Saturday Night Blue Collar Brew Review

Smokey BearThe second stop on my Friday beer purchasing pilgrimage was to the Four Seasons beer store. When I was there last week choosing the Raison D’etre from Dogfish Head, I spotted a beer I hadn’t heard of on the shelf. It was a smoked porter brewed by a relatively nearby brewery in Missouri.

I’ve had porters before but never a smoked one. All last week I was wondering what a smoked porter would taste like. About Wednesday, I made up my mind to pick up his beer and review it on Saturday.

Friday I was back and spotted the beer. I made a mental note of it’s relative position and then scanned the rest of the beer shelf. There were quite a few beer brands that I haven’t tried and I then resolved to stop by Four Seasons more often for future reviews.

I went back to the porter. It was O’Fallon Smoke, a smoked porter made by the O’Fallon Brewery of O’Fallon, Missouri. The container depicted a camper sitting by a smoky fire holding a drinking vessel. On the side of the carton was the brewery’s boast:

Try our full-bodied porter ….. Gold Medal winner for the best smoked beer in America at the 2004 Great American Beer Festival.

We start with a robust mahogany porter and brew it with six grains, including sixty-three percent Bamberg Smoked Malt and two varieties of hops. The result is a malty sweetness with burnt chocolate undertones that balance the bitterness of the hops. This is a smooth drinkable beer, characterized by its pleasant smoky flavor and aroma. Enjoy!

Nice. Burnt chocolate.

smoke sixThis beer didn’t come in the familiar sixpack carrier. Its container was a box and the flaps at the top were sealed with plastic tape, not glue. Absolutely no light could enter the container unless it was through the carrying flaps cut into each side. I grabbed the container and plodded over to the register. About 9 bucks lighter, I walked back to the truck with the bottles clinking with each step.

Saturday was an eventful day. Today was the day that our homebrew beer would hopefully be ready for sampling. Frabekurji was ready! What I decided to do was write a review for my own beer for next weekend if work hours don’t interfere. I hope to toot my own horn and perhaps tweak my own nose while tasting the brew. But for right now, we have some nicely chilled porter which is ready to be evaluated.

Saturday was a nice day with the temps peaking around 60°. It would be a comfortable night out in the Manly Garage. If it got a bit nippy later on, I could start a small fire in the stove. How apropos. Smoke in the glass and a fire in the stove.

Beer time arrived and I made my way out to the lab. With clean beer glass readied, I grabbed the box out of the beer fridge and slit it open along the seams with my pocket knife. The first bottle yielded some interesting observations: The label was different (newer?) from the one in the BA photo. There was no neck label and the top of the bottlecap had no emblem. Just a battleship gray color. The label was spartan in composition with just the usual warnings, deposit info and the name of the brewery. They included their phone number and their (our) motto: WE LOVE BEER.

The first bottle came out willingly, clank-fiving it’s former roommates on the way out.

smoke foam

At the pour, the beer was a nice very dark color with a tan head reminiscent of chocolate foam. The beer looked like a stout. The head was small, about a quarter-inch but rather creamy. The beer was hard to see through but there were tons of micro-bubbles just racing to the top. The aroma was slight but had hints of dark maltiness.

As the first sip went down, the smokiness of this brew hit my taste buds right away. It reminded me of a smoldering fire pit left to die out. The first tastes revealed themselves to be smooth, full of body and flavor and enjoyable. I couldn’t taste any obvious sweetness but that may change as the sips continue.

Halfway through the first glass, the smokiness took the shotgun seat and the sweetness came forward to drive. More and more of the middle of the sip filled in with a nice malty flavor mixed bit a tad of sweet. This beer doesn’t seem to have any of the roasty toasty characteristics of a robust porter or stout but it was quite smooth. Does burnt chocolate taste like a campfire? (Rhetorical question not requiring an answer.)

smoke glassEvery other sip or so, the smokiness would come to the front again, then fade back a bit for the next sip. The longer I waited between sips the more smoke taste I’d get when I went back. It wasn’t overpowering but it was there at each sip, tapping me on the shoulder, reminding me that it was still there.

Interesting note: I went into the house for a minute and returned to the garage. When I entered, I got a whiff of the fire that I had started in the stove a little earlier. I found it curious that the smoky smell reminded me exactly of the beer I was drinking.

Over all, this is a pretty good beer, especially if you’ve never tasted a smoked beer before. It’s got the porter style nailed and that smoky flavor in each sip perks your taste buds right up. I’d venture to say, though, that after about three of these, the taste may start to get tiring. The tongue may plead for something different.

It’s really no fun sitting downwind of a smoky campfire especially after that side of beans everyone had. But at a barbecue with some ribs oozing with juices, this beer would fit right in. This beer will not make you cough or give you a raspy throat or make you talk like Aunt Ruth. It will however, be a unique beer drinking experience where you will taste a smell and that will remind you of something.

O'Fallon logoThe SixPackTech ratings for O’Fallon Smoke are:

Taste: B- > Cinders in a glass.
Smoothness: B+ > The sheen of a Burnt Sienna crayon.
Drinkability: C > Ok. I’ll try one more. But that’s it.
Bang for the buck: C > Worth it just for that smoky taste.
ABV: 6.0%
Wife’s all-encompassing opinion: (Sniff) Hmm. (sip) I don’t get a whole lot… (sip) Oh, there there it is. Whoa. It’s tangy. Kinda tangy. (Do you get any smoky taste, like a smoldering campfire?) (sip) No, but I don’t go around drinking smoldering campfires. (sip) It’s not bad. Not too bitter. (sip) It’s not awful, it’s just different. (I must plan my questions with more forethought.)



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