8/10/16: Nickel Brook Brewing Co.'s Maple Porter

5:09 PM

Lately, I've been really getting into maple beers. Evidence of this on my blog can be found in my review of SBC's Blueberry Maple Stout. If you follow me on my Untappd, you'll see two further maple-first brews (one of them is my first, and best, attempt at a homebrew cider). I won't link it here, but I've expressed my love of porters on quite a few occasions throughout the blog's lifespan. So, imagine my ecstasy when my roommate told me the gas station down the street sells a maple porter.

My hopes were somewhat deflated when he told me that the porter really didn't do it for him. But, seeing as how he mentioned that that may have been due to him expecting too much from the brew, my desire to try it still lingered. Flashforward to July 31st. Just before writing my last post, I ran out and bought a Maple Porter in preparation for the one I'm writing right now. So, does it do the style and the ingredient justice?

Nickel Brook Brewing Co. grew out of a homebrew beer and wine supply store/knowledge emporium known as Better Bitters Brewing Company. In 2005 Better Bitters' owners, brothers John and Pete Romano, branched out and decided to brew commercial beer. Thus Nickel Brook Brewing was born. Headquartered in Burlington, Ontario (Canada!--this is the first non-US-based brew on the blog), the brewery makes small-batch beer with the best available natural ingredients. Find out more about the brewery by visiting their About Us page. Me, I've read it all. Now I'm ready to get into the open can of beer sitting on my armrest.

But, before I do that, let's see what we know about the stuff. The story on the can tells us that it's brewed as a porter first and foremost, that it's infused with Canadian maple syrup during the brewing process so that it becomes fully bonded with the porter during fermentation, that it employs eight different malts and two kinds of hops, and that it has a modest ABV of 6%. If you don't have a can, you can navigate to the Maple Porter slide on Nickel Brooks' Our Beer page to read all about it there.

The nose of the brew is all porter up front. Notes of dark chocolate and java swim around my head after a deep whiff. But, lingering just to the back of them, I find a sweetness foreign to most porters. Knowing what the brew is, I can easily identify it as maple syrup. But, were I going into this blind, I wouldn't even have a guess to what that extra kick is. It doesn't exude maple. It's good though. Unless you're Purrl, who only gave it four whiffs.

The porter's taste closely follows its nose. The right components of the style are there: dark chocolate, coffee, all around delicious roastiness. But, in the finish, that sweetness from the aroma persists. However, the ingredient that creates the sweetness makes itself clear in the aftertaste. That's right, there's a fine kick of maple that hits you at the very end of taking a swig. And, you know what? It's great. It works. I don't necessarily think it should, but it does. The coffee/chocolate/maple syrup combo is done with astounding impressiveness and flourish.

Maple Porter has a frothy mouthfeel with a good bit of bite to it. There's a little more carbonation than I've come to expect from porters, but that is far from a bad thing. It serves to further elevate the brew's flavors.

During my freshman year at Ohio University, one of my high school friends came to visit his then-girlfriend. While she was out during the day (she was in the 110 and he was visiting during Homecoming) the two of us hung out. This included a walk to The Ridges--an old asylum looking over Athens that was gifted to OU some years ago. Notice how I didn't make that sound spooky. While I once thought The Ridges frightening, I don't anymore and I didn't at the time of my friend's visit (although I told him of some of the best ghost stories/urban myths that surround the place).

We visited The Ridges because of the great hiking trails found behind the crumbling asylum buildings. It was a cold, overcast mid-October day. And it was great. The leaves were falling and the whole world had that intoxicating decaying-leaf smell. That day spent with an old friend is what Maple Porter brings to my mind.

While Nickel Brook Brewing Co.'s Maple Porter doesn't live up to exactly what I want from a maple beverage--I really look forward to a maple-first flavor--it is a damn fine, shining example of a creative porter. As such it gets a healthy 9.0/10. If you can find it, do yourself a favor and pick it up.

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