I learned recently that people use the word “vanilla” as a slang term for not being great in the sack, so naturally I looked it up in the dictionary. Vanilla (adj): plain or dull; lacking outstanding or interesting characteristics. This made me think of a few things that I find to be “vanilla”: bowling without neon lights, salad without dressing, dressing without accessories, “He was just…vanilla”. Now, the good news is I would NOT use the adjective vanilla to describe Breckinridge Breweries Vanilla Porter.
The beer is pleasant and simple with no puns or ironic labeling. It is in fact, vanilla. If you aren’t a fan of this simple flavor you may still enjoy this brew. This beer is anything but plain. The brewery claims that it is remarkable and partakable…honestly, they have described it perfectly. The aroma is extremely subtle, but nutty in its essence. The flavor immediately, pleasantly vanilla, I have never really liked the flavor. I’ve always thought of it as well…bland, overpoweringly bland. Like vanilla coke, some people love it but I never got it, vanilla vodka making your coke taste like…vanilla coke. The problem I think with the combination of vanilla and ________, is that it is often done in poor taste. The vanilla is too much or the combination has made the concoction too sweet. Vanilla is a great flavor in beer (when not abused) because it gives something generally bitter, sweetness. I wouldn’t call this beer refreshing but I would call it tantalizing. It took me some quality time with Breckinridge’s Vanilla Porter to really unmask its flavors, so subtle, yet so distinguishable. Like uncovering a family riddle of my father John’s cousin who is twice removed by marriage, only to find out in short that they are some kind of cousin. There is an aha moment at the end of this beer but by the time you get to the bottom of it, you don’t care because you are already cracking open another bottle. The carbonation is very underwhelming. If you are someone like myself who truly thinks beer can be useful in all occasions, yes all, then I would dare to call this an after dinner sipping beer in place of what some people would deem port time.
This beer is a *porter which means you can expect a dark hue, mild hops, and malts with flavors of caramel, chocolate, toffee, toasty, nutty, coffee, and dark fruit. In this particular beer I found notes of nutty, toasty, and caramel. Breckinridge’s website describes it as having a chocolaty essence…which I actually did not get when I was drinking it. Porter’s are like the red headed step child of the beer world. They began in the 1700s in England and were actually made for the “porters” or transporters that drank them. At that time a porter was easily 7% ABV, the vanilla porter from Breckinridge Brewery is only 4.7%. It was difficult to maintain production on the demand for porters because it required patience to the let it mature in casks for months to ferment. Pale ale styles and lagers forced porters to become almost nonexistent during the 1900’s. However, it did see a comeback in the home brewing boom of the 1970’s and 80’s. Today, there are many very good porters on the market although your odds are better with a micro-brewery (15,000 barrels or less) than a big company like Budweiser. Porters should be served cold but not just above freezing like a lager. I would give this beer a 4 out of 5 on my pint scale, it’s delicious and simple.
To Pour: Porters are best drank from a glass, not the bottle. It is a medium bodied beer so some patients in the transfer from bottle to glass will actually keep the head down. A porter will retain its head, but not as long as a stout.
– Chinook: herbal, earthy, smokey, piney character with some citrus sprinkled in (usage is flavor and bittering)
– Palisade: relatively new hop, very smooth, mild flavor, and mild bitterness (usage is aroma and bittering)
– Perle: Clean bitterness that verges on mint, somewhat floral, and spicy as well (usage is flavor aroma and bittering)
– Golding: The name is spelled goulding on the website…typo maybe? This is a traditional English hop flavor, it is smooth and sweet (usage is flavor, aroma, and bittering)
– Two Row Pale: a base malt that determines the color described in degrees Lovibond which in this case is 2
– Caramel: used on almost all ales. This gives the beer a more malty, caramel, fuller tasting beer.
– Bonlander: contributes smooth, malty, and sweet flavors to a beer
– Black: gives a sharp roasted flavor and a deep red to black hue
– Roasted Barely: specialty malt that impact head color
– Top fermenting ale yeast: most commonly used in porters, ales, stouts, altbier, and wheat beers.
Porter: Originated in Britain as a strong, dark brew made from a blend of sour or stile, mild and new ales. The style fell out of practice
Vanilla Porter brewed by Breckinridge Brewery in Breckenridge, Colorado