“A vanilla kiss in a rich, dark sea” is how the Breckenridge Brewery describes their Remarkable Vanilla Porter. For several years I have heard, and read great things about this Colorado brewery – with so many other amazing beers being produced in Colorado it was easy to believe the hype. But I had never had any of their beers, sadly. During my last trip to the United States I saw a classically branded bottle of beer blatantly staring at me with the word Vanilla. That is an easy way to my heart, and when I recognized that it was a Breckenridge beer I saw the perfect opportunity to score!
So lets break this down… Vanilla and Porter. A porter is a dark ale with soft favors of roast, nut, cocoa and sometimes coffee. It is not as dry or roasty as a stout, and is often mild in strength. Sweetness can come by way of caramel, malt, nuts, or vanilla. Then add vanilla beans from Madagascar – more vanilla! This porter is not to boisterous, it is just 4.7%, so I am expecting smooth, creamy, lightly warming, but gentle.
The branding of the Remarkable Vanilla Porter is what first caught my attention. The 355ml bottle has a cream and off white label with classic type and plainly indicates VANILLA PORTER. Therein lies an issue though; it claims right on the bottle that is it a Remarkable Vanilla Porter. To me this means that this porter has a fantastic vanilla flavor, a big lush and creamy one. Putting something like this on the label means that if it doesn’t live up to its name, it will disappoint. If it was just the Remarkable Porter it would still be great even if only a smidge of vanilla was present. Only one way to find out I guess.
I opened the Porter cool around 10C (50F) and poured it into a stemmed beer glass. The pour was smooth and soft gently building a seemingly dense medium tan brown head right away. A slow and silky pour created an amber brown to black beer with 1.5 inches of almond shade creamy head resting atop it. The beer had a rich bronze glow peeling inward from the sides and bottom of the glass. You could tell the color was richly transparent and golden, but the dark nutty and roasty malts inherent to a porter have created a midnight brown that is almost impenetrable. Very impressive.
The nose is soft and gentle wafting light roast, hint of nuts, malt and vanilla into my senses. It is calm and smooth without any abrupt characters, just simple and refined ones. A wide range of malts finds its way in from bready pale malts to roasty and lightly chocolate dark malts. Caramel fades in the back, as does the unmistakable aroma of vanilla. I tried to keep in mind that this beer is just under 5%, so I shouldn’t expect a crash of vanilla, nor should I need one. This is an easy drinking porter, perhaps even a sessionable one.
Letting the Porter glide into my palate was a soothing and relaxing moment of joy. It is soft and gentle with light roast and toasted nuts right off the bat. The more I sipped this beer the more came out of it. Warming malts come in from the back to your cheeks bringing caramel and vanilla – vanilla the whole time. The silky vanilla sensations here match warm baked bread, walnuts, and oatmeal.
Roasted barley an touches of cocoa are gentle in the background, as is a hint of earth and hops. But overall the bitterness here comes from the roast, and helps balance soft caramel and soothing vanilla. The flavors are not big, but they are apparent. This beer pulls off flavor very well while remaining soft and relaxing. I could session this beer for sure, but would enjoy it best with cheeses or roast meat. Or better yet, a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I still want more vanilla.
What I did not love about it was the mouthfeel and its somewhat aggressive carbonation. The finish was pretty crisp, and even a bit refreshing – but I wanted smooth and soothing here. Not that it is attacking or sharp, but smoother and creamier would have done very well for the flavors found here. It is hard to create that, but I think it would have stepped this beer up a big notch. Nonetheless, I very delicious vanilla porter, but not quite remarkable in my eyes.