Beer Shoot-Out – California Porters

California Porter Shoot-OutSeeing that I had three Porters in my beer fridge, that was reason enough to do a side-by-side comparison. It could even be captioned as a Northern California beer shoot-out, since the three beers are brewed in Chico, Blue Lakes and San Francisco. Three of us sat down to pick a winner.

Anchor Porter (Anchor Brewing Co., San Francisco, CA)

I have an admitted bias toward Anchor Brewing Co. Anchor Steam was my first introduction to craft beer. The first time I had an Anchor Steam, I was both elated and angry; elated because I had found how good a beer can be, and angry because I realized I had been drinking swill for so many years.

But despite my love of Anchor Brewing beers, this Porter falls short. If I had not had the other two beers for an immediate comparison, it might not have fared so badly, but it really wasn’t even close. The Anchor Porter has a bad aftertaste not present in the other two, leading all three of us to rate it a distant third. Sorry Anchor, my old friend, I can only give you an 80 on The Morris Scale for this one.

Steelhead Porter (Mad River Brewing Co., Blue Lake, CA)

There was a split between the three of us as to the remaining two beers. Two of us ranked the Steelhead Porter the best. To me, it was the most flavorful by far, with a really nice malt taste and creamy mouthfeel. This will be a go-to Porter for me from now on, with a score of 95.

Sierra Nevada Porter (Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Chico, CA)

My beer Goddess ranked this number one, but I suspect that was specifically because it did not have as much complexity as the Steelhead. No question the Sierra Nevada Porter was a good beer, but it lacked that malt taste I found so appealing in the Steelhead, and had a thinner mouthfeel. I’ll give it an 89.

So in this Northern California Porter shoot-out, the Steelhead Porter is a clear winner.

Tonight’s Tasting: Man O’ War Ruination and Ruination IPA

Ruination Cigar and IPAIt was a year ago that I came up with the clever idea of pairing a Ruination cigar with the Ruination IPA, and today I finally got around to it.

Man O’ War Ruination Robusto (5.5″ x 54)

I reviewed the Ruination Torpedo previously, and it became one of my favorite cigars. As with the Torpedo, the construction and burn of this Robusto were flawless. The initial puff puts you on notice that this is going to be a full-bodied cigar, with a strong taste of spice and leather. This cigar gains even more complexity and smoothness as you smoke it. By the end, you’ll be sorry the experience is over because the cigar is so tasty.

I’m not impressed with the entire Man O’ War series, but this one is great. It receives a strong 92 on The Morris Scale.

Here is how Cigars International describes the Man O’ War Ruination:

Strap on your bike helmets gents. Behold, Man O’ War Ruination, a supremely flavorful handmade offering superior layers of bold, Cuban-esque flavors balanced by velvety smoothness that pours forth with raw spirit and intensity. Ample flavor abounds, driven by its bold mixture of Cuban-seed Nicaraguan and Honduran long-leaf ligeros. These hand-selected tobaccos have been picked from the plant’s highest priming, bringing maximum flavor and richness. To conceal this deep, dense blend of tobaccos, an oily Habano Ecuador ligero leaf was chosen as its wrapper – one that’s thick and juicy, even outshining the flavorful core within. An explosion of spice greets you up front, as Ruination deliquesces into softer notes of oak, earth, toast, wood, and leather. The velvety smoke coats the palate, leaving a long and satisfying finish filled with the wonderful lingering aroma of toast and charcoal. Toward the nub the roller-coaster continues….closing with a concentrated, layered, full-bodied finale. Nothing short of a religious experience!

I wouldn’t describe it as a religious experience, but it is damn good.

Ruination IPA by Stone Brewing Co.

I was slow to come to the IPA religion. The concept always bothered me, because historically IPAs were really bad beers. The entire point was to come up with the longest surviving beer while trying to keep it palatable. When the IPA craze caught on, the competition seemed to be to make them as hoppy as possible with no thought of making a good beer.

Beers like the Ruination IPA are what won me over. It still has the extreme hoppiness of an IPA, but not at the cost of taste. The Ruination IPA brings up the malt level to keep the hops from getting out of control, and adds a nice palate of citrus flavors. This IPA has real drinkability, not just hop shock for its own sake. I give the Stone Ruination IPA a 95.

Here is how Stone describes its own beer:

So called because of its truly “ruinous” effect on your palate, this massive hop monster will change forever your preconceptions of what defines good beer. This is Stone IPA’s big brother, and we mean BIG. We essentially began with our already-awesome Stone IPA, threw in an extra-large helping of malt, and added a lot more hops. And then some more. And then even more, resulting in a vibrant blast of citrusy bitterness that hits you on the first sip. Just one taste and you’ll know why we call this indelicate jewel “A liquid poem to the glory of the hop!”

That description makes it sound like a hop monster, but it’s not. Oh it’s very hoppy, but it presents as a very crisp beer without being exceedingly bitter.

Beer Fest Review: OC Fest of Ales 2013, Anaheim