Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Beer Review, Empyrean Dark Side Vanilla Porter

On Friday, I took the day off because I was gonna stay at Kridz and watch Battlestar Galactica all day (Sci-fi had a 14 hour marathon the ended with the new episode). Coincidentally, a box of beer showed up there that day.

This beer was sent from Bill L, a blog reader from Lincoln, Nebraska. Bill had asked if I had had any of the beer from Empyrean before. I hadn't so he offered to send me some of their beers.

Empyrean Brewing Company is Nebraska's oldest brewpub. They produce 7 full time beers, and have several seasonal beers. Bill sent me the Dark Side Vanilla Porter, Third Stone Brown, and LunaSea ESB.

Last night, I was finally able to devote some time to drinking (wow, how difficult my life must be to have to find time to drink); well it was just time to give the beer my full attention; If a guy is gonna send me beer, I'm not gonna just give it my half assed attention.

This one poured opaque. It wasn't black, but a very dark brown. There was a light brown, thin fizzy head. It seemed to have the same head the whole time, as though some bubbles came up from the bottom. At the end of the pour, it looked like some vanilla bean grounds came out of the bottle. It smelled rather malty, it also had a faint vanilla smell, and possibly some cherry. I had expected a stronger vanilla smell, but the beer was rather cold, so that probably held the nose in at first. It felt highly effervescent (remember the bubbles that came up from the bottom). It had a medium thickness, it wasn't quite milky, it reminded me of a quality rootbeer.

It started out with a strong malty flavor, with some vanilla. It had a decent slight bitterness and had some cherry (which I thought was odd; maybe I was just in a cherry mood). As the geer got lower in the glass, it seemed to have a slight coffee ground flavor to it, like a chocolate covered espresso bean, with a dash of vanilla. Ok, more like the bits that are left over in the bag of chocolate covered espresso beans, than the entire bean itself.

Overall, it was a pretty good beer. It wasn't as vanilla as I had expected, but it was good none-the-less. It could easily have become a vanilla bomb. Were this to be a specialty beer, I'd expect that, but since it's an everyday offering, the hints of vanilla probably make it more palatable. It reminded me of Michelob Winter's Bourbon Cask Ale.

Truly a one-of-a-kind. We balance coffee-like, dark roasted malts with the sweet, seductive flavor of vanilla beans. The result? A deliciously unique flavor.

Malts: 2-Row, Carastan, Chocolate, Aromatic
Hops: Challenger, Summit
Yeast: Ale
Other: Madagascar Vanilla Beans, Natural Vanilla Extract
Origianl Gravity: 14.5
IBUs: 23
Alcohol: 5.7% abv

Thanks for the beer Bill, I'll probably be able to get to the next one on Thursday.

If anyone else wants to send me beer...


Chipper Dave said...

I've heard it's difficult to get just the right amount of vanilla in a brew. You don't think they actually put part of a vanilla bean in each bottle do ya? I'd think that would be overkill. Still, it might be interesting to try dropping in a small piece of vanilla bean that had been soaked in bourbon into a bottle and see what happens.

vgrid said...

I think they actually toned down the amount of vanilla flavor in the beer. It could easily have been a vanilla bomb. I'll have to check on the other bottle to see if it also had any sediment.

Or Bill could let us know if he's seen any vanilla pieces in the beer.

Anonymous said...

honestly, I've never bothered to look for pieces of vanilla. Too busy drinking it. My wife and I tried the vanilla porter from Breckinridge brew company, and thought it was great out of the bottle. When we had it at the brewpub across from Coors Field, it was vanilla overkill in our opinion. We finished the pint, but decided to stick with the bottles in the future. I brewed an extract version of a vanilla porter using two 1oz bottles of pure vanilla extract at bottling a 5 gallon batch. We have received multiple compliments when we share it. My wife wants another batch to be ready after our first child arrives in early July. Bill

Anonymous said...

Empyrean uses 1/2-3/4 pound of whole vanilla beans in each 15 barrel batch. They are added in the boil.