Brewed For Battle: Robust Porters

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​At what point does one elevate from merely drinking beer to being a full-on beer snob? Answer: when you feel compelled to tell other people what to drink. And the inevitable result of this peculiar ailment is the beer argument.

In the spirit of all great beer-related discussions, we present Brewed For Battle; a new series of Chow Bella blog posts that pits a selection of brews from a given style up against each other and lets the taste buds of one layman battle them out. Multiple beers go in. One beer comes out the victor.

This week's battle: Robust Porter

Beers, much like coffees, come in varying degrees of strength and darkness. At the top end of the spectrum is the stout -- full-bodied, full-flavored and often full of alcohol. One notch below sits the porter, sharing the stout's color but different in that it lacks the stout's intense roastiness. The style originated in London, where some historical documents say they Brits used to make a popular beverage called "three threads" using a third of a pint each of ale, lager and a strong brew called twopenny. Around 1730 a brewer named Harwood crafted a single beer called Entire which recreated the flavor of "three threads." This beer came to be loved by porters and other physical laborers, and so earned its name, porter.

While most porters that come out of England today can be categorized as the milder brown porters, the ones being made in the U.S. are more often robust porters, meaning in part that they have a more robust flavor (see how this works?). Innovative American brewers have done a lot with this style in the past several years, often highly hopping the brew, using smoked malts, or adding coffee or chocolate to complement the toasty flavors associated with it.

Zach's Pick: Anchor Porter

Anchor Porter holds the distinction of being the first porter I ever tried, and it's still the best in my mind. Flavors of burnt black malt, chocolate liqueur, coffee, hops and a little smoke swirl about amidst a beer that feels so smooth and creamy in the mouth it's like drinking velvet. Just writing about it makes me want one.

Shannon's Pick: Kona Pipeline Porter

This limited edition (possibly seasonal) brew from Hawaiin Beer makers, Kona Brewing Company, is one of my most beloved porters. But I'm a sucker for all things coffee. The Pipeline Porter is a rich, dark beer that gets it's kick from freshly roasted Kona coffee and has a slight chocolate-y sweetness. It has so much coffee, you can smell it the second the cap come off. Unlike a lot of porters, this beer has the ability to hold your attention well after the first one. It's high drinkability makes it the perfect beer to drink outside by a fire on a chilly Arizona night. And at only 5.40% ABV you shouldn't be completely annihilated after two or three.

Jonathan's Pick: Ballast Point Victory at Sea

In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that the only thing I like more than a good mug of beer is a great cup of coffee. So I decided to shake things up and bring an imperial porter to the battle this week. Victory at Sea combines an imperial porter with cold-brewed coffee (which means less acidity and more caffeine punch) and a little vanilla to create a smooth brew with a thick mouth feel and a strong finish. At ten percent alcohol by volume, you won't need more than one, but you desperately want more than one.

The Layman's Choice: Kona Pipeline Porter This week's layman was none other than Chow Bella and Jackalope Ranch contributor Cyndi Coon. She thought the Anchor Porter was too sweet, with too much molasses-like flavor. Victory at Sea was a bit too intense for her tastes. Pipeline on the other hand, was just right.

"Pipeline makes me want to curl up and get warm. It's a perfect winter drink."

Next week: Battle barleywine. Get ready to be obliterated.

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