SweetWater Brewing Company | Dank Tank Pulled Porter
BBQ is a deeply rooted tradition in the south. SweetWater Brewing Company asks the question we all truly want answered. Does BBQ make everything better? Settle down there is no meat or thick BBQ sauce in Pulled Porter. Rather, Nick Nock and the rest of the brewing staff at SweetWater Brewing Co. decided to smoke some of the malt for this beer. I’ll repeat that because it really is heavenly to read. Nick Nock and the SweetWater Brewing Co.’s brewing staff decided to take some of their base malt down to Fox Brothers BBQ, one of Atlanta’s top BBQ spots, and smoke that malt and then make Pulled Porter. Genius!
I cracked a 16oz can and it poured a nice dark but clear black, on par with what I would expect from a well-made porter. It had a nice tan to light brown head that dissipated quickly. Things get much more interesting from there. The aroma smacks you immediately with applewood or hickory smoke notes. The intensity of the smoke is noticeable without completely masking the nice roasted coffee, dark chocolate and a light hint of burnt sugar that you would anticipate from a quality porter. The taste of Pulled Porter equally delivers.
On the first sip, applewood or hickory smoke leads the way without being overly intense. The roast character plays the middle all the way through the sip. There is just enough sweetness in the backend to counter all the roast and smoke so you don’t suffer through any tongue grating astringency typical of the intense roast of most porters. As you continue to sip, the beer’s smoke intensity begins to further meld in with the porter. Like a host on SNL you can certainly tell the smoke is there as it is clearly and distinctly recognizable; however, the smoked character becomes such a deep part of Pulled Porter that it doesn’t detract from the scene.
Pulled Porter follows the style of its name sake style, porter, closely as it does not have a sticky, thick mouthfeel nor is it sweet in the finish like a stout. The smoke is intense but is just enough to be present and delightful without being acrid or overbearing. Other smoked beers can sometimes come off as “meaty”; this beer does not. Pulled Porter is light and drinkable but also manages to be just complex enough with the addition of the smoke to really make this interesting to kick back and sip. In short, this beer could scratch multiple itches, both as a great compliment to BBQ or other smoked foods and as a standalone experience to enjoy and really dive into the complexity that SweetWater achieved.
Smoke beers tend to have a love/hate following amongst drinkers and some drinkers often perceive smoke as an acrid or even an intense displeasing phenol character. In my opinion, Pulled Porter manages to keep that under control. The genius is in the attention to process and ingredients that SweetWater Brewing Company’s staff dedicated to this beer. Like a jazz musician, you must truly understand the instrument in order to be able to use it in ways that are exciting and unexpected. Similarly, SweetWater’s staff is able to play with the ingredients, in this case by smoking some of the base malts. Smoking malt is a wholly inexact science which can ultimately clash with the precision and repeatability one often desires in beer. You can’t really control how much of the smoke the malt picks up. It can be incredibly difficult to tell from the aroma of the malt before production how much of that smoke will, in fact, be carried through to the finished product. But, as expected, SweetWater manages to bring it all together into a cohesive and fantastic package. Enjoy this beer with great BBQ or intense cheeses such as Humboldt Fog which would play nicely with the flavor and aromatic notes of this beer. Hunt this limited release down on tap and in 16 oz cans, for the first time, wherever you find SweetWater Brewing Company beers.