Friday, November 2, 2012

Smoked Porter with Vanilla Beans – Stone Brewing

                Earlier this year Stone released two special release smoked porters, one with vanilla beans added, and one with chipotle peppers added.  At the time, I picked up two bottles of each, hoping to try one fresh and let one age for a little while.  The first bottle of the vanilla bean porter that I opened was extremely over the top with the vanilla beans, masking every other flavor in the beer.  I was going to review it at that point, but I thought I would also age it a bit (even though the bottle says “enjoy fresh”) to see if the vanilla would fade and the beer would become more rounded and drinkable.

                If you want background information on Stone Brewing, check out my review of Ruination10th Anniversary.  On to the review.

                At Beeradvocate, Stone Smoked Porter with Vanilla Beans has a score of 88, with a 73 from the Bros.  Over at ratebeer it has a 97 overall and a 99 for style.  Unsurprisingly, early reviews at both mention strong vanilla notes, while in the later reviews people wonder why there isn’t as much vanilla flavor.

They say:             

Stone Smoked Porter w/ Vanilla Bean was the brainchild of Small Batch Brewer Laura Ulrich, who had a stroke of genius after trying Stone Smoked Porter poured over a couple scoops of vanilla ice cream. The complex flavor of Madagascar vanilla beans melds perfectly with the chocolatey, malty, coffee-like character of the beer, making it almost like a liquid dessert, but without an overbearing sweetness.

Stats: 5.9% abv, 53 IBUs
Malt bill: Pale Malt, Crystal 75, Chocolate Malt, Peat-Smoked Malt
Hops bill: Columbus & Mt. Hood
Distribution: AZ, CA, CO, FL, IL, MA, NC, NM, NY, OH, OR, PA, SC, TX, VA, VT, WA

I say:

                Stone Smoked Porter w/ Vanilla Beans poured dark brown with garnet highlights and noticeable particulate matter hanging in suspension (yeast, vanilla bean?), oddly I only had particulate matter in my second bottle.  It has a creamy tan head that held retention through almost the entire glass, and left nice lacing behind.  The aroma from my first, fresher, beer was dominated by vanilla with very slight chocolate notes and little to no smoke; my most recent bottle had a more well-rounded aroma  in which the smoke played a larger role.  It was like a campfire with coffee and chocolate notes with subtle hints of vanilla.

                The flavor, when I had it fresh was almost like French vanilla ice cream, the vanilla was so dominant that many of the other flavors were lost.  My most recent bottle on the other hand had a more subdued vanilla characteristic.  It was more like a smoky toasted marshmallow with coffee and chocolate notes.  It was like a S’mores and reminded me of the times I used to go camping when I was a kid.  There was a moderate hop bitterness in the background, but it fit in nicely with the flavors, and was barely noticeable in the first, fresher bottle.

                Stone Smoked Porter w/ Vanilla Beans is medium bodied with a moderate amount of carbonation.

All said, this was a very good beer, the vanilla was a little overpowering in the first bottle that I had, but it mellowed nicely over time, which made the beer much more complex.  I wish that I would have tasted the second bottle a little closer to the release date so that there would have been a bit more of the vanilla flavor in it, but hindsight is 20/20.

That’s all for today, Have a great weekend!

Happy Drinking!!

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