Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

24 January, 2016

You Can't Help But Sing: Smoke by O'Fallon Brewery

After trying O'Fallon's Hemp Hop Rye and being suitably impressed by its tasty mix of grains and nutty hemp seeds, I was keen to try another of their brews. The one that captured my attention was Smoke, a smoked porter. I have a profound love of smoked beers and think excuses for not sharing my amorous feelings are lame.

There are probably more smoked porters available here in Madison than I think there are. Karben4's NightCall comes to mind first. Brewmaster Ryan Koga uses smoked malts judiciously to put a subtle smokiness underneath the dark malt flavors. And then there's one from Alaskan Brewing Company. Sadly, I must confess to never having tasted Alaskan's take on the style. If I were a betting man, I'd bet on this changing soon. Beyond these two, I am not aware of any others available here.

Now that I look back, I did try this beer back in 2008 on the day The Malt House opened. Well, here we are 7+ years later and it seems like a fine time to revisit the brew.

As I expected, it poured a lush, deep mahogany color. Putting some into another glass, I saw that it was clear but I didn’t see any bubbles going up. However, my pour produced about a quarter inch of rich, frothy, tan head that dissipated fairly quickly. Too bad because the glass sure looked purdy for those seconds that it had that crown.

If I was worried that there would only be a hint of smoke in this beer instead of a good, manly dose, then my fears were allayed when I took my first sniff. The aroma was saturated with that rich bacony scent of smoked malt. Underneath it was some evidence of dark malts in the form of some slightly bitter coffee smell. Taking my first sip I found myself in heaven as the smokiness smothered my tongue in its loving embrace. O'Fallon did not skimp on the smoked malt here. As with the aroma, the dark malts lurked underneath with their coffee and bitter chocolate flavors. There was also a little carbonation to be tasted.

For the finish, the smoke lingered for a short spell before the carbonation and some grassy/spicy hop flavor and attendant bitterness kicked in to make for a moderately dry ending. Sadly, there was no lacing to be had.

This is one tasty beer with its big, rich smoky flavor. Yet the hallmarks of a porter – those earthy dark malt flavors – are present too, just not prominent. And the hops are rather mellow only really coming out to play in the finish and making for a nice, flavorful change of pace. I went into the kitchen during my tasting and spontaneously burst into song – Donovan's "Barabajagal".

"Goo goo, goo goo Barabajagal was his name now."

Yes, this beer is just that good.

Junk food pairing: There's no need to eat smoked meat with a smoke beer that already has a big smoky flavor. It's not a bad idea, but I also like to pair them with foods that have an earthy taste like Jays Hot Stuff potato chips with their big paprika taste. You also can't go wrong with a soft pretzel and some warm sharp cheddar cheese food product dip.

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|| Palmer, 10:45 AM


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