One of the most important times of my life for self and music discovery came at the end of middle school and the beginning of high school. I look back at that time period as being a really fun time in my life. Shows or concerts were some of the most important things to me at that time. Since I was without a car or license at that time, I had to hitch a ride to any event I wanted to get to. While this made things difficult, it also helped me really look into every form of music I could find, so I would know to look for both big and local shows that were taking place. One of the most important types of much in that development was the big resurgence of ska that was taking place at that time. One of the most prolific ska shows at that time was the all day festival, Ska Against Racism, that came through the local college. It featured some of the biggest ska bands at that time, and it was an all day fest in the rain. While it somewhat sounds miserable, to a teenager, it was one of the best memories I have from high school.
Years later I saw that there was a brewing company that took me back to that memory; however, I couldn’t seem to get them in my area. Then, about two weeks ago, I got an email from an online beer distributer that told me they were offering three different beers from Ska brewing as a six-pack and it had free shipping. I’m sure I overpaid some for these six beers, but I’m a sucker, so I immediately jumped on it. The six beers that were included in this offer were their Ten Pin Porter, Pinstripe Red Ale, and Modus Hoperandi. Although I wasn’t sure which of the beers I wanted to consume first, I decided to go with the Ten Pin. There are a few different reasons I landed on the porter. First of all it’s a porter. I wanted to have something a little darker and maltier, plus I brewed a stout recently and brewing always puts me in the mood to drink beers of a similar nature. Secondly, it was the one rated highest on Beer Advocate. The Bros actually gave it a 100, so I felt that meant I had to go for it first.
Ska Brewing seems to have an interesting beginning. Back in 1995 the two owners loved beer and ska, but they weren’t old enough to buy beer, so they decided to start making it. Drawing inspiration from their favorite form of music, Ska Brewing Co was born. Ten Pin is described as a beer brewed with six different malts and Perle and Willamette Hops. The most intriguing note seems to be that they describe the taste as chocolate milk and not chocolate. Hopefully chocolate milk beer is real good!
This one pours out a dark black oil color, but it has more of the consistency of coffee than oil. There is a light tan head that develops on top of the beer. Some great lacing and tons of really sticky residue develop on the side of the glass. The beer is clearly too dark for any visible carbonation, but you can see some visible activity in the glass when you agitate the contents.
The aroma is fairly straight forward for a porter; however, this is the first sign that you’re dealing with a standard porter and not a robust porter. There are some big sweet malts that pretty much dominate the nose. There are certainly quite a bit of roasted notes here as well as some clear coffee scents. The chocolate is dominate as well; however, despite all of the big rich scents, the beer is still quite crisp. There seems to be some light citrus and hop aroma here as well. I was interested to see how the citrus played into the flavor profile.
The flavors start with some big sweet malts. This transitions into some well-balanced, although not overwhelming, roasted notes. The surprise comes right in the middle of the beer. It starts as a standard porter, but it comes in with some pretty significant citrus flavors as well. This helps the beer come across as much lighter right in the middle of a beer typically considered fairly heavy. The roasted notes do come back, and you get a kick up of some nicely balanced chocolate flavors. Some light piney tartness comes in, which I would attribute to some of the hops. There is a little bit of oak and residual roasted notes on the finish.
The mouthfeel is quite interesting. It is not as big and robust as most porters I’ve had in the past, but it is quite a refreshing take on a dark beer. It’s a really good blend of chocolate, roasted notes, and citrus. The moderate to high carbonation also helps keep the beer feeling rather fresh.
I don’t think I would call this beer chocolate milk, but I think it’s a great refreshing taste on a dark beer. There are certain people out there who judge beers by their color. This beer, however, helps to show that a dark beer doesn’t have to be big and thick. If you see this beer around it’s a really great beer to have as a transition from fall into winter flavors. I just don’t promise you can find it.
Teacher Grade: A