Beer Review 0238: Stone Smoked Porter (with Vanilla Bean)
I’ve made it clear in past reviews that I am not a fan of smoke flavors. In fact, when I reviewed the regular version of Stone Smoked Porter, I said I was going into the review with great trepidation — but that risk was rewarded with a tasty beer that earned 91 points on my rating scale.
This summer, Stone released a couple of different variants on its Smoked Porter — this one up for review today is brewed with vanilla bean, but there is also a brew with chipotle peppers. The vanilla bean version is supposedly more popular with regular Stone drinkers, while CEO Greg Koch prefers the chipotle pepper variety.
Brewed with Pale, Crystal 75, Chocolate, and Peat-Smoked malts, this beer comes in at 5.9% ABV (alcohol by volume), just like the regular version. Hops used are Columbus and Mt. Hood, and the IBUs (International Bitterness Units) are 53.
The idea for this beer came about after Stone’s small batch brewer Laura Ulrich had Stone Smoked Porter with a couple scoops of vanilla ice cream. Rock on, Laura!
The Vanilla Bean version of this beer poured mostly like the regular version: with a large, creamy, and long lasting head that was an eggshell off-white atop a ruby brown beer (when held to the light). The liquid is opaque when just looking without light, but it is far from black. The body was clear of particles and sediment, and as soon as some of the head started to fade, this was lacing up my glass with some most excellent sheets of suds.
The aromatics are where things start to differ — honestly, there wasn’t much going on here besides a big woodsy note of smoke that is softened by some vanilla. Mostly gone are the chocolate notes found in the regular version; it’s still here, but faint, along with a mild suggestion of coffee. There’s also some licorice, and the whole thing comes off a bit dusty — literally. Hmm.
On the sip, the vanilla bean is front and center, along with a nice layer of chocolate. This beer tastes nothing like it smells; the flavors are in full force and complexity. It gets smokey in the middle, but never too much, delivering a complementary note of woodsy and peaty smoke. The finish comes on with a wash of both vanilla and chocolate, with the vanilla overpowering but never in an artificial way. I would describe the finish as being mostly sweet. Mouthfeel was very creamy and what you would expect from the initial gaze on this drink.
The vanilla is a nice addition to the beer, but I thought it overpowered and seemed to take away from the great flavors found in the original, specifically the chocolate and coffee. I don’t think this is anywhere near as good as the traditional Stone Smoked Porter, but fanatic lovers of vanilla might want to check it out.
Stone Smoked Porter (with Vanilla Bean), 83 points. Price: $3.29 US for one twelve ounce bottle.