Saturday, October 8, 2011

Elite Porter: Smuttynose Robust Porter Review

I've discussed New Hampshire's Smuttynose Brewing briefly in the past but only recently did this beer recall one of the legendary beer conversations between Shaun and I.   Out in Seattle recently, I admitted to Shaun that I'm just not interested in drinking most brewers' main line offerings anymore.  "You're heading into dangerous territory, my friend" was Shaun's reply.  He didn't exactly explain what he meant, but probably didn't have to.  Seeking out limited or special releases means you are seeking out hard-to-find, high ABV, and, worst of all, expensive beers that will leave you broker and drunker than you started.   It's a tough spot but one in which I find myself locked in right now.

In Limited Release Land, disappointment holds the most deeds.  I came up short on my quest for Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout, just released last week.  Me.  Mr. Founders. I've pushed their product on so many of my friends.  A veritable spokesman, I've been to the brewery and have a mug club glass. Yet, no CBS love.  These are the dangers of pursuing specialty, imperial, and limited releases. This brings me back to the point of this post, Smuttynose Robust Porter.

I first tried this beer in 2010 shortly after Smuttynose's line arrived in Chicago.  I thought it very good but it didn't wow me into a post.  Watching a Bears game last week, I gave it another shot, for the first time on tap at Sheffield's.  This time I was captivated by it.  It's an inviting dark brown with a white/tan head and irresistibly large white bubbles.  The mouthfeel is rich and chewy.   It has a fine combination of charred malts, balancing hops, and a hint of chocolaty sweetness.   The roastiness and hop values slow your pacing but you savor every sip.  It has a bittersweet finish and leaves ample lacing on the glass.

This is a true winner and Smuttynose's top main line beer that I've tried to date.  Specialty releases can be wonderful things, but a brewery has to be judged by its bread and butter mainline releases.  This shows whether they truly value quality or are putting out cheap, dull, passable product just to make a buck so that they maybe put forth a decent high end offering or two.  That business model has its place but is not embraced by Smuttynose, which I applaud.  Their porter, a modest 5.7% offering, is an announcement that "we are not your average brewer and are going to destroy the competition in standard offerings."   So far, only Founders (I'm still steaming mad), Three Floyds, and, maybe, Flying Dog have demonstrated such high quality in their mainline offerings among Eastern Third brewers that distribute to Chicago.  The fact that Smutty does it at such a high level with 12 oz. offerings speaks loud, echoing volumes.

Smuttynose is raising the bar.

4.6 of 5 stars. 

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