Just got back from Sweet Water Brewery’s “Brew Your Cask Off” event. There’s no way to hide it: my beer didn’t fare too well. The original intent was to enhance their Exodus Porter with Spanish and Mexican ingredients – namely cocoa powder, cocoa nibs, split vanilla beans, agave nectar as my fermentable and, the culprit what did me in, ancho chili powder.
It’s a good thing that the barrels we filled were 10-gallon and not the 5.5-gallon I had originally based my recipe upon because it would have scorched the taste buds of every kindly soul who tried my beer! As it was, the heat register was really the only thing noticeable albeit a pleasant burn. No chocolaty flavors, no vanilla complexity, no rich texture… just sizzle. Shoot. So much for striving to achieve a slight tingle at the finish with a natural, nutty chili flavor enhancing all of the above-mentioned.
Here I am, the guy who tries his darndest to provide you, the dear readers, with informed opinion on good beer yet fails when it comes time to make his own. It’s a humbling experience.
I’ll tell you who truly knows beer and came back home with their own lack of humble pie via beer competition: our good friends at Pensacola Bay Brewery. In fact, it was brewmaster Mark Robertson himself who warned me about the potential fire power of too much ancho in my beer. Should’ve listened to the man whose recipes garnered his brewery 9 medals at the Florida Brewers’ Guild competition this month. Excellent numbers for the lads – they took 9 of their beers with them and came back with a shiny trophy for each one!
To add good news to their good showing, the Guild also determined their Lighthouse Porter to be the second-best beer in the entire state of Florida. I’ve been telling people all along that this is one of the finest porters I’ve ever drank and now PBB has the bragging rights to prove it.
Lighthouse is ultra-dark mahogany in color with traces of light-brown edges. The thin, creamy head gives way to spotty lacing in the glass. Big scents of whole roasted coffee bean leap out at you while elegant notes of caramel, toffee and wheat bread play hide-and-seek in the background with the faintest whiff of hops. A silky texture with almost minimal carbonation bite gives forth a brilliant combination of sweet, nutty and roasted malt. There’s black coffee, slightly-burnt toast, hazelnut and a tiny hint of dried dark cherry.
Until I learn how to brew successfully, I’m just going to leave it to the professionals and drink their good stuff. Congratulations to the entire staff of our little local brewers!