Friday, September 11, 2009

PorterPalooza #3 - Sand Creek Badger Porter

For some reason we haven't really reviewed much of Sand Creek's output here. The Oscar's Chocolate Oatmeal Stout received a pretty solid review, but I think that's the only Sand Creek beer that's been reviewed on the site.

Granted, there's nothing particularly sexy about Sand Creek. These days, the vast majority of the output there is under contract. But they have a great reputation with contracts, brewing not only Furthermore, but Half Acre from Chicago, and Dave's Brewfarm, among others. But, still, they make pretty solid beer in their own right. Again, nothing fancy, no funky Belgian wits or crazy American pale ales, but a strong IPA, a good Chocolate stout, and some lighter fare thrown in. The Groovy Brew and the Cranberry Ale could use some re-tooling, neither are really my thing, and the Hard Lemonade makes it hard to take them seriously.

Todd and the guys at Sand Creek are good folk, but the contracting does pull them in twenty directions at once, which I think impacts their ability to innovate or be creative themselves. I don't think that's a bad thing, so long as quality doesn't suffer, it just means that the house brands aren't going to stray too far from style. Great for mass consumption, but won't score you points with the geeks. Frankly, I'd take the money over BeerAdvocate ratings any day, too.

Sand Creek Badger Porter
BeerAdvocate (B-). RateBeer (51).
Appearance: a dense, but foamy light-tan head recedes quickly; a chestnut brown body with definite amber highlights; it looks like a very nice porter; fine bubbling looks almost bottle-conditioned
Aroma: light aroma that is classically malty; a little nuttiness and some caramel seem to come through, but it's really just "malt"
Flavor: thick-bodied but light in the flavor, there's a faint tangy brightness in the end; tastes like a more-full bodied Newcastle but without the strong nuttiness that Newcastle has
Body: full-bodied and soft, the body is quite nice actually
Drinkability: maybe out of a bottle at a bar this might pass for a porter, but in my glass under the microscope, so to speak, I don't really need another one
Summary: The lack of any strong flavor or aroma makes it hard to recommend this; the porter style isn't one of those styles that you can pass off as a "low-flavor, high-sessionability" kind of thing - it needs flavor - any flavor really; smoky, burnt toast, nutty, coffee, chocolate, pick one, it doesn't matter, but its gotta have flavor and this just isn't there; don't get me wrong, if I were at a bar and in the mood for a porter and this was what they had, I'd drink it without complaint and it would pass for its purposes; it's not poorly made and I'm sure this low-flavor drinkability is what they are going for, but as I'm finding in my travels around the style, that's just not really what porters are about

3 comments:

  1. Wow, I have judged beers for years and this is a beer that is spot on for the style.
    These is the guidelines we use from the Association of Brewers.
    I have toured the brewery and I believe they told me the porter was one of their best sellers.
    I guess it give the people what they want.
    My local liquor store can't keep the Hard Lemonade on the shelf but that is a beer for the average beer drinkers, not the guys that think ALL beers must be big and malty and burnt.
    I would think the guys at Sand Creek have something right, all they need is the "Spooted Cow" to be able to build a huge fan base.
    Here are the guidlines for porter:
    60. Brown Porter
    Brown porters are mid to dark brown (may have red tint) in color. No roast barley or strong burnt/black malt character should be perceived. Low to medium malt sweetness is acceptable along with medium hop bitterness. This is a light to medium bodied beer. Fruity esters are acceptable. Hop flavor and aroma may vary from being negligible to medium in character.
    Original Gravity (ºPlato): 1.040 1.050 (10 12.5 ºPlato)
    Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (ºPlato): 1.006 1.014 (1.5 3.5 ºPlato)
    Alcohol by Weight (Volume): 3.5 4.7% (4.5 6.0%)
    Bitterness (IBU): 20 30
    Color SRM (EBC): 20 35 (40 70 EBC)

    Sometimes it's good to look at the guides to make sure that your taste in beers doesn't overshadow the real style.
    Just a thought,
    Keep it real.

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  2. I agree it can be difficult to give a beer a high score if the style is designed to be mild and the flavours laid back (English Mild Ale example. But this cannot be an excuse for blandness!!

    Also though, BJCP guidelines (amongst others) are their own guidelines, and are not necessarily everyone elses (Randy Mosher's 'Tasting Beer' guidelines, differ from the BJCP for example) So we must be open and broad minded when reviewing or judging beer

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  3. Dude. Look at the BJCP. A style's a style. The Sand Creek porter is spot on, and this is coming from a chick whose favorite beer is a wee-heavy scotch ale. Hence, my appreciation for a beer WITHIN its description and not within MY taste preferences. The critique is inacurate. Suck it up.

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