It’s not unusual for things to get heated among beer judges, especially when tasked with awarding medals at important competitions. But, as Ecliptic founder and brewer John Harris was told during the 2016 Oregon Beer Awards, judges in the porter/stout category easily agreed on a beer that hit their table early in the first round.
“Well, there’s our gold medal,” one judge acknowledged after his first sip. The others concurred: Ecliptic Brewing’s Capella Porter was the winner.
Though Capella—named after a bright star in the constellation Auriga—has been a draft mainstay since Ecliptic opened in Portland, Oregon, in 2013, it was the first time it had been judged in a competition. “That there was enough consensus for them to say that at the beginning of the judging says a lot about how much they enjoyed that beer,” says Harris.
It also says a lot about Harris’ abilities as a brewer, though the fact that the man can make a mean porter should surprise precisely no one. As one of the founding brewers at Deschutes Brewery, he was also responsible for Black Butte Porter, which remains one of the best-selling porters in the country and is a model for the style.
Capella is based on an entirely different recipe, Harris says, but was designed with a similar “creatively traditional” approach. Minor tweaks (Munich malt for a boost in toasty, biscuity character; de-husked chocolate malt for reduced astringency and a softer roasted profile) give personality to the beer whose cocoa, roasted peanut, burnt sugar and cracked black pepper flavors, bone-dry finish, and lingering notes of licorice and burnt toast are as true-to-style as anything we’ve tasted this year.
Capella took home the gold in 2016 at both the U.S. Open Beer Championships and the World Beer Cup, earning it a spot in Ecliptic’s year-round bottle lineup earlier this year—and in the hearts of beer-tasters everywhere.
MSRP: $4.99 per 22-ounce bottle
Glassware: pint glass
Pair it with: gruyere cheese, roast beef sandwiches, caramel popcorn