Beer Review 0059: Smuttynose Robust Porter

Robust Porter is brewed by Smuttynose Brewing Company, a craft brewery located in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The name “Smuttynose” comes from Smuttynose Island, which is the third largest of the nine islands that make up the Isles of Shoals, a rocky archipelago that is about seven miles off the coast of both New Hampshire and Maine.

Smuttynose Island is most well known for a double axe murder that occurred in 1873. We cheer Smuttynose, the brewery, for giving this island a better and more happier reason to be known, and we also love the fact that they use a Common Harbor Seal on their logo, which the island is also home to.

The company started brewing in 1994, but the subject of this review, Robust Porter, didn’t come around until 2001. The same year of introduction, Robust Porter won a gold metal at the Great American Beer Festival. Just recently, this beer won a Good Food award.

Designed to evoke the dark ales that were once a favorite of dockworkers and warehousemen in 19th century London, this is to be a smooth and very drinkable beer, with a noted chocolate and coffee presence.

The pour left behind a deeply dark brown liquid, topped with an average size tan head that was creamy in texture and slightly billowy. The body of the beer looked to be clear and free of particles and sediment, but it was hard to tell as this brew is opaque. The lacing left behind was very nice; thin but solid sheets of foam were left down the glass, also the same tan color as the head.

The aromatics don’t venture into new territory for this style of beer. Ever present are those wonderful notes of chocolate and coffee, but Robust Porter presents them in a way that are sharp and blaring. The coffee is roasted and the chocolate is very dark, and the aromas come to your nose in such a way it feels like you could layer and delayer them. Lurking in the background are faint notes of alcohol and some dark fruit, which only get deeper as the drink warms a bit. (The ABV, or alcohol by volume, is 5.7%.) For being traditional, what’s here is extremely nice and super fragrant.

Time to drink. Immediately, there’s a thick layer of chocolate laid out, but it’s not dark, it’s more milky and creamy. Then there’s roasted coffee, giving way to a smokey and almost burnt finish that is at first sweet on the chocolate, then turns more toward bitter dark chocolate. And, despite the alcohol hints in the aromatics, there really isn’t a warming effect here. This is quite the easy drinker despite being dark.

Was it everything they said it would be? Yes, and then some — despite the aromatics and flavors being traditional porter, Smuttynose made sure what they did give us was complexity within flavors. Robust Porter is a fine example of the style and one I will be adding to the go-to list when someone asks “What’s a good American Porter?” Try it today, ‘tis the season.

Smuttynose Robust Porter, 92 points. Price: $8.99 US for six pack.

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