beer was enjoyable, so while the overall score is average, it might still be worth trying.

(Appearance 8, Smell 5.67, Taste 18, Aftertaste 13, Drinkability 15.67)

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Tasting Notes – Chocolate Beers


In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, the panel focused its attention, Feb. 13, on chocolate beers — offerings brewed with chocolate or with added chocolate. In trying nine different selections, the panel learned that brewers have a broad interpretation of what constitutes a “chocolate beer,” and that finding a notable chocolate brew isn’t as easy at it may seem.
(Panelists: Jon Graney, Mike Festi, Bob Bowden, Amy Graney, Eric Johnson, Sara Esthus)

Tasting Notes

Young’s Double Chocolate Stout . . . 75 points
Of the nine brews the panel sampled, this stout from Charles Wells Ltd. was the only one from a can. However, the can held a little surprise…a draught-style widget, which on pour produced the nitrogen-rich, cascading head usually attributed to Guinness, who invented the process in 1969. The panel was impressed with the draught style head, black color and delicate nose of cocoa, vanilla and cream, with light hints of smoke. Upon tasting, the panel enjoyed the creaminess and light body, but missed a notable chocolate flavor. Faint chocolate taste was, however, noted on the aftertaste. Ultimately, the panel gave its smoothness high marks for drinkability.
(Appearance 10, Smell 7.33, Taste 19.67, Aftertaste 15.67, Drinkability 22)

Hooker Chocolate Truffle Stout . . . 71 points
Thomas Hooker Brewery produces this stout using chocolate from noted Connecticut chocolatier, Munson’s Chocolates. The panel found this beer narrowly edged out a New England favorite: Harpoon Chocolate Stout. Hooker’s take has a dark appearance with a good head, and a gentle nose of cocoa and smoke. The panel found the taste smooth, with a bit of smoke and bitterness. Overtones of chocolate were noted, but the panel felt it could have been more chocolatey. The beer had a light finish that fell a bit flat, but ultimately balanced and drinkable. One panelist noted, “I could go all night with this Hooker!”
(Appearance 8.5, Smell 6.5, Taste 21.17, Aftertaste 14.17, Drinkability 20.5)

Harpoon Chocolate Stout . . . 70 points
When the panel decided on a theme of chocolate beers, this perennial favorite from Harpoon Brewing was first on the list. Appearance was dark and pleasing, but smell is what dominates this stout — with big aromas of Tootsie Rolls, fudge, coffee and ice cream. The panel enjoyed the taste a bit more than the similar Hooker brew, with its hints of baker’s chocolate and coffee. However this stout’s taste lacked the big chocolate noted in the smell. Still, the panel found the slightly bitter, slightly smoky, coffee-like flavor well-rounded and smooth. Drinkability was overall good, though most panelists noted that the beer’s bitter, dry aftertaste affected how long you could drink it.
(Appearance 7.5, Smell 8, Taste 22.33, Aftertaste 13.33, Drinkability 18.83)

Founders Big Lushious . . . 69 points
Founders Brewing’s Big Lushious stout makes a big statement: raspberries belong in your beer. The panelists were pleased with the rich reddish-black color, and the huge smell of raspberry jam and light cocoa. The fruity, raspberry taste overpowered what little chocolate taste was evident. But when paired with a chocolate bar, this dessert beer made one panelist exclaim, “Take your pants off before you drink this!” Everything about this beer is big and bold. Big bottle, big aroma, bold flavor and a bold label. The drawback to a beer this big is that it’s a one-and-done beer, which hurt its drinkability rating. But if you’re planning to only have one, it’s going to be a memorable one.
(Appearance 8.83, Smell 8.17, Taste 24.33, Aftertaste 13.5, Drinkability 13.67)

Breckenridge 72 Imperial Chocolate Cream Stout . . . 68 points
Breckenridge’s interpretation of chocolate stout couldn’t be more different than Founders’. On pour, the black syrupy brew is topped with a minimal head…but one that laces the glass as you drink it. Scents of oak, honey, milkshake and a touch of cherry were notable. The panel found the taste bold and different, with a sweet tongue highlighted with flavors of cherry and whiskey. Chocolate was present, but again lighter than the panel was hoping. The aftertaste was smooth, but a bit medicinal — likely the effect of time spent aging in whiskey barrels. Drinkability was middle-of-the-road. While it was enjoyable, the panel agreed that you probably wouldn’t be able to drink a lot of it.
(Appearance 9, Smell 8.17, Taste 19.17, Aftertaste 15.33, Drinkability 16.33)

Harpoon Black Forest . . . 66 points
Like its name suggests, Black Forest is an imperial porter brewed with chocolate and cherry, and upon pouring, it looks like a cherry cola. It was the lightest color of all the beers sampled. The panel found its soft cherry flavor pleasing, though overpowering to a point where chocolate flavor was lacking. Though drinkable, the panel expected more from a limited edition brew.
(Appearance 7.83, Smell 7.83, Taste 20.33, Aftertaste 13.5, Drinkability 16.5)

Southern Tier Choklat . . . 65 points
Of all the beers sampled, Southern Tier’s imperial stout with chocolate was deemed the most complex. It had a dark brown appearance accompanied by a light nose of dark chocolate and cream cola. The panel noted a taste of bitter, unsweetened chocolate and coffee that developed into a smokier taste as it went. The panel found the aftertaste a bit too bitter. Drinkability was rated average.
(Appearance 8.83, Smell 8.17, Taste 18, Aftertaste 13, Drinkability 16.67)

Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout . . . 63 points
Brooklyn’s stout received points for its appearance and smell, with a colorful head and a nose of milk chocolate. The panel found the taste sweet on first take, with a blend of chocolate and coffee. But the taste and especially aftertaste developed into an overwhelmingly bitter experience, which cut drinkability.
(Appearance 9, Smell 8, Taste 18.83, Aftertaste 12.67, Drinkability 14.67)

Rogue Chocolate Stout . . . 62 points
Some of the panelists favor Rogue’s other beers, so when it was time to evaluate chocolate beers, Rogue’s take had to be on the list. But the panel quickly found out that Rogue’s hoppy take on stout is a far cry from the standard definition. The panelists admired the appearance, and noted scents of wood, vanilla and smoke, but not much chocolate. On taste, the hops overpowered any other overtones, leaving behind a bitter and dry aftertaste with some coffee and smoke. But tastes of chocolate were nowhere to be found, leaving on panelist to say, “If you’re going to market it as chocolate, put some chocolate in it.”
(Appearance 8.17, Smell 7.17, Taste 17.17, Aftertaste 12, Drinkability 17.83)

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