The Beer: Piehole Porter
The Brewery: Historic Brewing, Flagstaff
The Stats: 6.0% ABV, 20 IBU
The Style: Chocolate Brown Porter with cherry and vanilla
The Skinny: Piehole Porter is a beer that gets a lot of buzz in the Arizona craft brewing community, and rightfully so. This Brown Porter ends up anything but traditional, and with its additions of fresh cherries and Madagascar vanilla beans, it can best be described as a liquid version of a cherry cordial. Imagine biting into a cherry cordial: first there's the chocolate shell, followed by the cherry itself, and finally, the sweet syrup that brings the two together. This beer flows much the same way, and the pleasant lingering sweetness has so much of that "cordial juice" character.
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Aromatically, Piehole Porter starts with vanilla, which leads over a subtle dark chocolate backbone. There's no perceptible roast character often found in the porter style — but it's neither needed nor welcome here. When you look at Piehole Porter sitting on the table, you see a brown ale. Hold it up to the light and the ruby red/garnet highlights pop like a neon light. A foam stand of very small, creamy eggshell bubbles persists throughout the enjoyment of this brew.
While roast is absent in the beer's aroma, there's a subtle and pleasant roasted character in the flavor that adds a layer of complexity and contrast to the beer's sweetness. All the flavors work harmoniously together with different flavors being showcased in different parts of the drinker's palate. Not much, if any, hop character is present in the flavor or aroma, and only enough hop bitterness to ensure a properly balanced, malt-forward beer. The lightly-roasted malts work in tandem with the light bittering hops to provide just enough bitterness to allow the beer to finish crisp and clean and reflect its properly attenuated (fermented) state. The finish is a wonderful counterpoint to the sweetness up front.
Where to Find It: If you're looking for an excuse to head north, there's no better one than to come enjoy a Piehole Porter at the source. The Historic Barrel and Bottle House is open seven days a week at 110 S. San Francisco St. in the heart of the action in Downtown Flagstaff. This beer is available year round. For more information visit the Historic Brewing website.