Sunday, January 2, 2011

Breckenridge Vanilla Porter

Breckenridge's Vanilla Porter is far from the highest-rated porter out there (Beer Advocate users grade it a B-; its Rate Beer score is 74). But in my book it's easily one of the most enjoyable examples of the style. And I love porter, so you know I'm not fooling around.

For precisely the reasons a lot of beer geeks dislike the Vanilla Porter, I'm quite fond of it. It's light-bodied, comparatively mild in flavor, and really sweet once the vanilla hits. Made with real vanilla bean from Papua New Guinea and Madagascar, this porter reminds me a little of drinking a vanilla-flavored Coke at Steak 'n Shake. It's got the roasted malts and bitter chocolate goodness that make the porter style a favorite of mine. But the huge, sweet kick of vanilla makes this a porter unlike any other. Some porter fans might feel the vanilla sweetness takes away from the roasty flavor and thus ruins what could have been a decent beer. Yet I really like the way the vanilla taste blends with the nutty cocoa/coffee notes. This is by no means a hoppy version of the porter style, so it's not like the sweetness needs to be there for balance. But you know what? I like it there anyway! Maybe it's only because I like drinking this beer while eating Ghiradelli dark chocolate squares, but there's something almost perfect to me about this particular combination of flavors.

While not as impossibly delicious as Bell's Porter, Breckenridge Vanilla Porter is similar in that it's more accessible to the average beer drinker than a lot of craft porters are. If you like milk stouts - or vanilla Cokes - give it a shot!

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