Friday, July 22, 2011

Beer of the Week (Vol. CVII)

Another edition of Beer of the Week brought to you by the sunny folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who the experience and insight to help you tour the wide world of wine, whiskey, and beer in style.

I spent the earlier part of the week in Costa Rica. No beaches or zip lines for me though: it was strictly a business trip to San Jose and other than the airport, the office, and the hotel I didn’t get to see much of the city or country. Well, it wasn’t all business. I did get a chance to sample a couple of local beers.
Judging by the ubiquitous signs around San Jose and t-shirts worn by hung-over tourists at the airport, the most popular beer is Imperial. Other than the cool logo, I wasn’t particularly impressed by the lager. It flavors were bland and had a bit of an off-putting metallic aftertaste. I would rate it a six.

The two Bavaria beers (apparently produced by the same company that brews Imperial) that I tried were better. The Gold pilsener had slightly more flavor than Imperial and was refreshing. I’d give it an nine. Bavaria Dark (a dunkel lager) was also decent and seemed to have a nice little kick to it despite the moderate ABV. A solid ten.

One of the most interesting experiences of the short visit to San Jose was dining at Le Monastere, a restaurant that had once been a monastery with an amazing hilltop view of the city. The cuisine was French, the waiters were dressed like monks, and, in addition to a spectacular selection of wine, the restaurant also brewed its own beer. When the dark brown beer with a voluminous head arrived in a Duvel glass, my expectations were raised. Was this going to be some local version of a tasty Belgian abbey ale? Alas, it was not to be. The beer’s flavors in no way matched its appearance in the glass. It was mild and inoffensive. Given the views and the delicious food on hand, the beer, while disappointing, proved quite acceptable.

Given the opening, you might expect that this week’s featured beer would be a lighter offering from Costa Rica or perhaps another tropical locale. Boy would you be wrong. What’s the 180 degree opposite of Costa Rica and light beer? How about Cleveland and porter? Okay, maybe it’s not perfectly opposite, but it’s pretty dang close.

This week’s beer is the first one to hail from Great Lakes Brewing Company in Cleveland. And for a change of pace from the usual summer styles of beers, it’s something more suited for when the skies of November turn gloomy. Our beer of the week is Edmund Fitzgerald Porter.

12oz brown bottle. Stark black and white label with depiction of namesake ship being battered by the epic storm that brought her down on the big lake they call Gitche Gumee.

Style: Porter

Alcohol by Volume: 5.8%

COLOR (0-2): Rich dark ebony. 2

AROMA (0-2): Vanilla and roasted malt. 2

HEAD (0-2): Off-white color. Good volume and excellent lacing. 2

TASTE (0-5): Lots of flavors here. Roasted malt, nuts, coffee, vanilla, and bitter chocolate. Medium to heavy bodied with a creamy mouthfeel. Not especially drinkable, this is a beer more suited to slow sipping and savoring. 4

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Smooth finish with lingering bitterness. 2

OVERALL (0-6): Again, this is hardly the season for porters, but Great Lakes shows how appealing the style is when done right. This is a well-balanced beer that has it all; appearance, aroma, and taste. Hopefully, we’ll still have a couple of months to enjoy the warm days and easy drinking beers, but it won’t be long until we feel that first chill of cool evening air. And when that ill wind comes a blowin’ in, Edmond Fitzgerald Porter is an excellent way to weather the storm. 5

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 17