Returning From the Promised Land... With Beer
A Review of Stone Smoked Porter With Chipotle by Stone Brewing Co.
Posted on 12/16/2011 by Chops
On a recent trip to San Diego, CA, I was sitting at a bar enjoying a delicious Stone Pale Ale. I was on the hunt for some local craft brews and had visited several bars at that point. I had also noticed that every bar seemed to have at least a few Stone brews on tap. So in recognizing that curious yet completely awesome consistency, I asked the bartender why I see so many Stone taps. She politely answered, ''Probably because the brewery is right up the road.'' Choirs of beer angels started to sing as my jaw hit the bar. I whipped out my iPhone to consult the BrewChief mobile website. Sure enough, that little town called Escondido where the Stone Brewing Co. is based is located just a few miles north of San Diego. I was a short drive from the promised land and I didn't even realize it. Needless to say, I now had a burning priority for the trip: visit the Stone Brewing Co., i.e. the holy land of US breweries.

An old friend of mine was kind enough drive my monkey ass up to the brewery since I was sans vehicle (thank you Anne). We spent several hours touring the brewery, walking through the elaborate beer gardens, perusing the gift shop, and of course, drinking some of the finest craft brews in the country. When it came time to leave, I had but one remaining task: obtain a growler of a highly prized ''only available at the brewery'' beer. The result was BrewChief walking out the front door with a freshly filled growler of Stone's Smoked Porter brewed with Chipotle Peppers. It was a magical moment.

In the glass, this beer has a deep dark brown coloration with a slight ruby red edging. It comes with a fluffy butter colored head that sticks around for quite a while. Once you get your nose in for that first whiff, plan on staying there for a while. This beer smells like fresh smoked peppers right off of a smoldering grill. I couldn't help but imagine flipping burgers on a warm sunny day with this delicious beer in my hands. Every aromatic sampling resulted in closed eyes, a grilling fantasy and a big cheesy smile.

The anticipation was high for that first taste, so I took a deep breath and dove in. I immediately noticed a predominant smokey woody flavor. It's pretty intense and seems to drown out all the rest of the core porter notes like roasted malts and chocolates. They are certainly there, but are reduced to mere hints behind the smokiness. Once you get through the middle ground, you understand why the smokey character is so dominant. Those chipotle peppers grab hold and steamroll through the finish. It's almost like a changing of the guard where the smokey flavors take a break and are replaced by bold peppery goodness. By the time you get to the end of the flavor train, it seriously tastes like you just bit into a chipotle pepper, complete with sting and heat. The peppers reside as a sharp under layer that amplifies at the finish and creates a lengthy aftertaste. The mouthfeel is decently smooth, somewhat thin and has only the slightest twinge of roasted grittiness.

Overall, Stone's Smoked Porter brewed with Chipotle Peppers is a delightful and entertaining brew. I can happily recommend this beer to all levels of beer fan, novices included. Usually I would advise beginners to steer clear of brews like this simply because the flavor train can be too complex to appreciate, i.e. a wasted experience. But in this particular instance, it's a beautiful study of flavor transition. It's also a wonderful example of how external flavors can enhance a beer's overall character. Regardless of whether you like it or not, it's still a fascinating experience.

As a beer enthusiast, I feel enriched by my visit to the majestic Stone Brewing Co. It has been on my short list of brew related landmarks to visit and I couldn't be happier with the experience. If there were such things as the ''7 Wonders of the Brewing World'', this would definitely be one of them. If you are a true fan of craft beer, it's damn near a religious experience. Do yourself a favor and add it to your brewing bucket list.

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Stone Smoked Porter with Chipotle by Stone Brewing Co.
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