There isn’t much that can be said about a porter that hasn’t already been said many times before. I’ve tried. To me, the porter is a humble beer – quiet and dignified in the face of hop crazes and kettle souring. It shows up, you drink it, you say “huh, what a quaffable beer”, perhaps you have two more, and life goes on. And that’s great. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a steady, drinkable beer, especially if you’ve been on an IPA binge for the past month. Kindred’s Salvage Porter is most definitely a porter, with all of the appropriate porter characteristics. Except for one that may or may not be on purpose. I’ll talk about that later.
On the nose, notes of chocolate and a faint hint of roasty coffee arrive first. There is a touch of earthy smoke that lingers for a few moments, but it is not forward, and makes no attempt to stick around. Beneath, caramel and toffee add some sugar, alongside a bit of fruitiness, specifically cherries and prunes. They are faint, but are not unexpected, and they are far from glaring. Beneath everything is a breath of malty bread with a hint of crust. In all, straight forward and simple, but enjoyable.
For its taste, it begins malty from the outset, with hints of grain and baked bread. Dark chocolate arrives next, followed by the same smoke from the aroma. A gentle roast coffee vibe shows up alongside the chocolate notes, with depth and a bit of earthiness, like a faint mineral note at the back edge of the roast. There is a present sweetness that never overshadows the darkness of the malt, but does allow the malts to push forward a bit, helping to create a moderately plump mouthfeel. This, alongside notes of caramel, ensure that the flavors stay around for a bit. Toffee and slightly burnt sugars add depth and complexity, especially in conjunction with the roast notes. The stone fruits from the aroma return as well, with faint cherries and an enjoyable plum vibe settling in nicely. Now, for the hint of oddness that throws a tiny wrench into the machine of normalcy. As the beer warms, some grassy flavors begin to set in (similar to what you might find in a Belgian beer). It lingers, but never overpowers, and certainly doesn’t make the beer undrinkable. In fact, it adds another edge to the beer that, while perhaps not what the brewers were aiming for, does help to create the effect of a “Belgian Porter”, as gentle as the flavor is. Is it a flaw? Probably. Would porter snobs gasp and guffaw at such a travesty. More than likely, because porter snobs are typically stuffy people to begin with. Think of this what you will, but hey, the beer is tasty. And it does push the beer away from the rigid “porter” mould that everyone is used to.
A good 86% of Kindred’s Salvage Porter is tried and true porter. Chocolate, roasty, bold flavors without huge alcohol. If you want a porter, you’ve found a porter, at least as long as it stays cold. Whether this is an, albeit tasty, flaw contained to one bottle, or if it affected an entire batch, those grassy notes are there. If you are one of the aforementioned porter snobs, I’m sure this beer has regained its porterness back on tap (unless they’re changing this to a Belgian Porter). But, I prefer to believe that somewhere along the way, my bottle of beer gained sentience, realized its true identity, and created its own flavors in order to distinguish itself. Which is awesome.
photo courtesy Kindred Artisan Ales