You see a lot of local stouts in the market. The unmistakable roastiness is often greeted by beer lovers of all stripes as a welcome diversion from lighter ales and lagers. The stout's cousin, however—the porter—tends to get slightly less play, due to its heavier nature. The names denote that these are hearty beers, but porters definitely shine when it comes to in-your-face flavor. Epic Brewing Co.'s Salt Lake City brewery has released two new porters for its hometown market, and they're quite different from many porters you've tried.
Big Bad Yankee: Normally when you see "big bad" on the beer labels, Epic is taking you on a journey into imperial stout territory. Big Bad Yankee takes you in a slightly different direction, punching up the malt, roast and body. It has all of the other components the Big Bad series offers—coffee, whiskey, cocoa—with all of the chewy calorie goodness an active body needs.
This porter pours black with shades of deep brown, topped by a dark tan head that's reminiscent of brass pellets. Straight from the barrel, bourbon aromas begin to swell. Big vanilla, hints of chocolate, a touch of chewy caramel, and roasted malts all grab hold of the nose and take you running on a journey of bourbon barrel-aged happiness. There's a good dose of bourbon flavor off the top as well; vanilla, sweet caramel and faint hits of bittersweet chocolate balance the roast to near perfection. Dark fruit and fig flavor find themselves dancing among the bourbon sweetness and roasted malts as this warms. The finish has some booziness from the 11.2% alcohol and big bourbon flavors, adding to its excellent taste.
Overall: It keeps true to the Big Bad name, but adds some unique character from the base beer and whiskey blend. Delightful stuff.
Blue Law Porter: This porter was made with spruce tip extract harvested from blue spruce trees on the grounds at Utah's Capitol a few years back. It has a roasty profile with a fruity tartness, and an aftertaste of resinous spruce.
It's your typical opaque dark brown color, with tinges of deep purple around the edges. The nose is great; both tartness and sweetness from black berries scream, "This will be different." The spruce takes more of a back seat from what I remember from years ago; I love the spruce, but it's a bit muted. The flavor is nice, though—berries are heavy, and the base porter is satisfying with loads of cocoa and espresso notes. It comes off as more of an English porter than anything else, with some nice yeast character and a sense of breakfast grains. Toward the end, there's an ashy, roasted intensity with lingering fruit in the finish, more on the tart side. Think chocolate-covered berries with a sprig of spruce.
Overall: The body is medium light, which brings up its drinkability. I've had my fill of huge, chewy beers this winter, so this 6.1% porter offers a nice alternative, including the aforementioned Big Bad Yankee. If Epic chooses to revisit this one, I'd love a boost in the spruce department. If spruce isn't your thing, you'll still be adequately happy with what they pulled off.
Big Bad Yankee was aged in Yankee Spirits barrels, and is only available in SLC, while Blue Law is another Utah exclusive this time around. This beer has been absent from Epic's lineup for a good five years. It's about time you got acquainted, don't you think? As always, cheers!