Thursday, September 13, 2012

Stone Smoked Porter Vanilla Bean review

Stone Smoked Porter Vanilla BeanWhere there's smoke, there's usually fire, but in this case there's vanilla instead. Stone Brewing Company from San Diego is known for their over-the-top kind of craft beers. I was lucky to spy a single 12oz bottle of Stone Smoked Porter Vanilla Bean on the store shelf and knew I wanted to try it. I wanted to go dark this week despite it being the end of Summer and this seemed like a good choice.

Stone's smoked porters come in three varieties, regular Smoked Porter, Smoked Porter with Chipotle Peppers, and Smoked Porter with Vanilla Bean. I enjoyed the regular version, but with the addition of vanilla I will be expecting even more. Would this beer live up to Stone's high reputation?

Here are the vitals: Stone threw in a mix of Pale Malt, Crystal 75, Chocolate Malt, and Peat-Smoked Malt and balanced it with Columbus & Mt. Hood hops. Oh, and let's not forget the Madagascar vanilla beans! This beer ends up at their standard 5.9% ABV and a respectable 53 IBUs, as do all 3 of their smoked porters.

Appearance: Dark as it was, when held up to the light I could just barely see through this beer. It's dark brown with some mahogany edges. Stone Smoked Porter Vanilla Bean poured with a generous light brown head. I had to slow down the pour just to let the head subside a bit. There was a small bit of lacing around the glass, but most of it slid down the glass quickly. The beer had good clarity with no sediment that I could see.

Aroma: I tend to put a heavy emphasis on the aroma of a beer like this and I had a lot of preconceived expectations. I found that the vanilla in this beer slightly inched out the smoked malts in the nose. Like the normal version, this beer did NOT have a big campfire smoke smell, but rather, just a hint of smoke and a bit more vanilla. As this beer warmed I started getting some chocolate mixed in. Always remember to let a dark beer warm up properly to get the full experience.

Taste: Stone's smoked vanilla porter had a modest malty taste up front that had a toned down smokiness. Yes, there were some hints of coffee, yet not acidic or too roasty. The vanilla came through near the back end as I was expecting it to. The hops in this beer gave the brew a touch of spice and a balanced bitterness. As it warmed, the beer had a slight "tang" at the end as well. This is not a sweet beer by any means as a caramel flavor seemed noticeable, yet held back. There was a lot going on here with this beer. It seemed complex, full of taste with a moderate body.

Overall: What I liked about this beer is that it met my expectations and still managed to surprise me a bit. You can't really compare this with, say, Alaska Smoked Porter. No far from it. It's on the opposite end of the smoked spectrum. The smoke was an afterthought and was purposely used as a side note. The vanilla, luckily, wasn't overpowering and was balanced well, but comes through even stronger as it warms. It's the kind of beer that I enjoyed from start to finish. But make no mistake. It's not the kind of beer that I would want more than 1 of in a single sitting. Not because of the alcohol content or taste, but rather because I felt it was meant to be enjoyed as it was in a single 12oz serving.

I'd certainly want to drink another one of these tomorrow and would definitely seek this out again. It would pair well with a sweet dessert, something chocolaty or with plain old vanilla ice cream. Now as I remember the regular version of this smoked porter, Stone did a great job in making this beer taste unique. I'm curious now to see how the chipotle pepper would taste. Knowing Stone, it's probably something bold.

Disclosure: I paid full retail price for this single 12oz beer.

Related articles:
- Stone Smoked Porter review. (regular version)
- Stone Imperial Russian Stout review.
- Stone 08.08.08 Vertical Epic review.

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