I love a good porter, and the arrival of a new one on the Irish market is always very welcome, so it was with great excitement that I opened my first bottle of Sam Adam's Holiday Porter. This beer had come highly recommended from The Beer Nut who really knows and loves his dark beer but it had taken me some time to track it down.
A soon as the wonderful tan foam had formed there could be no doubt that it was an American porter. American brewers' use of Munich and other rich malts makes for an unmistakable aroma, and the flavour was American all the way too, with rich roast and perhaps a some hops. There's a little coffee and dark chocolate in there and the mouthfeel is deeply satisfying. Most porters are slightly heavy on the ABV, perhaps as a way of harking back to original days of porter in the 19th century when they would have been substantial brews, and this one is no different packing 5.8% ABV.
I am spoiled tonight because as the title of the post suggests, there are two porters in the offing. The second one is Station Porter and makes up part of my quarterly CAMRA real ale delivery. It is brewed by Warwick Brewing Co. in Gloucestershire and is a traditional real ale in the sense that it is bottle conditioned and completely flat compared to its American cousin. It took quite some effort to coax a head from the pour and the considerably lower carbonation makes for a difficult comparison between the two, but there can be no doubt that the English porter is more organic. It has distinct yeast character, with dark fruits and solvent, and more chocolate malt character without the richness of the Holiday Porter. It is still very enjoyable and resembles my home brewed porters which I generally brew with standard brown and chocolate malt. Once again this porter sticks to tradition with an ABV of 6.1%, and the alcohol is more evident, however it has plenty of residual extract for some sweetness and full mouthfeel.
Much as it pains me, the Americans have probably won this round, and I think there may well be a healthy measure of Munich malt in my next homebrew porter.