Beer: Noche Dulce Brewery: Borderlands Brewing Co. Style: American porter ABV: 7.1 percent
There's an old joke that says the best thing to ever come out of Tucson is the I-10. But, while hilarious, it's only mostly true. The craft beer revolution is sweeping over Tucson in a big way, and several new breweries have popped up recently. Not only is the 10 coming out of Tucson, but so are brews from the Address Brewing Co. (also known as 1702), Dragoon Brewing Co., and Borderlands Brewing Co.
We're focusing on that third one today. Borderlands is located in the Tucson Warehouse Arts District in a century-old building that once housed the Tooley and Sons Produce Company. The brewery was founded by Michael Mallozzi and Myles Stone, two friends who come from careers far outside the beer industry. Mallozzi has a Ph.D. in microbiology and researches disease-causing bacteria at the University of Arizona; Myles is a U of A med student working toward becoming a family physician. The pair started the brewery in 2010 and soon asked Blake Collins, a respected Tucson homebrewer, to helm the mash tuns as head brewer. The conversation, they say, wasn't a long one.
Noche Dulce is the brewery's "Moonlight Vanilla Porter," made with flaked oats as well as vanilla sourced from Mexico. Poured into a snifter, the brew is dead black and completely opaque but thin and topped with an inch of silky, cocoa-colored foam. The nose delivers, in order of the strength of each: fresh vanilla beans, cola, cocoa, and roasted grains.
Noche Dulce's flavor can be accurately described as Vanilla Dr. Pepper with a splash of milk chocolate. In the front, complex vanilla notes blend with oats and the sweetness of brown sugar, cocoa, and maple. It's a fairly saccharine combination, and the mere 15.5 IBUs contributed by the hops do little to counteract the beer's sugars. Subtle toast rises at the swallow, leaving clean, straightforward toast and cocoa notes lingering after the finish.
Breckenridge Brewery makes a vanilla porter that's all over the place in Phoenix and has become something of a standard for the style. This beats it. As an Arizona State University graduate, I've often been of the mind that we should give Tucson back to Mexico -- but Noche Dulce is a tasty and drinkable porter that just might be enough reason to keep it around.
Food Pairing suggestions: As the name suggests, Noche Dulce is a beer for the night -- try it alongside vanilla-based desserts such as ice cream or vanilla cheesecake, noting the similar notes of vanilla in the contrasting textures.
Zach Fowle is a Certified Cicerone, an accredited guide to beer.