OK, we’re a bit late on the spring cleaning. It’s nearly time for kolsches, wheat beers and goses, but not before we say a quick goodbye to porters and stouts. April is a great time to do a cellar once-over: assess the bottles you have and pluck any hefty, malt-heavy brews that are in their prime now. Otherwise, it will likely be another six to nine months before you have an appetite for barleywines and imperial stouts again. With that in mind, we brought out two imperial coffee porters: a 2010 Ballast Point Victory at Sea and a 2011 Grand Teton Wake Up Call.
2010 Ballast Point Victory at Sea imperial porter with coffee and vanilla
This annual winter release gets its jolt from San Diego’s Caffe Calabria beans: 3/4 of an ounce of cold-brew coffee per pint. That coffee isn’t the first aroma you’ll notice, though; a lactic, milk sweetness floats up as sticky vanilla bean flavor flows underneath. Despite its age, the 10% imperial porter is still remarkably lively on the tongue, as coffee roast finally comes in to support the pleasant milkiness of the midweight sip. Flavors unite beautifully—subtle espresso gives way to a huge vanilla and cocoa powder blast at the finish. Alcohol is nearly undetectable after five years, but resist the urge to drink the whole bottle quickly. Reward your years of patience with long, drawn out sips.
2011 Grand Teton Wake Up Call imperial coffee porter
Blindfolded, you might swear that you’re sniffing a cafe mocha rather than a beer, as cocoa powder and coffee roast drift from the glass. Flavor-wise, though, the beer’s lost its center after four years: top-heavy flavors of coffee and lactic sugar are cohesive and pretty, but could use some malt support on the finish. It’s still a pleasant, easy sip; at only 7.5% though, this bottle probably didn’t need four years in our cellar. We’ve learned our lesson here: If you neglect your spring cellar cleaning for a year, you can miss some bottles at their prime.