This week: Smoke on the Porter
New Glarus Brewing Co., New Glarus, Wis.
Smoke on the Porter is a repeat beer from the brewery. It was originally released in 2007 and set aside, but the brewery decided to bring it back for another run. Like other New Glarus offerings, it's only available in Wisconsin.
Smoke on the Porter is highlighted by the use of smoked cherrywood. For me, it brings back memories of having cookouts at my brother’s house in the De Pere, Wis., area, where cherry trees were prominent and picking up pieces of bark and branches after storms was a given to save for grilling purposes. We enjoyed quite a few chicken breasts grilled with the cherrywood.
The 6.1% ABV porter brought back those days. Its smoke component was not the ham- or bacon-flavored smoke in some smoked beers. It’s more a simple wood smoke flavor, which allowed the cherry flavor from the smoked grain to be more noticeable.
The smoke also did not overwhelm the base porter ale, which tasted rich with the requisite chocolate, caramel and roast notes that a typical porter should have. The balance between all of the ingredients was excellent.
This seems a good time to mention something about dark beers because of some recent conversations I have had in local taverns. It seems that the majority of Americans still think that a dark beer means it has a higher alcohol content. This is simply not true.
There are dark beers that are strong. However, the color of the beer has nothing to do with its alcohol strength — that is only because of the amount of sugar extracted from the malt grain that the yeast converts to alcohol during fermentation.
Dark beers receive their color through the use of roasting malt grain longer to give it a darker color and add extra flavors. It’s the same concept as coffee — roast it longer and it becomes, say, a French or Italian roast.
There are many dark beers that have a similar alcohol content to mass-produced American beers, with styles such as stout, porter, German dark and black lagers, bock, Belgian duppels and more.
For those of us who are used to drinking craft beers, this is common knowledge. But, it still surprises me that after a few decades of the emergence of microbreweries and brewpubs, much of the general public still hangs on to some of the old beer myths.
I still run into people who believe bock beer is made from scraping the sediment of fermentation barrels after a year of brewing.