OK, so you’re probably expecting to read another Pumpkin beer review this time of year. But unlike some of my colleagues, Pumpkin beers fall firmly in the “little goes a long way” category for my taste; so I’m probably not the person to advise you on where to turn for your pumpkin pie fix. So what to review, what to review….. Searching for the next beer to review, I discovered a single Fountain Square Backyard Porter tucked away in a side shelf on the refrigerator door. I didn’t recall being blown away by this beer initially, but figured it was a good time to revisit one of my favorite craft styles. Backyard Porter leans toward the characteristics of an English-style Brown Porter, rather than the darker, hoppier, stronger Robust Porter that became synonymous with the American craft beer revolution. But make no mistake, Brown Porters are very flavorful beers in their own right; favoring smooth notes of caramel, chocolate, and coffee over the stronger roasted malt and hop flavors of their American counterparts. I tend to gravitate toward the American styles in most situations like this, but Brown Porter is an exception to that rule and we actually have some excellent local examples of Brown Porter (Oaken Barrel Snake Pit and Iechyd Da Bit Pit Porter come to mind). It’s also one of my favorite styles to homebrew, and is very versatile for experimentation with spices and fruit.
Here is the description from Fountain Square: Our Porter is brewed in the traditional English style. It has a deep brown colour and a creamy tan head. The mouth feel is highlighted with soft notes of chocolate and slight undertones of roasted coffee. Hop bitterness is nicely balanced with the malt and hop aroma very low, typical of the English style. ABV: 5.0% IBU: 18 After pouring the Backyard Porter into a glass, you are greeted with a fairly pleasant but straightforward aroma of bitter chocolate with hints of dried fruit. While a low hop aroma would be expected, the complete absence of any aroma was the first clue I had allowed this beer to age a bit. But the flavor revealed significantly greater complexity with prominent caramel, chocolate, and coffee blended together nicely with some floral hop character still evident in this bottle. While these flavors can be a bit sharp in young beers, they had softened and matured wonderfully in this bottle. There is also a slight note of burnt sugar and bitterness from the malt. While these notes are more prominent in Robust Porters from increased utilization of black malts, there is still a little bit coming through and it distracts from the overall profile of this beer. The finish is slightly sweet, with very little hop bitterness, and a noticeable acidic quality. While the acidity isn’t necessarily expected here, it actually paired pretty well with the low bitterness to give a nice balance to the sweet malt. Although they are not the monster Barleywines and big Stouts that people typically age for long periods, I’ve found the characteristics of Brown Porter will hold up well over a limited (4-6 months) aging period. Fountain Square Backyard Porter is a good example. This beer probably would have merited a “Worth a Try” rating when fresh, but a bit of age really improved the flavors. If I were looking for something to consume this weekend, the Snake Pit or Big Pit Porter examples would probably be better options. But with a little patience, this beer was very enjoyable and moves up a spot on the scale. The Verdict [Avoid/Worth a Try/Recommended/Highly Recommended]: Recommended Cheers, Nathan