God Bless Texas

Thursday, November 05, 2009

A wise man once screamed something at the top of his lungs that Texas primarily produces two completely unrelated products that rhyme.

One of those two products that the gentleman alluded to was not beer, though strangely, that also rhymes with the other two primary Texan products. And after trying this week's beer that ATK-occasional Joel sent me, I think "beers" should definitely be added to the wise gentleman's list of Texan products/exports.

This week, we taste Real Ale Brewing Company's (Blanco, TX) Coffee Porter, a robust porter brewed with coffee.

Coffee Porter pours a medium brown, tending even a little towards red like some coffees I am familiar with and enjoy. The pour gave a thin parchment-colored head with tons of tight, effervescent bubbles. The head dissipated rather quickly (I am betting from the coffee's acidity), leaving a slight pool of bubbles that swam on top.

Even 6 inches away from my nose, there is no mistaking the coffee in this beer. I guess nobody ever accused anyone in Texas of being subtle or small...so I would go as far as saying (and it pains a Yankee to say it) that the coffee aroma isn't just big, it's (sigh) Texas big. Roasted malts are trying really hard to compete with the earthy, smoky, slightly vegetal aroma of the organic coffee that powers this pint. Chocolate and a scant whisper of vanilla are begging for rescue under the coffee avalanche.

Like my favorite A.M. pick-me-ups, Coffee Porter is bitter. Coffee bitter. The coffee itself is from Katz coffee in Houston, TX. Of that coffee, the Katz Coffee Company says:

This dark roasted Mexico Organic Fair Trade coffee is exactly what Real Ale uses in their seasonal Coffee Porter beer. This coffee tantalizes the taste buds with a slight smokiness. The full body and good acidity allow you to enjoy the lingering soft caramelized sugar aftertaste. The least robust of our Dark Profiles, this is a cup of coffee you can drink all day.
I imagine to get the soft caramelized sugar, you need to drink it coffee-hot. But the other flavors of this roast are there in droves: acidic, a hint of smoke, and a full-bodied coffee bitterness that I crave for my personal morning cuppa Joe.

There is also a lingering bitterness to this porter from roasted barley, which also gives the beer a sight grainy aspect. Though the bitter flavors are slightly out of balance with the sweet and roasted malty flavors normally found in a "robust porter," there is still a friendly ghost of chocolate throughout and a maltiness that begs for attention (were the not subject to a severe beat-down by the coffee!) The aftertaste calms down a bit and reminds you that indeed, this is a beer.

The body is slightly watery-thin with a lot of carbonation. It's not so much a palate-cleanser as it is a reassurance that I grabbed a beer and not an iced frappacappumochacino.

Instead of a porter with some coffee, this is like a gourmet iced coffee with some fizz and alcohol, and I would understand that some people would consider this beer markedly out of balance towards the coffee and bitter. Now, as a coffee drinker addict, I really dig the big acidity and bitterness of this beer, and the bitterness isn't the over-hopped Tripple IPA bitterness either; it's that dark-roasted-everything bitter you get in coffee and big stouts that don't rely on tons of hops. That kind of bitter isn't as invasive as some brewer's Extreme Beers. If you're adventuresome, or a coffee drinker, here's your beer. It's an homage to the beverage that makes mornings possible. But if you're not a coffee connoisseur, maybe try Atwater Block Brewing Company's (Detroit, MI) Vanilla Java Porter, an homage to porter with just a hint of coffee to make it interesting.


Bob 8:56 AM  

I almost stopped reading at "God Bless Texas" but I considered the author and read on.

The following makes me interested in the beer: "...and the bitterness isn't the over-hopped Tripple IPA bitterness either; it's that dark-roasted-everything bitter you get in coffee and big stouts that don't rely on tons of hops."

I am not a fan of Atwater Block Brewing Company's Vanilla Java Porter, so maybe this will be more up my alley.

Sopor 9:22 AM  

This sounds YUMMY. In fact... it's 9:20am and I'm just getting my first cup of coffee (brewers do NOT wake up early). I think I would rather have a pint o'this!

Joel 10:15 PM  

Excellent review. Glad you liked the brew.

I'm having a Real Coffee Porter as I type this; mighty fine. Although I have been banished to the Republic of TAY-HAAS, I will say that the beer scene has been a *somewhat* pleasant surprise. Real Ale and Saint Arnolds are both getting the job done, and there is always Shiner.
Although marketing to Texans is normally a fairly straight forward affair (Put a star on the label or add the word TEXAS to the tag line and you're a guaranteed hit) you'll note that Real Ale eshews such pandering and still manages to sell... which is a good sign for the quality of the product. This is in contrast to Budwieser (which has a brewery in Houston) and proclaims to be "the Choice of Texas," or "Texas Best," or "All Texas" and the like. This really is a pathetic state sometimes.
As for the Coffee Porter, I really enjoy it, and, frankly, I'm the farthest thing from a coffee drinker. I can count on one hand the number of cups of coffee I've had in my life. Hence, it's not the genuine bitterness that turns me on (although its evident) as much as it's the complex flavors that Noah mentioned which lie underneath. It's fairly robust, but as a guy who, frankly, dispises coffee, I still find it quite enjoyable. I'll take this beer over a cup 'o Joe any day.

Anyone itching for some, drop me a line and I'll send you a sixer.

Joel 10:55 PM  

Oh, and, FYI:
those of you into the alternative music scene circa 1990 might remember the Revolting Cocks LP which was titled "Beers, Steers and Queers" and proclaimed that, indeed, Texas IS the place for all three (CATHOLIC!). Noah, your musical tastes were probably leaning more toward Paula Abdul and Kenny G at the time, so I wouldn't expect you to remember RevCo.

Having lived here now for well over a year, I can honestly say that I have never seen so many steers in my life, so they hit that one on the head. The beer drinking is about on par with your average trailer park scene (as the majority of the state has a bit of a trialer park mentality, even the folks with money), so the beer flows, but that don't necessarily mean it's good beer (Lone Star is probably the "brew" of choice, see my marketing to Texans comments from above). And, well, as for homo-sect-tuals, they're not "out" all that much (my frame of reference being Ann Arbor), at least not right now... but that could be because Texas has a designated "queer huntin' season" which runs from early September through Thanksgiving.

This really is a fucked up place.

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