Hello Congregants! Today we’re going to be discussing the porter style, and specifically a fine craft beer called Coconut Porter by Maui Brewing Company. The porter is an interesting style with perhaps more lore than actual history. Nevertheless, it is worthy of minute study. That, gentle reader, is precisely what we will be doing, after the jump.
When I started enjoying craft beer, the first style I came to appreciate was American Amber. Shortly thereafter, I learned of the rich, dark glory that is the stout style. I quickly learned, however, that there was a sort of bastardized style in between the two known as a porter. When I was in Scotland in 2007, talking with a guy (I believe his name is Charlie) over at Fyne Ales, he related a bit of craft brewing lore that the porter style originated with the London porters of the 18th century. As casks of ale oxidized as they aged, pub owners sent casks back to the brewers with leavings in the bottom of the cask. The porters, always up for getting some free ale, took these leavings, which the brewers would just throw out, and mix them with the rest of their stock. The dregs of the casks combined with one another forming a dark, rich (but probably funky-tasting) style of beer which came to be known after the occupation of its creators, the porters of London. Thus, the creation of a true porter involves making a batch of beer, aging it, and mixing it with a young beer…probably a relatively strong one. How much truth is in this story? I have no idea, but I like it.
So what, then, is a porter? It is a question I’ve been asked for many years, and there is no simple answer. All historical evidence appears to indicate that the porter style was the actual originator of the stout style. Original porters were known by names which designated their strength: Extra Porter, Double Porter, Stout Porter, etc. The darkest porters were the stout porters, and over time the name just shortened to stouts. So to be accurate, the porter is really merely a lighter stout. The Coconut Porter takes this a step farther by adding the richness and flavor of coconut to the already potentially rich porter style, and in so doing creates a fine, FINE example of an experimental craft beer.
Appearance – This is a nice, dark porter. Could be in the league of a stout. Gotta give props to Maui for putting this fine beer in a can. I gotta say over the last few years, I have rejoiced to see better and better beers in the can. The truly gorgeous thing about this beer is the head; gorgeous tan head, though I felt it dissipated too fast.
Aroma – Roasty notes from the roasted barley are most evident in the nose. As I take several deep nosefuls of the aroma, I can almost detect some coconut tang, but I could be imagining it. A good porter nose, though.
Mouthfeel – Porters can be kind of all over the place when it comes to mouthfeel. Some are thin and disappointing, others are rich and buttery. This is sort of between the two extremes, but strikes an excellent balance between the two. This definitely helps the drinkability.
Flavor – Here is where Maui’s mastering of the porter style really makes itself apparent. A nice bitterness from the roast and hops sits on the back of the tongue for the duration of the taste. Slight malt sweetness also is apparent, but throughout is roast and some tangy sweetness from the coconut. A few words on the coconut, because when I mention this beer to people, I get an almost universal apprehension, and I don’t get it. Any beer flavor that is not malt, hops, etc. ought to play a supporting role. It ought to support the natural flavors of the style that is being used. In the case of the masterfully-done Coconut Porter, the coconut is not front and center, nor should it be. It should not be like drinking a beery Mounds bar, and Maui ROCKS the Coconut, let me tell you. There are hints throughout the taste through to the finish. On the finish, you get a taste of some toasted coconut, which is a really pleasant topper to the whole experience. It is not cloyingly sweet…it is very, very well done. Overall, what you have is a solid porter. In fact, it’s one of my favorite porters of all time…really. But I do have a complaint…
Overall – So we have an excellent example of a porter. Seriously. Excellent in every way. Roasty nose and palate, hints of malt and a nice toasted coconut finish, not overpowering at all. So what is my complaint? It’s WAY too fricking expensive. Really. Like $11 or $12 for a 4 pack?!!?!?!?! Really. It’s worth it if you’ve not yet experienced it. It worth it for the experience. But it can’t be an everyday beer, due to the cost. There’s just no way I can afford to blow that kind of money on an everyday drinker, I’m sorry. So my take on it….if you’ve not had it, pick it up. You won’t be sorry. I’m not going to say that it’s not worth the cost, but it’s prohibitive enough that it’ll not become your daily drinker, which really is too bad.