Red Brick Brewing Co.’s “Brick Mason: Vanilla Gorilla”

December 10, 2013

We’re in the time of year where you’re going to see me talk about a lot of dark, warming beer.  Sorry, folks, that’s just the way it’s gotta be.  Chilly winter air doesn’t have me in the mood for kölsch or pilsner.

Luckily, modern brewing attitude means much more than just straight-forward stout or porter.  Take Red Brick Brewing out of Atlanta and their Brick Mason Series, for example.  These releases have always been big, bold, flavorful and definitely outside of the box in terms of style.

They’ve had plenty of time to think about how they’re going to approach making beer.  Founded back in 1993 when there were very few craft breweries around – much less in the Deep South – Red Brick is the oldest continuously operating brewery in Georgia.  Twenty years of trial, error, growth and awards gives them deep insight into being different.

There have been numerous incarnations of their Vanilla Gorilla Porter over the years.  Whether it’s a simple addition of Madagascar vanilla bean or something more exotic like smoked peat moss or aging the beer in Jack Daniels barrels, Vanilla Gorilla has developed a big following amongst bold beer aficionados.

Dark beer with rich flavor is perfect in cold weather.  The deep, toasty notes hearken to sensations found in a hot cup of coffee or hot chocolate; only difference being the temperature of those beverages to beer.  Going back to my previous statement about preference, I’m not suggesting that’s socially unacceptable to drink lighter-bodied and -flavored beer when temperatures plummet; it’s not like wearing white after Labor Day.  Just most of us beer nerds want those warming flavors to trick the brain into thinking warm sensations.

I’m loving the label on this beer, too.  The country-fied jean shorts – known as “Joorts” – being sported by the albino Gorilla here are a nice touch as is the shaved patch on his shoulder revealing a whole-cone hop tattoo.  Is it me or does that great ape look a little sloshed?

On the surface, this version of Vanilla Gorilla may seem a little pedestrian compared to its predecessors.  Dig a little deeper and you’ll find that this is an imperial porter brewed to around 7.5% alcohol by volume.  Onyx-black with ever-so-slight cola highlights, Gorilla’s off-brown head pours to moderate height leaving thin islands of lacing.  From the get-go you’re going to find soft hints of vanilla riding on top of waves of dark chocolate, Irish coffee and faint caramel.  Its flavors give more of the same with miniscule traces of dried cherry and a slight woodsy note hanging out in there.  A puff of smoke on the finish carries you into the light body and texture making for a very satisfying ending.

An excellent item from a well-established brewery, Vanilla Gorilla is a great start to the winter beer season.