Sam Adams is the brewery beer geeks don’t know what to do with. Their history kind of helped define the entire craft beer movement, but they also have the distribution of a big name beer company. They tend to be in literally every single bar, and beer geeks can’t sound like elitists when they discuss beer if they are referencing Sam Adams. I talked about how I’m all good with buying Sam in the “Slim Pickens” situations, but I really don’t seek them out that much. It’s hard to seek out a brewery that is available so many different places. Well Sam took care of that issue and came out with their Limited Release Series. The way the website reads, they were looking for an opportunity to experiment and try new things with different ingredients. Their Limited Release Series gives them the ability to try out new things and even invent new styles. It has given beer geeks a reason to look at Sam Adams again!
After having this bottle, I can say I’ve tried all of the current limited releases Sam is offering. This bottle was picked on a whim one Saturday because of the style. Having tried all of the other bottles in the limited release series, I typically gloss over these bottles at my local store. This one happened to catch my eye as a bottle I had yet to discover. Picking it up I noticed this is considered a Baltic IPA. There were multiple reasons for me to pick this one up. Porters and IPAs are personal favorites of mine. Baltic porters tend to be heavier in alcohol with a much deeper and richer flavor profile than your typical porter. Taking that thick and creamy porter quality and adding a bunch of hops intrigued me. This combination could either be amazing or a huge flop. I figured whatever side of that coin it fell on, it would still be good to try to review.
Looking into the history of the two styles, it actually doesn’t seem too surprising that they chose to put these two together. Baltic porters were stronger and more robust to withstand being shipped across the North Sea. Similarly, the British sent beer to their troops in India in the 1700’s. Since hops are a natural preservative, they tended to create a pale ale with a bigger malt base and more hops to withstand the long journey to their thirsty troops. So, while these two beers seem like a strange combination, they also appear to be a perfect fit.
The super dark beer doesn’t have the oil consistency on the pour, but it has more of a dark black coffee appearance. There is some ample brown head that develops on top of the beer. The head definitely sticks around for a little while. There is ample lacing that develops on the side of the glass with a little swirl of the brew. Tons of sticky residue hangs around on the side of the glass afterward. You can see some light carbonation around the edges of the glass, but there it is far to dark to get any other feel there, which also means you can’t tell what the clarity is like either.
There is definitely a lot of coffee on the nose of this beer. The coffee is enhanced through a ton of roasted notes as well. The overall sweet malty quality is definitely present, but they are challenged on the back half of the aroma by the hops as well. I always find the coffee and hops qualities interesting on an aroma. They both have bitter qualities which is why they work so well together. The hops seem slightly more floral than piney, but they are still pretty powerful despite a heavy coffee scent present.
The flavors here don’t quite match up exactly as I wanted them too. I’m a big fan of a well blended black IPA. I thought it might be more difficult to take something even darker and richer blended together, and I think it is true here. There is a slight malt entry which is met immediately by a big hit of hops. The hops have a very clear piney flavor to them. Interestingly, you do get a little bit of the citrusy flavoring accompanying the hops as well. I thought that might not be present with something that is followed by so much coffee flavor. The hops come to a peak right in the middle where they are joined by the big coffee flavor. The coffee does a good job of getting the piney bitterness under control. There are a lot of roasted notes that accompany the coffee. The coffee and roasts lead to the end where the pine returns to mix.
There is a lot of carbonation throughout most of the mouthfeel; however, you get a little bit of syrup to round it out at the end. The porter and IPA qualities are both really good, but I don’t think that they completely ever match up the way they are intended to. I love a good black IPA, but this seems more like two separate beers than just one cohesive beer. The coffee and hop elements just seem slightly disconnected which leaves you with a slightly unpleasant ending.
I wanted to love this one, but I think I just found it okay. I like that they took a black IPA and tried to push it to the next level. I just think they need to match up slightly better. The bottle made a note of saying this came from the first batch Sam Adams had produced. I would be interested in seeing if they manage to have these two styles match up slightly better later on. It’s still a fun beer to pick up if you’re looking for something different from Sam Adams though.
Teacher Grade: C