Beer of the Week: Battle of the Porters

Posted on August 9th, 2011

My all time favorite style is the sour ale, but I often find that I cycle through the “other style” I second-most enjoy, much like the turning of the seasons, although often out of sync with them. These days, I’ve been all about porters. A category of beer associated with bold flavors, complex notes of fruits and chocolates, and a certain smoothness and richness to the character under the right circumstances, the porter is a very versatile beer and, if you’re drinking the right one, can be an absolute treat to the discerning taster. To mark my reverence of the style, I decided to look at not one but two porters this week.

Firestone Walker Reserve Porter: Officially called Walker’s Reserve, this porter is unreal from the first sip. There’s a lavish, velvety texture to it that inundates you with a complex variety of flavors. Notes of caramel and bitter chocolate are the easiest to find, but a deeper look reveals a hint of spice that leaves you with a fantastically dry finish. Despite its hearty character and intricate flavor, it is still in every respect a porter. Unlike extreme breweries that rely upon style hopping to make something unique, Firestone Walker manage to stay true to the style while still creating something genuinely fantastic .

Samuel Smith Taddy Porter: I’ve had to convince many a friend to try the Taddy Porter. My elevator pitch is, “It tastes like beer chocolate milk.” If someone isn’t excited by that premise, I don’t want to know them. The Taddy Porter is a classic example of an English porter. Brewed with well water, the Taddy Porter is sweet and satisfying. It doesn’t reveal flavors as layered and convoluted as the Reserve Porter, but it doesn’t need to. It’s a simple beer, for people who simply want one thing; an incredible brew.

In a Nutshell: Each fantastic in its own right, the SS Taddy Porter beats out the FW Reserve Porter for reasons far too complex to explain.

Verdict: I don’t know how to summarize this outcome. I love the Reserve Porter. I drink it with an ear to ear grin on my face. It’s wild, and different, while still being the exact beer I need it to be. However, I must choose the Taddy Porter, because unlike the Reserve, the Taddy Porter feels more like a drink for the soul, and at the end of the day, that’s all that matters to me.