Atwater Block Brewery – Vanilla Java Porter

As I said a couple of weeks ago, I took a little trip to Pittsburgh where I managed to stop in at D’s SixPax & Dogz.  As I have already made known, they have my favorite option for getting together a bunch of different beers for tasting: create your own six-pack.  Now I will admit to having my wife take two slots of that six-pack for a few pumpkin beers she wanted; however, I made sure to use my remaining four slots wisely. I previously mentioned that I had an ipa while I was in Pitt that I got from here.  This is the second one out of that pack.

There were a few different things that attracted me to picking up this bottle.  First of all, it is from a brewery I have never heard of or seen before.  Atwater Block may be available in this area; however, if it is, I have never seen it before.  Secondly, it says that is a vanilla java porter.  Having recently picked up both the breakfast stout and Canadian breakfast stout, I was really interested in having something else that a brewery may be claiming is close to a similar concept.  The bottle even says on it, “Wake up and smell the beer!”.  So, I was at least a little confident I would like this.  Finally, I love porters!  Why wouldn’t I buy a style of beer I already love?

Looking into the brewery, I found that these guys are located in Detroit’s Rivertown district.  I actually found this a little disconcerting.  I don’t know what the water quality is like there, but I have my doubts.  Another interesting bit of info was that all of their brewing equipment was brought in from Germany.  These guys even make their service calls to the Germans.  Additionally, they get all of their hops and malts imported from Germany as well.  I suppose it is pretty clear where they draw their inspiration from.

The pour on this one came out a very dark brownish/black.  It wasn’t exactly completely black because you can pick up some different haziness through it, but ultimately it’s very dark.  There is some really nice thick head development that builds on top of the beer with the pour.  It has a nice brownish tint to that as well.  I always love to see this color in the head of beer.  Nothing says dark rich flavor like brown head.  There is some moderate lacing that manages to last for an extended period of time.  Finally, you can definitely see the carbonation that is present here.

The smell that really hits you when you take your first sniff is huge vanilla scents.  The vanilla has a strange almost candle like quality to it.  I kind of just want to find the wick and light this one up.  Despite the strength of the vanilla scent, it has an almost fresh quality to the scent.  Other than the very obvious vanilla scent, there is also some chocolate that obviously backs up the fresh vanilla.  Finally, the coffee scent is rather obvious as well.  I find it interesting that they managed to have the vanilla overpower the coffee so much.

The taste starts the same way the smell does: lots of vanilla.  The overall sweetness of this porter is slightly strange; although, I wouldn’t say it’s complete gross.  I think it’s simply different.  Looking at the label, it says that it has been brewed with vanilla extract.  Not having a strong brewing background, I’m unsure if most people would use actual vanilla for brewing, or if they would typically stick to just extract.  I have a feeling it is the use of extract that causes the sweetness here.  The vanilla then gives way to the influx of some moderate chocolate tastes.  They definitely play second fiddle to the vanilla.  The sweetness begins to mellow at the end as the coffee comes into play.  The coffee is a little mild for a porter, but it may actually help the entire blend work well.

The carbonation on the mouthfeel is slightly high; however, I think it is necessary to create a beer that blends well with the sweetness of the vanilla.  I think if they could manage to dial back the carbonation slightly it would only make the beer better.  Overall the flavors all blend very nicely.  Each one is very easily distinguished, but also blends well to create a unified product.  I think I would have appreciated slightly more java in here, but I love coffee, so maybe I’m just biased.

I would definitely pick this one up again, but I don’t think I would power through a complete six-pack very quickly.  However, if I manage to see anything else from this brewery in the future, I’ll definitely be checking it out.  This was my first experience with an Atwater Block product, but I doubt it will be my last.

Teacher Grade: B

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1 Comment

  1. […] I was expecting.  Here they used real vanilla bean and not the extract that had me wondering in a previous beer.  The last vanilla beer I had was so overwhelming with vanilla that I was really happy with the […]


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