Sunday, June 26, 2011

Smuttynose Porter Tasting(s)

Sometime back in early April, I brewed up a batch of Smuttynose Porter, an American style robust porter that is among my favorites of the style. The recipe I used came directly from the brewery, though I had to tweak it a little bit to accommodate the grains and hops I had available. In particular, I used Amarillo hops instead of Cascade for bittering/aroma and (stupidly) went with a cheap, bland Canadian two-row pale for the base malt. At the time, I didn't think these changes would make a huge difference in the final product. Lastly, while I have brewed the standard recipe before, I had never done a side-by-side tasting of my homebrewed version and the real stuff. This should be interesting.

Smuttynose Porter : Robust Porter

Pretty similar.
Appearance – The commercial version pours a deep, ruby highlighted black with an enormous, large bubbled head that takes up half the glass. I have to wait for the head to settle a bit before pouring the rest of the beer. My homebrewed version pours an equally ruby-black color but with just a moderate amount of head (from the keg) that settles to a thin ring. There is some difference in the color of the head, my version is much lighter. Head retention on both beers isn't great, though I suspect mine may not be completely carbonated. 

Aroma – The real stuff is quite potent with strong grassy/citrusy hops and a deep mocha/chocolate aroma. It smells really nice. My version is very similar, though the rough cascade hoppiness has been replaced with an orange/tangerine aroma. The chocolate character in mine is also a bit mellower, more chocolate syrup and coffee than pure cappuccino. 

Taste – Both versions are very similar to one another. As for the malt flavors, both have lots of dark chocolate, mocha, roasty coffee, and complex caramel sweetness. The commercial version has a slight molasses quality about it that I find a bit cloying - I wonder if pasteurization has a role in this? Bitterness levels are similar, though the commercial version has a stronger hop flavor and more bracing finish. My version seems like a slightly toned down version, much of the same flavors though not so in-your-face about them. I'd say my version is a more balanced while the commercial product has a bit of a kick to it.

Mouthfeel – Here is where you can really tell them apart. My version is has a medium - creamy mouthfeel and low carbonation. In contrast, the commercial stuff drinks like a chocolate milkshake - it is wonderfully silky and thick though a high carbonation keeps it from being too syrupy. I suspect their version has a higher finishing gravity and/or higher mash temp. Differences in the type of water used probably come into effect here too. 

Drinkability & Notes – I am pretty happy with my version. While not entirely 'cloned' per se, the flavors are remarkably similar and the beer is very tasty. Overall, I think my version is more drinkable and not as sweet, though it lacks some of the mocha-like complexity of the real thing. If given a pint of my version in a bar and told it was a Smuttynose Porter, I probably wouldn't notice the difference. Next time I brew this beer, I'll be sure to go back to the original recipe and use the proper base malt and hops. I am kicking myself for using that crappy pale malt, as my version lacked some of those toasty-grainy malt flavors that the real stuff had.

O.G: 1.064, F.G: 1.015, 6.5% ABV, 37 IBU, Wyeast 1056 American Ale

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