Beer Tasting: Little Red & Porter’s Porter

Winter is in full swing so it is about time we released some darker beers at the brewery. Today we are reviewing two beers; Little Red and Porter’s Porter.

Little Red (Red Ale)

Some of our recipes go through several iterations before we are happy with the final product. Other, like Little Red, are nearly perfect from the very first batch. Only minor changes have been made since the first brew, including increasing the Pilsner base malt to raise the ABV up to 6% and swapping debittered black malt with roasted barley for some added flavors. Our latest batch was our first using Kolsch yeast instead of traditional lager yeast. This change was made to speed up fermentation time and eliminate lagering. Kolsch yeast is convenient because you can ferment at ale temperatures and still achieve lager-like smoothness. Did we mention this recipe took home silver in the 2012 Blue’s & Brews Competition for Dark Lagers?

Appearance – The color is exactly what you think of with a winter beer – a beautiful ruby brown. There is definitely a close resemblance to a cup of coffee. Clarity is good, particularly since this is a darker beer is neither filtered or fined.

Smell – Big scents of bread crust, just like good old Wonderbread. Also present are hints of biscuit, chocolate, coffee (just as evident as its color) and maybe even some chocolate pudding? Not sure on that last one though.

Taste – The best part. On the front of the palette you instantly get the familiar flavor of malt. Much like the aroma; coffee, biscuit, bread crust, and pie crust all contribute to a complex array of flavors. I am particularly found of the biscuit, as it adds a depth of flavor that I don’t always see in dark beers.

Mouthfeel – Medium mouthfeel due to proper carbonation levels. Hint of sweetness on the finish, but not too much to overpower the beer.

Overall – I’m pleasantly surprised how similar this batch came out to previous lager versions. It was somewhat expected with the Kolsch yeast, but I didn’t think it would be this similar. Wouldn’t change a thing about this baby. We will be entering in the Boston Homebrew Competition come February.

Porter’s Porter (Vanilla Bourbon Double Porter)

ExperimentALE Batch 012 marks our very first bourbon-barrel aged beer. It was brewed in honor our our chocolate lab, appropriately named Porter (after the beer style of course!). Earlier this summer, we had a vision to brew a porter in honor of him. We thought the beer name Porter’s Porter was particularly crafty since the beer itself is a Double Porter. It was brewed right before Thanksgiving and barrel aged for one month in our Balcones Whisky Barrel. A touch of vanilla was added at kegging to round out the flavors.

Appearance – Much like Little Red, Porter’s Porter shows a deep brown/red hue. The head pours a thin off-white head that is quick to fade but leaves behind a 1/4″ lacing on the glass.

Smell – As expected, the first big whiff reveals heavy notes of bourbon. Malt is also present, as is vanilla, toward the end.

Taste – First flavor to hit the palette is bourbon, but not in an overpowering way. I personally think this level of booze is perfect, not too strong, not too faint. On the finish, slight vanilla sweetness is present, although not obvious. I intentionally left the vanilla in the background on this batch as to not take away from the bourbon. Coffee and toffee flavors bridge from the bourbon to vanilla.

Mouthfeel – Carbonation is good, less than average, but appropriate for the style. Nice warmth follows each sip, but not overwhelmingly. Body is somewhat thinner than anticipated, even though the FG is at 1.014. Mash temperature was right on the dot at 156F, so if I were to make this batch again, I would probably opt for a less attenuative yeast.

Very excited about the success of both batches. I’m not a dark beer kind of guy but both of these beers are very drinkable for winter seasonals. Oatso Delicious is currently aging in the bourbon barrel, and it will likely be the last bourbon beer before the barrel is designated exclusively for sours and wild ales.

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