Left Hand Brewing Co. – Longmont, CO
Fade to Black – Volume 2, Smoked Baltic Porter
12 oz., 7.8% ABV. bottled on 1/14/2011.
A lot of people wonder what makes a smoked beer. Brewers create the smoked flavors by drying the malted grains in a smoker. So the grain is smoked before brewing. Simple and wonderful. Many are surprised when tasting one for the first time.
Bottle artwork. Sometimes it’s enough to pick up a bottle without hearing anything about the beer, as was the case with this bottle. I just thought the label was cool.
Pouring the beer revealed some interesting facts. First, there was very little head. What was present vanished so quickly, I hardly had time to describe it. The fading head left the thinnest film of bubbles on one edge of the surface. There are a few bubbles rising up within this very dark brown porter. It’s dark to the point of almost black. It has a slight hint of red tinge around the edges of the glass.
The aroma is full of roasted malt, but surprisingly light on smoke. I sense some espresso aromas, with even a hint of black licorice. Also present are some dark chocolate notes. Along the lines of 80% or 90% dark chocolate. The smoke aroma is subtle, reminding me of burning leaves in the fall or a fireplace on a cold winter night. Appropriate for January.
The first sip is sweet, but also bitter, but also smoky… The flavor progresses nicely from the beginning through the finish with lots of flavors to experience. First, are those sweet malty flavors. Lots of molasses, roasted grains and some coffee and chocolate. Dark chocolate, like 80% or 90% dark. Bitter and delicious. Midway through the sip, the hops start to make themselves known with an herbal note and a bit of wet leaves. I think I like it. There is also a nice bitterness from both the hops and the roasted malts. The finish is midway between sweet and dry with a hint of smoke on the tongue. This beer aged surprisingly well with very little oxidation.
Mouth feel is medium to full-bodied with a nice tongue coating texture. It’s almost silky. The carbonation is a bit light, but I think it suits this porter. Drinkability is great. I could enjoy a couple of these over the course of an evening. A nice porter that’s not overpowering on smoke.
Fade to Black would be even better served with any smoked meat; particularly barbecue, but pork and ham would also be enhanced because the strong flavors of the food wouldn’t be overpowered by the beer and vice-versa. I’m feeling a burger with smoked apple-wood bacon, Gouda cheese and caramelized onions with a side of horseradish potatoes. It also goes quite well with a square of Lindt 90% dark chocolate.
Overall – B+