I have finished the week-long experiment of reviewing one beer a day for a week. What didn’t happen was me falling out of love with beer. However, I did a day to not even look at a beer and I’ll probably spend time drinking a lot of IPAs and Saisons.
What did happen was I crystallized something that I’ve been ruminating since I got really serious about beer. I went through the same thing most do when they start getting into craft beer. Most people enter into craft beer by being fascinated by a particular beer and/or beer style. Then you get into everything imperial. All the big taste and ABV beers out there, you find and drink.
I’ve been through that phase for a few years now. I’ve been in the play the field mode, drinking whatever good beer I could find. As I started working in craft beer something happened. I started moving away from the bourbon barrel aged stouts made with orange peels, cocoa nibs, chocolate, chili peppers, and whatever else brewers put in their beers to set their beers apart.
My favorite beers now are the simple beers that show skill as well as creativity. All brewers are creative and the idea of using chili peppers with orange peels takes creativity to pull off successfully. However, the marketplace has made the creative more important than the skillful. My favorite beers from the last week (Coronado Blue Bridge Coffee Stout and Heretic Brewing Hazelnut Chocolate Porter, were the simple ones and not the complicated one-off/special releases filled with stuff.
I’m going to keep honing this idea here and in other places (Gravity Magazine coming soon), so I’ll move on to the last of the reviews.
This whole thing started when I was in a big box wine/beer retailer and saw these two bottles of Heretic Brewing porters right beside each other and thought, “Hey, why don’t I do a side by side tasting comparison with these two.” Then I got home and noticed I had a lot of porters and stouts in my fridge and why don’t I do a tasting on all of them.
The Shallow Grave Porter pours a dark brown and has a thin/interrupted head that dissipates rather quickly. The aroma is a good roasted chocolate and coffee smell with little hop presence. I expected a little more nuance with maybe a caramel or a touch or smoke with the roasted aroma.
The taste is of coffee with touches of roasted chocolate. That’s it. It is a nice simple beer. There is no adornment with Belgian candy or any other adjuncts. It is really just water, malt, hops, and yeast. It also has a smooth taste that makes it easy to drink and its ABV is just above the mythical sessionable limit meaning you can have a couple or three without worrying about getting too drunk.
The Hazelnut Chocolate Porter pours a dark brown and has a nice foamy head with a good long retention. The aroma is a roasty chocolate with hazelnuts, basically it smells a lot like Nutella. The bitterness comes from the roasted malt and the chocolate taste.
When you taste this beer, it is one of the best-constructed beers you will ever drink. The roasted malt adds a touch of bitterness along with the bitterness and sweetness of chocolate along with the nice nuttiness of the hazelnut. It is a beer with the taste of hazelnut and chocolate instead of a beer with brewed with a bunch of Nutella dumped in the brew kettle. It has a nice smooth and easy finish. Like its Shallow Grave brother, it is an easy drinking, sessionable porter.