Smoked porter review

A few months back, I brewed up a smoked porter – based mostly on Stone’s smoked porter.  I liked the results quite a bit, so much so I got through the entire keg in about 2-3 weeks time. Before finishing it off, I bottled up a six pack to enter in competitions. I did have some hesitation, as JZ says in Brewing Classic Style’s (somewhat of a bible here on VeganBrew), “(t)he worst smoked beers I’ve ever tried were all made with smoke flavoring or peat-smoked malt. I recommend never using either, no matter how tempted you might be.” Well, I was very much tempted by the Stone smoked porter clone recipe that appeared in the Dec 08 issue of BYO. I decided to ignore these words of advice from a champion homebrewer, which, surprisingly, was wise. I entered the peat-smoked porter into the 13th annual Brewer’s East End Revival Brew-off and took first place in the smoked beer category. Now, that’s not to say peat-smoked malt will always work. In fact, one judge commented “Nice job with the smoke. Peated malt can be a killer & I think you did a nice job taming it.” So, my guess is, if using peated malt, use it in moderation. A lot of recipes call for pounds of smoked malt – I only included a quarter pound, which went a long way. Anyway, here is my take of the beer:

Aroma: Slight sweetness, with a coating of smoke. No hops or anything from the fermentation.One judge noted musty cellar smells that he associated with the peat.

Appearance:  Rich dark, yet clear, body, with coffee colored foam. Plenty of head that sticks around as a thin film on the edges of the glass.

Flavor: Smoke is there, but doesn’t hit you over the head. More chocolate and roast. Smoked beers are judged by the balance of smoke and the flavors of the underlying beer. I find this to be quite balanced, with a clear porter character being enhanced with some smokeyness. One judge mentions some acid tastes, but says not enough to offset the beer. The Mt. Hood hops give it an earthy flavor that suits the style well. There might be a touch too much sweetness, depending on what style (brown or robust) of porter this is meant to be. I think it’s intended to be a robust porter, but one judge assumed brown. I may have to explore this further next time, as it might have helped to have a clear impression of the base beer. By the way, I did end up adding .3 oz of bourbon soaked oak chips in the secondary for 2 weeks. I don’t notice any bourbon or oak flavors. If you want that to come through, probably need at least an ounce, or use wood cubes and age longer.

Mouthfeel: Medium body with a dry finish. Light carbonation, but enough to help bring out some of the more subtle malty flavors under the smoke. A light ashiness, but not burnt astringency.

Overall: I really enjoyed this beer. I may need to bring down the mash temp a touch to drop some of the sweetness on the next batch. However, it might be that sweetness that is helping balance the smoke. I dont know what age will do, but I plan to keep a few bottles around for another competition in the fall.