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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Black Jack Porter by Left Hand Brewing Co.

  • Style: English Porter
  • AVB: 6.40%
  • Season: Year Round
  • Ease to locate: Most large grocery & liquor stores (I got mine at Marianos)
  • Color: Dark black/brown like strong coffee
  • Head: Half a finger
  • Aroma: Strong chocolate malts, coffee & dark fruit as the beer warmed
  • Mouthfeel: Medium, but smooth
  • Finish: Shorter than expected
  • Food friendly: Roasted red meats, any sort of Bar-B-Que, earthy cheeses

Election Day.  The day we, as American citizens, exercise our privilege to choose who we want to shape our government for the next few years.  The day that epitomizes the democratic ideals that our founding fathers and mothers (you go Abigail Adams!) fought for, battling against the autocracy of the British Empire.  And, most importantly, the day that we can finally stop blocking friends on Facebook who tend to, let's say,  over share their political opinions.   I will admit that the British did give is a few good things since we've kicked them to the curb, such as The Beatles, salt & vinegar chips and Doctor Who.  You can add English Porter to that list too.  I can forgive them for forcing us to create a system of government that relies on a bevy of loud and pointless attack ads to distinguish between indistinguishable candidates if I have a good English Porter in my (left) hand.  Hell, I can almost forgive them for this after two pints.

Maybe make that three.

English Porter was first brewed as a cheap & filling drink for British transportation workers, hence the name "porter."  And thank god for them.  As far as I know, all that American porters have given us is a decent Johnny Cash song, but how far can that take you on a cool November night?  Traditionally it's a blend of three different ales: stale or sour ale, brown or pale ale and a mild ale.  Basically, it was a concoction of  whatever the brewer had left sitting around in his carboys, much like a hotel restaurant will use up creatively cook three day old seafood in a Sunday breakfast quiche (Anthony Bourdain graphically documented this practice in his book, Kitchen Confidential.  Thus insuring that I will NEVER eat anything but boxed cereal at brunch ever again.)   Nowadays, brewers use a combination of malts instead of leftovers to achieve the same result. Left Hand Brewery Co. in Longmont, Colorado is the home of a few beers that I happen to really enjoy (their milk stout is like drinking a fizzy adult chocolate milk, pre-bubbled for your convenience.)  When I saw that familiar hand print on a bottle of porter, I knew that I had to give it a taste.

Left Hand's Black Jack Porter poured a deep, rich chocolate color, a thick black/brown.  There were scarlet highlights towards the bottom when held up to a light.  I had expected a thick head and was surprised when only about a half a finger of tan foam appeared.  The head settled almost immediately and left a thin sheet of lacing, almost like a biting rain sliding down a window pane.  The aroma was heavy with chocolate and malts.  This beer was not playing coy.  The scent immediately told you exactly what you were in for taste-wise.  In addition to the sweet notes of chocolate and toasty malts, I could also distinguish the bitterness of roasted coffee and toffee nuttiness.  As the beer warmed slightly, subtle dark fruit flavors emerged.  It became less sweet as it sat for a bit and the depth of flavors made it a much more interesting beer than the first sip had promised.  The mouthfeel was only medium, which struck me as odd for such a thick looking and heavily scented beer.  I don't think that the moderate mouthfeel detracted from the porter, but I was expecting a bit more creaminess and a longer finish.  I did really like that Left Hand brewed a porter that was lower in ABV without sacrificing the flavor profile.  It was a smooth and easy to drink porter that ultimately just didn't live up to it's full potential (like many politicians, if you ask me.)

Black Jack Porter is a year round option from Left Hand Brewing Co., but I can't imagine enjoying this beer in the middle of July.  On a cool November night?  Hell yes, it hits the spot. I think that the disappointing mouthfeel and finish actually enhances the food friendliness of this beer.  This porter would be brilliant drunk with a traditional beef stew or a pot roast, served with carrots and potatoes cooked in the roast's own juices. It would also be delicious with any sort of bar-b-qued meats.  Personally I'm think ribs, sticky with a molasses and coffee sauce.  If you're putting together a cheese plate, match it with an earthy cheese, such as a Wisconsin goat milk white cheddar.  Sit tight, have a beer and know that political ad season will be all over soon.  Just in time for the Christmas commercials to start.