- Mike Riedel
Stouts and Porters tend to fill up refrigerators and cellar shelves this time of year. Many often benefit from a little time in the bottle, which has the ability to round out some of the rougher edges that come from a fresh-roasted and toasted ale. The stout and porter that I came across this week really don't require any aging—though it's always fun to see how it can affect individual high ABV dark beers. Seek out these two wonderful winter warmers.
Roosters Brewing Co. Nordic Porter: This is the first barrel-aged beer that Roosters has done. It has a midnight-black appearance, with little foam on top. The aroma begins with nice hints of roasted bourbon; the whiskey notes were quickly followed by dark roasted malt and dark roasted coffee beans. After all of those roasted aromas had their fun, it then finishes up with some dark chocolate, charred oak, vanilla and a hint of cherry.
The taste came on strong with bourbon, charred oak and dark-roasted malt. There was plenty of bourbon in the taste, but it wasn't boozy. After the strong flavors, the beer goes into the roasted coffee beans, dark chocolate, black cherry and a subtle pinch of vanilla. I would have liked more sweet flavors like vanilla to round off all the bourbon and oak. I know, I can't have everything. It was still pretty good as it stands.
Overall: This 9.3% beer represents itself well as a full-bodied, barrel-aged Porter with a good, strong bourbon and charred oak aftertaste.
2 Row Brewing Chocolate Cherries: This one pours as black as can be with a single finger of tan head. That head, however, is thick like whipped cream, and hung on longer than expected. And it smells wonderful—big notes of chocolate-covered dark cherry and heavy on the chocolate, surprisingly so for an imperial stout. No noticeable alcohol from this 11% beer.
Roasted malts are up front, followed by smooth black coffee and bittersweet chocolate, finishing with a mild dark cherry flavor. As the beer warms, you get more of the sweet-tart cherry profile. Between tastes, there's a lingering cocoa nib and Bing cherry flavor, which I really dig. It's creamy with a hint of pucker from the cherries dancing around after the finish.
Overall: I was thinking it was going to be sweet like chocolate covered cherries—and boy, was I wrong. The cherry profile is fresh with dried cherries, with rich bittersweet chocolate. The cherry flavor doesn't hit you over the head, but it's noticeable and quite enjoyable. Also, let this beer warm up considerably to get those wonderful cherry flavors. If you're looking for a maraschino cherry and milk chocolate-flavored beer, then this is not the one for you.
Both of these beers are limited runs, and likely won't be around much past the end of the year. Nordic Porter is made at barrel strength, meaning it has been blended down with fresh porter. I'd collect a few of these just in case. Chocolate Cherry is smooth enough to drink any time of year. You can find both at their respective breweries. As always, cheers!